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Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed By Jared Diamond

1796 words - 8 pages

The environmental movement in politics is often overplayed causing people to loose interest in the issue, but Jarred Diamond makes it impossible to ignore the issue in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Jared Diamond hopes to catch as many peoples attention as he can; the name alone, “Collapse”, makes him appear to be an alarmist looking for attention. He has just cause though for blowing the whistle on society. He makes parallels to previous failed societies and to modern societies showing how the practices that we employ are similar to these failed societies. He is suggesting that America, as well as other countries, are headed down the path of ecocide more ...view middle of the document...

While you cannot prove it some of the information he presents is irrefutable.
Throughout the first part of the book Diamond goes through several past societies to show how the five factors affected them. Some societies represent aspects of just one or a few of the factors whereas others were affected by all five factors. This part of the book could almost have been a separate book from the following two parts. This section serves as a historical reference to what happened to these societies and at times provides some unneeded information for Diamond’s purpose. He tries to allow the reader as much insight into the past societies way of life as possible, but at times it distracts the reader from the point, which is why it could have been separated from the rest of his work. Unfortunately this section of the book also feels speculative. Sometimes he strains the data to draw conclusions that may or may not be correct. For example, when discussing Easter Island blames severe deforestation on the collapse of their society, but recently there have been new studies showing that there may have been some Polynesian rats that were stowaways in canoes that ate the roots of the palm trees. These rats had no natural predators on Easter Island and therefore thrived.
The later part of the book, or what could have been the second book, goes into detail about modern societies and the lessons that need to be learned. You can begin to see a shift in chapter nine. Up until this section of the book Diamond rarely discusses the governments role in society and their responsibility. He explains the difference between the bottom-up and top-down approach to environmentalism. The bottom-up approach works in small societies; the people of the society realize that they must work together to solve their problems. On the opposite hand, the top-down approach works in large societies; a centralized government pursues environmental policies beyond individual control. He uses the examples of New Guinea and Tikopia for small societies and Japan as a large society. New Guinea self implemented a process of siviculture to prevent deforestation, Tikopia practiced methods of population control because they realized the island could only support so many people, and Japan implemented siviculture through an accounting system. Japan also came up with the idea of “environmental determinism”, the idea that geography is destiny. For example Japan has a good environment, lots of rain, and good soil, therefore society is destine to be successful there. Diamond later in the book argues against this point.
He then goes into detail about modern societies are how they and why they are struggling. To reiterate the idea that environmental determinism is impossible and to show how this has affect countries he gives the example of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. While the two countries occupy the same island there have been very different outcomes between the two countries. ...

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