Talk:Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

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(Page count?)[edit]

how many pages is the book?

575 in my copy (including Index, of course). -Senori 21:57, August 5, 2005 (UTC)
576, including Illustration Credits. and up to xvi (16) in the front bit. 218.102.221.84 08:39, 28 December 2005 (UTC)


We're supposed to take Diamond seriously when he makes the loopy assertion that Greenland Norse died-off because they wouldn't eat fish?

The 3rd or 4th generation descendants of Norse---who ate fish in Scandanavia, ate fish in Iceland, ate fish in Ireland, the Faeroes, the Orkneys, L'anse aux Meadows... Right on through to Minnesota and Seattle---gave up fish-eating and embraced starvation in Greenland?

Prime example of an academic more concerned with cherry-picking evidence to support a thesis than with reality. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.56.240.147 (talk) 16:19, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


I've read the book, this is not the reason Diamond gives as to why the Norse were unsuccessful in Greenland. We can delete this comment above. Mjdon67 (talk) 18:14, 24 June 2014 (UTC)

Is Australia a "First World" country or something else entirely?[edit]

As a student of environmental studies in Australia, I am all too aware of how fragile and resource-poor Australia's environment is. I am well aware that its soils, being formed in the Carboniferous and subject to 280 million years of continuous leaching and weathering, are totally different from most soils today which are a renewable resource constantly forming due to glaciation and orogeny.

Whilst this extreme poverty of resources was understood at only a very shallow level for so long, we now understand it sufficently well that we can question whether it is even possible for agriculture to be sustainable on such soils.

Moreover, but for the immense, practically inexhaustible and barely explored mineral resources, would there have been so much incentive to continue with so many efforts to clear further land in Australia after the major droughts of 1902 and 1914. Given that Europe, Asia and North America can produce more than enough food to feed the world and have much less or no need for huge stockpiles due to more reliable climates, beyond the ability of Australia's almost inexhaustible resources of iron, aluminium and titanium ores. Alumimium and especially titanium are especially harmful to Australia's environment because they are exceedingly difficult to smelt (titanium metallurgy was not developed until the 1920s) and this is a major factor in Australia's refusal to comply with the need for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Without a reduction of at least 60 percent in CO2 emissions, the water supplies of Melbourne and Perth (both of which normally have the most reliable rainfall in the whole continent ouside of Western Tasmania) are likely to become unviable within 10-20 years.

The whole fact of Australia's growing dependence on mining and the fact that its environment is the exact opposite in character of the fertile, glaciated environments of Europe and North America makes me reluctant today to accept that Australia can properly be called a "First World" country at all. The very nature of Australia's land is bound to make it dependent upon minerals, and I believe honestly minerals could support Australia even should environmental degradation completely destroy its farming sector. Today, Australia's population is growing whilst that of fertile Europe, Canada, Japan and New Zealand is declining, which does largely reflect the vast mineral resources and the higher living standards these have brought to most Australians. Large deposites of industrial metal ores are mutually exclusive of fertile soils because the very factors that make one destroy the other. Though some metal ores, like mercury, occur only in geologically young regions, such metals are of exceedingly low abundance and their ores are so rare that resource depletion tends to occur very rapidly.

Paleopedology, even with a far-from-complete record shows that a great deal of bauxite has been destroyed by glaciation in Europe alone, and no doubt the same processes have occurred on a larger scale in North America and Antarctica.

The vital point is that Australia's virtually inexhaustible and not fully discovered mineral wealth makes it, whilst the ultimate "have not" in a pre-industrial world, the ultimate "have" in an industrial world. This is almost the opposite of Western Europe, where all available deposits of metallic minerals have been subject to resource depletion at a rate impossble in geologically ancient Australia.

Thus, because of its diametrically opposite environmental characteristics to Europe, Japan, New Zealand and North America, I feel that everybody would be well advised to seriously and thoroughly question referring to Australia as a "First World" nation. It is important that, for all its cultural and social characteristics being derived from Europe and North America, the source of its wealth and high living standards is, at least totday, of a completely different nature (minerals). Moreover, with an environment totally unsuited to practices that work well in Europe, Japan, New Zealand and North America, environmental lobby groups and databases are obliged, I feel, to consider Australia a totally distinct case from all other continents, and one for which management must be done in a completely different way to achieve any sort of sustainability.

"First World" status has very little, if anything, to do with environmental characteristics. Australia is democratic, industrialized, and capitalist -- in other words, Westernized. More importantly, during the Cold War it was aligned with the Western bloc. Therefore, it is a First World country. Bcasterline 15:39, 24 January 2006 (UTC)
Whilst it might be absolutely true that Australia is completely westernised, I am still utterly insistent that, in any context involving environmental management, countries be classified purely according to the characteristics of their environment. If "First World" is a label based exclusively on social and political characteristics, then there is only one solution to the dilemma of one of the countries with that label having completely opposite environmental characteristics from all the others. That is to abolish the terms "First World" and "Third World" altogether in environmental studies and to develop a new way of classifying nations.
The classfications of 'first', 'second', 'third' world are political constructions and should NOT be taken to heart and are actually dangerous to use.

