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Jared Diamond

Collapse : how societies choose to fail or survive

There are many predictions of gloom and doom today, but it's hard to know how seriously to take them. Is our society really heading towards disaster, or will we manage to get by as we have done in the past. In 'Collapse', Jared Diamond gives examples of societies which have indeed come to and end, and he hopes that we might learn something from them. What was the Easter Islander who cut down the last tree thinking? - without trees their society was clearly doomed. Diamond shows that it isn't simply a case of environmental stupidity, rather numerous factors contribute to the downfall of a society. He ends with a note of cautious optimism - we should be able to survive, but we will need to make some difficult choices.

It has to be said that this is a long book. Examples are taken from all over the world, and as well as past societies, Diamond looks at several problem areas in the modern world. He is skilled at keeping the interest of the reader, so it doesn't get boring. He does this though by giving the history of each of the societies in considerable detail - it's not the sort of book you can simply skim through. Hence some readers might find it intimidating. But my feeling is that its certainly worth the effort - it gives a balanced view of many of the environmental problems facing the world today.