Book_Review_for_Collapse__How_Societies_Choose_to_Fail_or_Succeed by MonikaKam


Book Review for Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

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Are we doomed to suffer the collapse of our society and culture as past
civilizations have? Jared Diamond's new book looks at the world's recent
past to help us better understand our future.

Books, Book Review, Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,
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Coming on strong after the success of his Pulitzer Prize-winning <i>Guns,
Germs, and Steel</i>, Jared Diamond's new book, <i>Collapse: How
Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed</i> is a tome of intriguing insight
to the other side of the coin. While <i>Guns, Germs and Steel</i>
examined how some societies thrived, due to their respective geographic
and environmental endowments, this book examines why ancient societies
have collapsed so often in the past, in part for the same reasons. To
support this thesis, the book delves into a variety of past
civilizations, including the Anasazi of the American Southwest, the Maya
and the Viking colonies of Greenland to illustrate that collapse of a
society is no respecter of geography. Nor is it a respecter of time.
<i>Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed</i> also looks at
modern-day societies such as Rwanda to explain the catastrophe that
recently befell this afflicted nation, as well as it depicts present-day
Montana and the fascinating factors rendering this once wealthy state
into one of the poorest. Could Montana be a microcosm for the U.S. at
large? The book asks how once astute societies that built magnificent
monuments testifying of their social and economic prowess, could suddenly
vanish or be rendered impotent.   Not lost on the reader throughout these
case studies is the nagging thought that perhaps this fate might also
befall our own wealthy country.   In fact, it is the seminal point of
this provocative book. <i>Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or
Succeed</i> hopes to stir our collective consciousness to an
understanding what lies before us so that we may be saved, as evidenced,
from the pitfalls of the past. In essence, we cannot separate the
economy from the environment if we hope to avoid devastation.

Perhaps this is best depicted in the book's treatise of the Anasazi.
Their vast ruins in what is now northern New Mexico echo a well-ordered,
sophisticated society in a fragile desert environment that lasted over
600 years. To put this into perspective, they lasted longer than any
European society in the Americas to date. However, over time the Anasazi
of the Chaco Canyon complex became ever more specialized in the tasks of
the society. This in turn allowed them to make gains in economies of
efficiency while making them equally interdependent as a culture. More
and more the main complex at Chaco Canyon depended on outlying
communities and outposts for their support, not unlike London or Rome
today. These cities served as governmental and religious centers to
facilitate the management their respective societies. <i>Collapse: How
Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed</i> describes how, like many of our
cities of today, &quot;Chaco Canyon became a black hole into which goods
were imported but from which nothing tangible was exported.&qu ot;  As
the population grew so did the demands on the surrounding environment.
Fuel and other essential resources became ever more distant; coupled with
soil depletion and erosion in the surrounding farmlands. In essence,
they became increasingly close to living on the margin of what the
environment could reasonably support. The final straw was a prolonged
drought. No longer able to support or feed themselves, the society
suddenly collapsed into open revolt and total civil warfare, culminating
in cannibalism and ultimately total abandonment of the site. The moral
lesson is that while they &quot;adopted solutions that were brilliantly
successful and understandable in the 'short term' (they) created fatal
problems in the long run.&quot; The analogy to our present day situation
of overextending ourselves is obvious.

While <i>Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed</i> seems to
make a strong connection between collapse of a society and it's
environment, this book is not all about eco-meltdowns. He also measures
four other critical factors involving the demise of societies as well;
including hostile neighbors; loss of trading partners; climate change and
perhaps most importantly, a society's responses to its challenges.   In
this vein, this book also looks at several past success stories where
societies in Japan and the highlands of New Guinea had the insight to
change fundamental, traditional values and restore a positive balance
with nature, trading partners etc. and thrive.

In its conclusion, <i>Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or
Succeed</i> presents a cautious optimism for our own future. The book
concludes that because we are the creators our own problems, we also have
the power to amend the quandaries we have made. This, the book
maintains, will not be easy and will require profound courage; but
necessary if we are to have hope for the future.

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