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Book Recommendation: Collapse, by Jared Diamond

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by dobanion, Jul 31, 2010.

  1. dobanion

    dobanion North Portland, Oregon Member

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    Just finished this. Fantastic book. It's a study of the relationship between resource management, enviornmental damage, and the survival of societies. Covers lots of exmaples over time and around the world (Easter Island, Norse in Greenland, Iceland, tropics, etc).

    It's all about balancing population, and resource use (or abuse). The places that used what they had faster than it recovered, and/or allowed their populations to grow beyond those capabilities, failed. Those who maintained their populations, and were caretakers of their resources, lived.

    Gives you a good perspective on the world today, through the study of history. Lots to learn from these lessons.
     
  2. chemist

    chemist Beaverton OR Well-Known Member

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    Agreed, fantastic work.
    If I could add, the subtitle of the book is "How societies choose to fail or succeed." And that's the point - The people have choices, but often because of cultural prejudice or inflexible leadership they just "stay the course" when any reasonable person could see that crisis mitigation is needed.

    Historical examples include the Greenland Norse, who kept investing huge amounts of effort in raising cattle but ignored local food stocks like fish, simply because the most powerful families prized beef. As a symbol of their status and a connection to memories of their homeland, the cows were more important to the leadership than the health and welfare of their fellow Norse.

    A current example is Australia, which for some unfathomable reason still clings to British cultural roots, despite its beginnings as little more than a penal colony for British criminals. Now they're fully aware of the fragility of the environment, with its thin soil and sparse water, and yet they flatly refuse to back off from devastating practices like sheep ranching in the desert. At the same time the Ozzie leaders are ignoring the wealth of indigenous knowledge from one of the longest-lived cultures on Earth: The disparaged, marginalized Aborigines have managed to stay alive and keep their land productive for sixty thousand years.

    Closer to home, we might look at what Kunstler calls our "happy motoring culture" in the context of Peak Oil, and see that hybrid or electric or hydrogen cars are a desperate act of denial. We simply won't have those quantities of energy to squander in the future, like it or not, so we'd better move toward relocalization while we still have time.

    But we won't - not as a country. Those in power - on both sides of the aisle - have way too much invested in the status quo, and like the leaders of the Greenland Norse, they just don't care as long as "they got theirs." Not that I see them as all craven liars - I think most choose self delusion, which is even more poisonous than corruption. Like Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it."

    But as a people we're not all paralyzed by ineptitude or fear or despair - We really are making a difference, and all our preps will help us for generations to come. Every time we dig a well or plant a fruit tree we're adding resilience to the community, and so we're helping to preserve our knowledge base and cultural imperatives.

    What an interesting time to be alive!
     
  3. willseeker

    willseeker N. Portland. Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the post Dobanion! I just ordered a copy online and two of his other books. Should be adding my two cents on "Collapse" in few weeks.
    Again, Thanks.


    Will
     
  4. The Somnambulist

    The Somnambulist Portland Member

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    Agreed, great book. Also check out one of his other books: Guns, Germs and Steel.
     
  5. MikeE

    MikeE Portland Well-Known Member

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    Really well put. I thought Collapse was a great book, and think that Kunstler is a first rate thinker.
     
  6. 8ball

    8ball WA Quit talkin' and start chalking!

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    +1 for Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel.