Thursday, December 17, 2009

_Collapse_ by Jared Diamond

Image clipped from the cover art on Amazon, and linked to the same.

I liked this book a lot. I didn't quite finish it because I had to return it before the Christmas vacation. For a 600+-page tome, it read fast. The basic premise is that we can learn something from looking at the factors that led to the failures of various societies. Diamond develops a multi-factor model that accounts for environmental causes but doesn't lay all the blame there. He talks about deforestation extensively, with some very interesting examples...the image of the person who cut down the last tree on Easter Island is striking. The chapter about China's environmental woes is painful, and the realization that all the Chinese want is the same standard of living we have here...and that the world probably can't support that for everyone...was scary.

Jared Diamond you may better know as the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel. He's worth treasuring for this quote alone:

"Just think what the course of world history might have been like if Africa's rhinos and hippos had lent themselves to domestication! If that had been possible, African cavalry mounted on rhinos or hippos would have made mincemeat of European cavalry mounted on horses. But it couldn't happen."

For the explanation of that, see Guns, Germs, and Steel. :)

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