-G —Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.24.149.220 (talk) 18:22, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Easter Island[edit]

The current description of the Easter Island section of the book seems a tad oversimplystic, I've just bought a copy of his book to see how he explains away or ignores the evidence for slave raiding and disease, and found that far from denying this he mentions an extra Smallpox epidemic that I wasn't aware of. Any objection if I rewrite that section to make it clear that he is referring to the initial 17th century collapse on Easter island?Jonathan Cardy 11:41, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

Go ahead, sounds good to me. Tracerbullet11 06:42, 15 September 2007 (UTC)


Conspicuous consumption and Easter Island[edit]

Readers of Collapse might like to comment on the question about the collapse on Easter Island raised by Stormie at Talk:Conspicuous consumption. -- JimR 02:59, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

2004 or 2005?[edit]

Wikipedia has 2004 in a number of places, but from everything Ive seen outside of Wikipedia it is 2005. Which is correct? -- Stbalbach 01:57, 26 February 2006 (UTC)

If you look at the copyright page of the hardcover edition, by going to Amazon and following the Copyright link, you find it says "First published in 2005 by Viking Penguin". So 2005 seems to be correct: I will change the article to that. -- JimR 03:54, 26 February 2006 (UTC)
My physical hard copy also says 2005 multiply on the copyright page. 69.87.199.163 00:14, 6 June 2006 (UTC)

Polder model[edit]

Added the line "Particular attention is given to the Dutch polder model as a way how a society can resolve its challenges." My earlier entry was rejected with the criticism that it was a POV, which it wasn't, but perhaps this is acceptable. Diamond's reference to the polder model is a key part of the book, perhaps we can agree to that. Interestingly, the polder model page is also resisting a change to a more realistic description... Colignatus 22:09, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

I added more again as Diamond's conclusions and his reasons for his final view (versus say Ronald Wright's) are exceptionally important for all of us. 122.148.173.37 (talk) 19:08, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Similiar Reading[edit]

Page A1 of the Wall Street Journal from Tuesday October 24, 2006 Left hand column

Greener Pastures - To Stop a Dust Bowl, Mongolia Builds "Great Wall" of Trees

By Patrick Barta

Desperately poor Mongolia is spending 150 million on a 30 year project to build a 2000 mile long tree fence/forest to protect itself from the Gobi Desert's Dust storms.

Perfect example (Dominic Republic like effort) of a poor nation to act in its best interest long term even when it has pressing short term needs.

Removing External Link[edit]

I will remove the final external link in the page because it links to an article which requires a fee to be accessed. I understand this to be soliciting.

That is fair. Mjdon67 (talk) 18:15, 24 June 2014 (UTC)

How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive?[edit]

There is also a version called "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive" (e.g., http://www.amazon.de/Collapse-Societies-Choose-Survive-Science/dp/0713992867/ref=sr_1_2/303-4825653-9289848?ie=UTF8&s=books-intl-de&qid=1179784026&sr=1-2) What's the difference? Is it British or is it a newer version?

Seems to me to be a mere typo. Seemns to me that there is only one book even if the title was for some reason or some market changed. 122.148.173.37 (talk) 16:08, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Noncontroversial move request[edit]

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed redirects here and spells out the complete title of the work. Seems nigh-infinitely preferable to this gotta-be-piped Collapse (book) title. This article should be moved over the aforementioned redirect post haste out of a love of common sense and to match the previously ammended text in the WP:LEAD. MrZaiustalk 14:17, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

According to Wikipedia:Naming conventions (books)#Subtitles, it could go either way. This all depends on whether we consider the phrase "How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" to be long or short. NJGW (talk) 14:24, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
That seems rather silly when a dab is the alternative, but you're right - Something to take up there, not here. MrZaiustalk 14:32, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
Given the altered comments above, and, upon further review that reached much the same conclusion on my part, I am just going to call for a definition of "short" at the guideline. In the meantime, the four-word (ignoring prepositions) subtitle seems far preferable to the disambig. MrZaiustalk 15:34, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

On "criticisms"[edit]

I will remove the following sentence from the subsection "Criticisms" :

Isotopic analysis of bones has shown that Greenlanders ate large amounts of seafood, with seafood supplying 20% of their diet initially, rising to 80% at the end.

This fact is reported as is in the book itself. Diamond argues that this 80% of "seafood" is most probably seal, while there is virtually no trace that Viking Greenlanders were eating any of the abundant fish (in contrast to other settlements in Greenland and elsewhere). In the same subsection, the sentence just before also looks dubious to me :

This sounds like someone not taking into account the different preservation rates of large marine mammal bones versus small fish bones. Consdering that the rest of the Norse world relied extremely heavily upon fish --- even in non-coastal areas --- the notion that the Greenland Norse were averse to eating fish is simply preposterous. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 63.152.97.195 (talk) 10:58, 8 March 2013 (UTC)


Jared Diamond's thesis that Easter Island society collapsed in isolation entirely due to environmental damage is contested by ethnographers and archaeologists who argue that the introduction of diseases carried by European colonizers and slave raiding, which devastated the population in the 19th century, had a much greater social impact than environmental decline and that introduced animals, first rats and then sheep, were greatly responsible for the island's loss of native flora which came closest to deforestation as late as 1930–1960.

Considering that I cannot check the source cited, I will refrain from removing it. Yet Diamond never claims that diseases carried by European colonizers had no effect. Rather, he argues that the decline was already very pronounced before the first Europeans arrived. Finally, rats were introduced by the first inhabitants themselves... Elwwod (talk) 17:57, 25 June 2012 (UTC)


Surely there are better and more substantial criticisms of such a tendentious book than b) a paragraph that seems to be about an entirely different book and a) a paragraph that seems at best confused and at worst deliberately misleading in its descriptions of both the Easter Island society's collapse and Diamond's arguments and conclusions regarding said collapse. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 206.75.37.169 (talk) 05:30, 15 February 2014 (UTC)