Collapse Book Summary By Jared Diamond

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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive is an important book that tells the stories of civilizations like the Mayans in Central America and the Vikings in Greenland and their journeys towards disintegration.

Through this book, readers can learn valuable lessons about what could happen if environmental and societal mismanagement are not handled with caution.

This book also delves into topics such as globalization, climate change, overpopulation, deforestation, inequity, and resource scarcity - all of which contain implications for our current society.

This book provides readers with an intriguing look into what could happen if we do not act responsibly and make changes to protect our planet from destruction.

Collapse Book

Book Name: Collapse (How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed)

Author(s): Jared Diamond

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 19 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Jared Diamond is the author of Collapse, a popular science book that takes a look into what causes civilizations to fall.

He is renowned for his insight and expertise in the fields of geography and anthropology, with many world-renowned titles like The Third Chimpanzee, The World Until Yesterday and Guns, Germs and Steel to his name.

He originally trained as a medical doctor before becoming a professor of geography at UCLA.

Diamond's work earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for Guns, Germs and Steel which further cemented his status as one of today's most influential scientists.

Explore How Societies Thrive And Fail: Connections Between Modern And Ancient Civilizations

Ancient Civilizations

If you’re wondering why civilizations have been disappearing throughout history, then this book is for you.

In Collapse, the author describes in detail the factors that cause a society to fail: environmental damage due to human actions, climate change, strained trading relationships with other societies, damages from enemies, and the inflexibility of institutions in times of need.

The author shows examples of societies that have been affected by these combined pressures and are now in decline or collapse.

You’ll learn about how better access to fish was beneficial for Greenlanders and how one society benefitted from slaughtering all their pigs.

Additionally, the author also demonstrates how these issues affect modern-day Montana life and how there are connections between this state’s circumstances today and ancient Mayan civilization.

The Tragic Tale Of Easter Island: How Ecocide Destroyed A Thriving Society

The fate of Easter Island is a stark reminder of what can happen if societies overconsume their natural resources.

The islanders, once living in a prosperous society with a population of 30,000 and abundant natural resources, saw their world decline as they cut down forests to build the Moai stone statues.

These trees were essential not only for the construction and transportation of the statues but also for providing the wildlife and the fish in the surrounding seas that formed an integral part of their diet.

Deprived of these sources of food, crops soon failed, and eventually, this once-thriving society collapsed.

This story serves as a powerful reminder that societies must be careful to balance their use of natural resources with preservation efforts or else risk depleting them too quickly for sustained prosperity.

The Pitcairn Islanders: A Tale Of Trade, Dependence, And Disappearance

The Pitcairn Islands are a great example of how societies can collapse if they lose their major trading partners.

Before the crew of the Bounty arrived, they had been home to flourishing communities who relied heavily on trade with Mangareva for essential resources such as food, animals and even romantic partners.

In return for shellfish and volcanic rock from the Pitcairns, Mangareva provided them with vital goods that were needed for survival.

However, after Mangarevan society became richer and its population started to grow, more forest was cut down in order to expand crop fields.

This depletion of trees eventually led to their inability to build ocean-going canoes, thus cutting off their access to vital resources from the Pitcairns.

Without access to food and genetic input from other islands, the inhabitants of the Pitcairns were unable to survive and eventually their society disappeared entirely by the time Bounty’s crew arrived on its shores.

This case shows just how fragile some societies can be if they become too dependent on major trading partners, as loss of this resource could ultimately impact their very existence.

The Decline Of Mayan Civilization: How Inept Leadership And Environmental Damages Brought Down A Powerhouse

Environmental Damages

The downfall of the ancient Mayan civilization of Tikal is a stark reminder that bad leadership can exacerbate a society’s problems and ultimately lead to its decline and collapse.

Despite being supremely powerful and wealthy, the city’s fortunes changed when its population started to grow too quickly, prompting leaders to clear forests to create farmland for crops.

This led to environmental pressures – soils were washed away by erosion, resulting in drier fields with fewer nutrients – and these environmental pressures could have been managed if the leaders had taken steps to seek solutions.

Instead, they wasted time and resources on pursuits such as building costly monuments and waging wars with rivals.

These distractions only served to quicken their own demise, leading this once powerful empire into oblivion.

The Downfall Of The Greenland Vikings: Refusing To Adapt To Their Environment Led To Their Undoing

When it comes to the Norsemen of Greenland, it serves as an example of societies that refuse to adapt to environmental changes eventually dying out.

The Vikings attempted to replicate their lifestyle in Scandinavia, despite Greenland’s environment being vastly different.

This included a cattle-based diet and a strict hierarchy that focused on status symbols such as walrus tusks.

These practices put them at risk and made it much more difficult to survive in the new environment.

They also refused to learn from native Inuit populations who were experienced with living in the conditions, such as which fish was a better source of sustenance than cattle or how to make use of natural resources.

As a result, when the climate cooled around 1300 AD, their lack of adaptation left them unable to cope and the entire community died out.

The lesson here is that if you refuse to adapt to changing environments and conditions, you will eventually be undone by them.

Societies have been through this again and again throughout history; those that accept change have been able to thrive while those who don’t have perished.

How Societies Across History Have Avoided Collapse And Enjoyed Long-Term Success

Societies can avoid collapse if they carefully manage their environment and populations.

This is the lesson we can learn from two examples of successful long-term societies: Tikopia and Japan.

The tiny, isolated island of Tikopia has gone unchanged for over 3,000 years due to their careful management of resources and population.

Everyone in their society helps take proactive steps to maintain a stable food supply, including switching to more efficient diets and practicing various forms of contraception.

Japan is another example of a successful society that managed to avoid collapse.

