View Full Version : Book Discussion: "Collapse" by Jared Diamond

12-09-2008, 10:02 PM
I am finished with the case studies of the first three sections of the book, and am now about to embark upon the last section: lessons learned.

I'm green with anticipation, but can't go further tonight.

Anybody else read this or others by Jared Diamond? I'm guessing the answer is yes, he seems to be a pretty well-known author. I'm thinking about reading some of his other books here in the near future.

I'm interested to hear the experiences of any of you world-travelers out there (such as Kevin having just been in Australia) - it's one thing to read it in the book and think, "wow, that sucks" and another thing to see it and be amazed that the world is so diverse, and an onlookers perspective or hindsight seem so much clearer at times. Thinking it would be a good idea to somehow get an outsiders perspective of our country in the same fashion - probably would be quite revealing. I would somehow have to adjust my ideals and beliefs, at least for a moment, though, to understand some of those outside perspectives.

12-09-2008, 10:45 PM
Collapse was a good read.

I have "Guns, Germs and Steel" too if you want to read it.

I really enjoy his writing, but I'm a cynic of civilization too. ;)

12-09-2008, 10:49 PM
Actually Martin that was the book I was thinking of reading next! I find I'm pretty hard on books though, so it'd be better for me to just buy it myself (this one I borrowed from a guy at work and I'm going to have to buy him a new copy too :o).

I've got a queue of books I'm working through, having stopped a lot of reading during the latter part of college and never really picking it back up since then, the top shelf of my bookcase is looking unfamiliar...

12-10-2008, 04:05 PM
I have "Guns, Germs and Steel" in a stack to be read. :rolleyes:

12-10-2008, 04:40 PM
Diamond's book is one I still need to read, as a contrast to Charles Mann's "1491" that I finally got around to reading last summer. The assertion that European societies conquered other sub-cultures is the traditional view that is changing, at least in the Americas. It is possible, actually likely, that cultures in the America rivaled anything that was happening in Europe up until first contact.

Some of the new thought is that Europeans were more or less lucky that small pox and flu had such a high mortality rate within populations of indigenous people here. Some say as many as >90% of inhabitants were killed by disease brought to the Americas by Europeans for which Indians did not have natural immunity, although realistically it's probably more in the 60%~80% mortality rate. Still, even at relatively conservative numbers of 75%, that's a lot of native people that died from just contact with Europeans.

There are other epidemiological reasons to refute that native cultures were simple, nomadic, disorganized tribes that are only now getting true academic traction. We see it all the time, the prevailing and popular theory is just as ingrained behind the ivy covered walls as anywhere, so fundamental shifts in underlying reason are sometimes hard to shake. Plus I want to see what Diamond is saying about specifically maize/corn, which Mann presents as justification that native American cultures had very strong control over their environment and the ability for wide spread and efficient agriculture. That's based on the fact that maize is a food crop that humans had to culture (we'd say bioengineered now) from scratch, there are no native plants similar. Plus it requires intensive work to farm and Central American cultures in particular have & had many varieties and many ways of preparing maize that are quite sustainable. Plus the influence of pre-Columbian people had to be considerable since maize was spread to Africa /before/ Europeans ever visited (who later took maize back and that sparked it's widespread adoption in central and southern Europe).

The belief is that we don't know much about the pre-Columbian Americas for a few reasons, but if you follow the development of many things you'll find that early American cultures knew as much about math, astronomy, biology, government, laws and philosophy as Europe or Asia. So if anyone who has "Guns, Germs and Steel" wants to swap for "1491", let me know and I'll bring it Friday.