Book review: 'Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed' by Jared Diamond

Posted on March 24, 2007

Is civilization, as we know it today, invincible? Considering human existence since the beginning, it's a tough call to say how long we'll survive. On the other hand, it is feasible to review past societies to compare and contrast them to today's world.

To classify Jared Diamond's latest work, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," as just a book about the changing environment would be short-sighted. Diamond's focus is planet destruction, which ranges from damage to land and damage to life in general.

The author starts with a five-point framework to differentiate between the different types of destruction: people inadvertently inflicting damage on their environment; climate change; hostile neighbors; decreased support of friendly neighbors; and finally, a society's responses to the aforementioned problems.

The societies in question within "Collaspe" vary by both physical and historical location. Easter Island, the Anasazi, the Maya and Viking groups highlight the past societies portion, while Rwanda, Haiti, China and Australia are featured in the modern section.

I don't think this book is suited for a special subset of individuals. It's for every individual who is interested in seeing cultures continue to thrive and work around solutions for problems. It's a perfect blend of history, politics and science, all of which inevitably make up the world surrounding us.

Diamond doesn't subscribe to the theory that we're headed for doom; in fact, he classifies his opinion as "reserved optimism." Fortunately, there are a multitude of advances that will help achieve a balance of life on earth. "Collapse" is about learning from past mistakes and preventing them from happening again. Assuming we can continue to make strides in a positive way, maybe we won't have to inflate our lifejackets.