In Jared Diamond’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion and political discord create the conditions for the collapse of civilization
Environmental damage, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of societies around the world, but some found solutions and persisted. As in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond traces the fundamental pattern of catastrophe, and weaves an all-encompassing global thesis through a series of fascinating historical-cultural narratives. Collapse moves from the Polynesian cultures on Easter Island to the flourishing American civilizations of the Anasazi and the Maya and finally to the doomed Viking colony on Greenland. Similar problems face us today and have already brought disaster to Rwanda and Haiti, even as China and Australia are trying to cope in innovative ways. Despite our own society’s apparently inexhaustible wealth and unrivaled political power, ominous warning signs have begun to emerge even in ecologically robust areas like Montana.
Brilliant, illuminating, and immensely absorbing, Collapse is destined to take its place as one of the essential books of our time, raising the urgent question: How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?
The bestselling author of Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel surveys the history of human societies to answer the question: What can we learn from traditional societies that can make the world a better place for all of us?
Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday-'in evolutionary time-'when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.The World Until Yesterday provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years-'a past that has mostly vanished-'and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.
This is Jared Diamond's most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn't romanticize traditional societies-'after all, we are shocked by some of their practices-'but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. Provocative, enlightening, and entertaining, The World Until Yesterday is an essential and fascinating read.
A timely and fascinating exploration of the collapse of prehistoric Norse society in Greenland-'excerpted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond's Collapse
This excerpt from the New York Times-bestselling book Collapse takes a timely and fascinating look at prehistoric Norse Greenland-'the closest approximation of a controlled experiment in collapse in history. One island, two unique societies (Norse and Inuit). Only one of these societies would succeed-'the other would fail. But how? With his trademark accessibility and comprehensiveness, Diamond documents how environmental damage, climate change, loss of friendly contacts and the rise of hostile ones, and the unique political, economic, and social settings of prehistoric Greenland combine to demonstrate exactly why and how societies choose to fail or succeed.
Jared Diamond's latest book, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, is available from Viking.