The human civilisation is thought to be only about 4000-4500 years old. And the current current civilisation, where you, I and the rest of the world’s population live, is only about three hundred years old if you consider it as having started from the time of the industrial steam engine onwards. The years in between are the stories of many civilisations and communities that collapsed, clashed or survived. We read about some of the ancient civilisations and societies in school text books. Probably we don’t know many of those that simply vanished. Of those we know about, it is known very little until recent times. How could such mighty societies fall?
This book ‘Collapse’ is based on probably one of the most well researched and insightful studies convering societies in the Americas, Pacific islands, Africa, Europe and in Asia. Very detailed, extremely well structured study on the subject why the civilisations and communities die out and why some survived. The authors analyses many societies, both ancient and contemporary, with the focus on environmental factors, such as deforestation, shortage of land and food to feed increasing population, climatic peculiarities of locations, use of natural resources etc. How such factors influence the social, demographic and economic direction, affecting not only a particular community but also its neighbours. Environmental globalisation!
The book is not about the environmental determinism
. There are many factors and interplay of forces - the cultural and political, environmental and economics. The book studies in detail the ancient communities in many Polynesian islands, the Mayan and Ansazi civilisations, Vikings etc. Among more recent situations, Jared Diamond chose the contrast between Dominican Republic and Haiti, the Hutu-Tutsi genocide, the Chinese economic development vs. its environmental challenges and the Australian mining as his subjects of study. The study also includes societies like Japanese, New Guinea Highlands and Incas in the Andean region how they dealt with the environmental challenges and survived. In these studies, the author convincingly relates how the society’s ability to take care of its environment and natural resources impacts its failure or survival.
One good part of the book is its offering of practical lessons to today’s society. Understanding of why societies behave the way they do, sometimes knowing fully well the consequences, how modern businesses must take care of the local and environment yet can be profitable, and what lay ahead of us in future. Clear approach and lay man friendly explanations make the book extremely interesting and will definitely make the reader more conscious of environmental conditions one lives in and impact of a society’s various decisions on our environment, and the society’s future. Hopefully the book finds its way onto the table of our law makers as well.