Thursday, October 30, 2008
Why Societies Collapse
Why do societies fail? With lessons from the Norse of Iron Age Greenland, deforested Easter Island and present-day Montana, Jared Diamond talks about the signs that collapse is near, and how -- if we see it in time -- we can prevent it.
A globally renowned scholar and author, Jared Diamond finds answers to the massive "Why?"s in so-vast-you-don't-notice patterns in history. His bestselling and Pulitzer-winning book Guns, Germs and Steel looks at the reasons history turned out the way it did -- why European societies conquered the rest of the world instead of the other way around. His latest book, Collapse, asks nearly the opposite: Why do some civilizations fail?
An ecologist, evolutionary biologist and professor of geography and physiology at UCLA, Diamond takes an approach that goes beyond culture and into the impact it has on the environment. As Malcolm Gladwell observes, "Diamond's distinction between social and biological survival is a critical one, because too often we blur the two." Diamond's ability to tackle daunting questions (and pose unsettling answers) in a straightforward voice may be reason enough to share his optimism that recognizing a problem paves the way for solving it.
Educators' tip: The website for PBS's mini-series Guns, Germs and Steel offers many resources for further study.
"[Guns, Germs and Steel] is a brilliantly written, passionate, whirlwind tour through 13,000 years of history on all the continents -- a short history of everything about everybody."