Summary report of the book “Collapse”, by Jared Diamond (2005)
Summarized by E.V.Pita, degrees in Sociology and Law
This book-report is about a history topic about how societies choose to fail or survive. The title of the book is “Collapse” and the author’s name is Jared Diamond. This book has 574 pages and was published by Penguin Books in 2006. The first edition was in the United States by Viking Penguin in 2005. This is a pocket book but a full edition. I decided to red this book because I like historical studies about lost civilizations and I like the author because I have read this other best-seller “Arms, germens and steal”, winner of a Pulitzer prize and a terrifiying and superbook. The cover of “Collapse” shows this new book is the number 1 of International bestsellers. Today, this book is easy to find and buy in bookshops and airport malls.
The main characters are historical people and unknown kings of Mayan cities or Easter Island villages. Diamond tells the story of the Viking explorer Erik the Red, who discovered Greeland and Vinland (Terranova, in Canada). Another character is captain Olafsson, a norse sailor who wrote the last news about Greenland in 1410. Another main character is Christopher Columbus, who arrived at Hispaniola in 1492, but now this island is two countries, the Dominican Republic and the Haiti. Diamond studied the politics of two presidents. the dominican Rafael Trujillo, who protected the enviroment and the dictator François, Papa Doc, Duvalier, who decided on politics of deforestatation of his country, Haiti. The author considered the bad politics of another main character, king George II, who was interested in sending merinosheeps from Spain to Australia, an idea which was succesful from 1820 to 1950 but then the farmers understood their lands lost fertility. Another main character is Tokuwaga Jeayasu, a shogun of Japan in 1600, who prohibited Christianity in 1600 and protected his country againt deforestation.
The book takes us to a lot of places around the globe: Mayan cities, Rwanda, Viking colonies of Vinland or Greenland, Haiti and Dominican Republic, Easter Island and Polynesian colonies in Pacific, and the Chaco villages in New Mexico (United States). The time period was from 800 AC, when collapsed Mayan cities to 2005. Other locations are the Viking ships, isolated churches in Greenland, ghostly stone heads in Easter Island, sheep farms in Australia or the farmers of Montana (United States).
The book is richly informative, with a lot of places of diferent peoples and cultures. All the characters were trying to build a wealthy society but they persued bad enviromental politics that damaged the lands, didn’t save water and wasted all reserves, cut the threes and jungles and many species they ate have become extinct. The outcome of the book is a warning to humanity because if our vanished civilitation wasted forest, water and fossil energies, tomorrow maybe our skycapers will one day stand develict and overgrown like the ancient temples of Bangkok or Mayan cities.
Diamond studies the past ecological collapses and discovers five factors: enviromental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, friendly trade partners and dependence of them, and the society’s responses to its enviromental problems. For example, the islanders lost a lot of lands from erossion but they understood the problem quickly and preserved the fragile and fertile land. Instead, the Anasazi cities, in New Mexico, and the Mayan cities, in Honduras, wasted the water because the growing population exceded the reserved in a dry age. In Easter Island, people cut all the threes and when they had no food, they had no wood to build ships and abandoned the dry island. In Haiti, Duvalier desforested the country and now they are poorer than their neighbors, the Dominicans [Reader Note: the 2010 earthquake had not occurred when Diamond wrote the book]. In Australia, the shepp and rabits introduced by Europeans ate alle the grass.
The author suspected societies collapse due to enviromental damage combined with overgrown population and climate change without an alternative solution. Other cultures, such the inuits, survived because they were good in hard conditions of Artical lands in Greeland but the Vikings failled. Australia, China or Rwanda represents “a Malthusian catastrophe happening under our eyes”, says Diamond. He, like the liberal economist Malthus, think an overpopulated land collapsed in horrible bloodshed was the Maya in the past or Rwand, now, when the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic violence started because of population growth, environmental damage and climate change “provided the dynamite for which ethnic violence was the fuse”.
My final thoughts on a fine balance are that it is gripping and I understood complety the thematic message of the book: we must preserve the environment of the globe or we will fail.
I like this book because it is an epic journey around the globe and the history of humanity and its relations with the land and forest. On to the future, we can discover now we van be survivors.
The good points are the magnificent work to explain history. Another good point is simple language understable by all people who like history. The weak point is Malthus wrote the same two centuries ago and his theory is thought to farmers and not for industrial countries. Another weak point is Diamond doesn’t study the mystery of the failure of ancient Roman civilitation and only dedicates five pages to study the problem.
I learned we must look for our enviromental health because now we are wasting our fragile lands, the poor reserves of oil and cutting Amazonian forest. Maybe, we are stupid and our children will inherit the big problem we created.
I would recommend the book to others because it is important to know the risks of our life style with a lot of cars, inefficient energies, overcrowding and the destruction of the environment.