November Books 8) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, by Jared Diamond

A totally fascinating book looking at how the human impact on the environment can cause societies to collapse or disappear. The particularly memorable chapters are on Easter Island and the Viking settlements on Greenland, both cases where the natural resources were exploited to the point of mass death. There are lots of other case studies as well, mostly dealing with larger societies or states, but none quite as dramatic or as detailed.

The final chapters are an excellent synthesis of the message of the book. Diamond has a not very profound but interesting take on the nature of political decision-making, and why it goes wrong; on business and the environment (I would like to know more about the Marine Stewardship Council, and why it has had so little impact in Europe), and finally on future prospects for saving the world, where he is cautiously optimistic but not complacent. He is clear that our current patterns of environmental exploitation are not sustainable, but hopes that a sufficiently conscious public will be able to pressurise its leaders into taking action. The book will certainly help.

One thought on “November Books 8) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, by Jared Diamond

  1. As far as that is true, it goes for members of federated states which disintegrate; it’s not clear that the UK is a federal state in that sense[.]

    Reading the debate from Canada, the consensus among Scots writing seems to be that the Acts of Union back in 1707 created a new British state out of the previously existing English and Scottish states while not dissolving either nation,. A vote for independence would reset things back to 1707, leaving the English/ex-UK and Scottish successor states on an equal footing. A false consensus, then?

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