Book review: Collapse

collapse-diamondCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond.  Penguin Books, 2005.

Simultaneously broad-ranging and detailed, Diamond presents a thoroughly researched consideration of the ways that both past and current societies have responded to environmental and societal crises.  Some collapsed; others changed course and survived–what made the difference?

The final chapters discuss our current world situation, and include a very helpful set of responses to those who think environmental concerns are exaggerated.  Mainstream media and most Americans seem to be oblivious to the critical issues we face as a society, which has made me feel misunderstood and isolated in considering the situation to be very grave.  How can others keep on eating meat, buying excessive consumer goods, having children, and repeatedly flying to distant countries for vacations?  I felt relieved that someone like Diamond, who is both respected as a researcher and also a popular writer, has seriously discussed this.  Surprisingly, however, he says nothing in the “what you can do” section about the critical impact of meat consumption and the huge environmental benefit we’d see if large numbers of people chose to eat a plant-based diet.

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