Jared Diamond's Collapse by Sheikh Noohery

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.

Easter Island

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.

Chaco Canyon
Temple at the Maya City of Tikal

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.

Mount Fuji

Why does it matter: Modern Society

Societies today have already collapsed or are collapsing due to the same problems faced by societies in the past with four additional problems.

Twelve problems that modern societies face are:

  1. Deforestation and habitat destruction
  2. Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)
  3. Water management problems
  4. Overhunting
  5. Overfishing
  6. Effects of introduced species on native species
  7. Overpopulation
  8. Increased per-capita impact of people
  9. Human caused climate change
  10. Buildup of toxins in the environment
  11. Energy shortages
  12. Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity
Rwanda Genocide

Rwanda experienced one of the most devastating events of current times in 1994 in the genocide in which the Hutu wiped out the Tutsi. It was in part caused by overpopulation which contributed to the violence.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, however, the Dominican Republic is in a better position than Haiti. Haitians are depended on forest derived charcoal, which further accelerates their deforestation problem, while Dominican Republic industrialized their economy while retaining their forests.

Electronic Garbage

Diamond's book provides a detalied, eye-opening truth about the present state of earth. Modern societies depend on both renewable and non-renewable resources. Just like past societies that failed modern human societies are consuming way more than the world can provide. The twelve problems that the wolrd faces today are very visible. Socites that have been sustainable for decades are now being affected due to globalization. Countries all over the world have adopted or are adopting policies to tackle the twelve problems. However, individual decisicions play a huge part in solving , for the most part, local environmental problems. If these problems are not managed skyscrapers of modern societies might end up being like the ruins of Easter Island and Mayan cities. However, if these problems are kept under control modern societies might triumph like Japan and Tikopia Islands.

Rating for Collapse by Jared Diamond: 4/5. The book had an overwhelming amount of information.

Created By
Sheikh Noohery


Created with images by mattiaverga - "chichen itza pyramid mexico" • skeeze - "landscape scenic outdoors" • skeeze - "landscape scenic outdoors" • PeterW1950 - "easter island ahu tongariki stone figures" • Tim Brown Architecture - "Chaco Canyon" • Anthony-X - "pyramid maya tikal" • melenama - "Japan - Mount Fuji" • schacon - "Genocide Memorial" • art_es_anna - "Xatarra i xinet"

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