Summary of the book
In the book, Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, the author, Jared Diamond, examines how past societies addressed the political, economical, and environmental challenges they faced. He connects those challenges with the problems humans face today. Diamond clarifies that his book does not solely focus on failures because he examined both successful and devastating decisions made by humans in the past societies.
Diamond begins his book by explaining the challenges faced by Montana, and reminding the readers that decisions made by individuals also impacts the whole story.
Easter Island , Pitcairn and Henderson Island
The book explains how the Easter Islanders depleted their woodlands, ruined their soil and water, and were unable to meet the food demands of a growing population. Their collapse was mainly caused by environmental damage. Two other Polynesian Islands – Pitcairn and Henderson – also failed due to similar problems, in addition to the loss of trading partners.
Anasazi and Maya
Diamond also describes the downfall of the Anasazi society and the Maya civilization. The Anasazi of the North America collapsed due to environmental damage and climate change. The Mayan civilization of Central America faced similar challenges plus they had hostile neighbors-all these problems led to their eventual decline.
Greenland Norse versus Iceland Norse
The Norse Vikings on Greenland and Vinland failed because they could not adapt to their surrounding, and they did not have the arctic technologies of Inuits. The settlers of Iceland succeeded because they did the complete opposite.
New Guinea, Tikopia, and Japan
Three societies that have flourished for several millennia, for over 10,000 years, and for over 40,000 years: Tikopia Island, Japan, and Highland New Guinea respectively. They had better management plan for their resources such as, forest and fishery.