In the mid-seventeenth century, leaders recognized that their forests were being decimated at a fast rate and took action with a large reforestation program – which resulted in 80 percent of the country being covered with trees today!

The Role Of Overpopulation In Fueling The Rwandan Genocide


Rwanda’s tragic genocide can indeed be partly traced back to environmental mismanagement.

With a population density of 760 people per square mile in 1990, Rwanda was facing an escalating humanitarian crisis prior to the start of the genocide.

This was exacerbated by the lack of a productive agricultural sector, leading to regular famines and heavy competition for land resources.

The desperation caused by this unstable situation meant that those with power were left vulnerable to exploitation, which saw this ultimately lead to politically motivated ethnic violence that resulted in over 800,000 Tutsi being killed by Hutus in 1994.

Furthermore, it is likely that overpopulation and its resulting environmental pressures played a significant role in creating the conditions for such a disaster.

We All Bear Responsibility For The Environmental Costs Of China’S Growth

China’s phenomenal rise has been one of the biggest stories of our time.

The nation’s economy has grown at an impressive rate, and its population of 1.3 billion people has started to chase economic prosperity through industrialization.

However, the lack of environmental regulations in China to protect the air and water quality has had disastrous consequences.

Health problems caused by air pollution alone claimed the lives of 300,000 people per year in 2005 and cost 8% of their GDP each year.

This issue is not only restricted to China–the whole world is impacted by its rapid growth.

As more Chinese citizens achieve Western standards of living, it accelerates global climate change due to increased emissions.

But before we demonize the Chinese people and government for this situation, we have to remember that Western businesses are exploiting Chinese resources for their own benefit, and we are all happy consumers of cheap Chinese goods.

It is clear that China’s unprecedented growth could have dangerous consequences for the whole world; these issues require collective responsibility from all those involved if they are ever going to be addressed properly.

It is paramount that a balanced approach is taken when dealing with our shrinking environment if human society is going to survive into the future.

In Montana, We’Re Facing Irreversible Environmental Damage And The Risk Of Societal Collapse

Although many societies eventually appear healthy and prosperous on the surface, beneath that facade lies a state of decay.

This can be seen in places like Montana- a picturesque part of the United States that is home to sparkling rivers, wild mountains and hidden forests.

Unfortunately, miners are digging into the land in search of valuable metals such as copper- contributing to environmental pollution with their toxic chemicals.

Logging companies are depleting areas of natural wildlife, while the effects of climate change are beginning to become more and more apparent.

The truly alarming thing is that those responsible for managing this state allow these largely damaging activities to take place unchecked, because it brings with it revenue and jobs.

However, this type of behaviour can ultimately lead to societal collapse if nothing is done to stop it.

Over time, people forget or ignore how important it is to protect and preserve our environment at all costs- yet doing just that can make all the difference in protecting communities from falling victim to long-term collapse.

The Need For Global Solutions In The Face Of Overpopulation And Human Mismanagement Of Resources

Human Mismanagement

When it comes to collapsed societies of the past, there are worrying parallels to our own society today.

From overpopulation to soil erosion and deforestation, many of the same problems that led to the downfall of other societies still persist in ours.

Take overpopulation for example: Many great civilizations had too many mouths to feed and ultimately suffered collapse as a result – much like what is happening now with our ever-growing global population.

To feed everyone, huge chunks of forests have been cut down around the world, leading to soil erosion on an astonishing scale.

Furthermore, due to globalization, if one society suffers then it can quickly spread across the world leading to even further destruction.

Nevertheless, new technology gives us hope that we can avoid disaster if we act quickly enough.

Through international trade networks and resources, those in distress may be able able to get help more swiftly than before – potentially averting complete collapse.

Overall, although there are worrying similarities between our society today and past collapsed ones, there is also hope for a better future – so long as we take heed from history’s mistakes.

We Can Make Big Business Act More Responsibly By Holding Them Accountable For Environmental Damage

It’s up to society, not corporations, to ensure that our environment is managed responsibly.

We can’t rely on businesses to make sure our planet is preserved — instead, it’s up to the public to make sure regulations are in place that punish companies for acts of environmental destruction and prevent damage from occurring in the first place.

Take the oil industry, for example.

It has been responsible for some of the worst environmental catastrophes in history, yet many of these firms have begun to clean up their act thanks to legal pressure — something which only happened because society as a whole made them accountable by imposing heavy fines and expensive lawsuits.

Without this kind of action from us, we’d be left with a history of unchecked destruction at the hands of big business.

There’s no denying that corporations should take responsibility for their emissions and other potential sources of environmental damage.

However, if we want real change — or simply want to prevent future disasters — then we must step up and make sure they do so.

The responsibility for environmental management lies with the public, not with corporations.

We Must Recognize Our Collective Responsibility And Take Joint Stewardship Of Our Planet

We can’t address the world’s biggest threats if we don’t work together.

That’s because no one person feels responsible for global problems such as climate change, so if no one takes ownership, nothing is done and global carbon emissions continue to rise.

This phenomenon is called the tragedy of the commons, whereby everyone believes someone else should take action to solve an issue that affects us all.

To understand why this way of thinking must end in order for us to make collective progress, look at the example of the Netherlands.

Large parts of Dutch land called polders are kept dry only by dikes that need continuous upkeep and maintenance – but here, everyone takes responsibility – rich or poor – because they understand that without working together all will suffer if a dike ever fails.

Wrap Up

The book Collapse by Jared Diamond paints a vivid yet sobering picture of the downfall of ancient societies and draws parallels to the dangers of current over-consumption, environmental damage, and poor leadership.

We must take caution and face our current realities if we wish to avoid further collapse.

The ultimate message is that solutions exist, but only if we work together to identify and implement them.

If we don’t think outside the box and commit to long-term sustainability, the future could have a big price tag.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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