Collapse (book)

Collapse (book)

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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (also titled Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive) is a 2005 book by Jared M. Diamond
Jared Diamond
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

, professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 and physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 at University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

. Diamond's book deals with "societal collapse
Societal collapse
Societal collapse broadly includes both quite abrupt societal failures typified by collapses , as well as more extended gradual declines of superpowers...

s involving an environment
Environment (biophysical)
The biophysical environment is the combined modeling of the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables, parameters as well as conditions and modes inside the Earth's biosphere. The biophysical environment can be divided into two categories:...

al component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

, hostile neighbors, and trade partner
International trade
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

s, plus questions of societal responses" (p. 15). In writing the book Diamond intended that its readers should learn from history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 (p. 23).

Synopsis


In the prologue, Diamond summarizes Collapse in one paragraph
Paragraph
A paragraph is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea. A paragraph consists of one or more sentences. The start of a paragraph is indicated by beginning on a new line. Sometimes the first line is indented...

:
Diamond identifies five factors that contribute to collapse: climate change, hostile neighbors, collapse of essential trading partners, environmental problems, and failure to adapt to environmental issues.

He also lists 12 environmental problems facing mankind today. The first eight have historically contributed to the collapse of past societies:
  1. Deforestation
    Deforestation
    Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

     and habitat destruction
    Habitat destruction
    Habitat destruction is the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity. Habitat destruction by human activity mainly for the purpose of...

  2. Soil
    Soil
    Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

     problems (erosion
    Erosion
    Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

    , salinization, and soil fertility losses)
  3. Water management
    Water management
    Water management is the activity of planning, developing, distributing and managing the optimum use of water resources. In an ideal world. water management planning has regard to all the competing demands for water and seeks to allocate water on an equitable basis to satisfy all uses and demands...

     problems
  4. Overhunting
  5. Overfishing
    Overfishing
    Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans....

  6. Effects of introduced species
    Introduced species
    An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

     on native species
  7. Overpopulation
    Overpopulation
    Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

  8. Increased per-capita impact of people


Further, he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:
  1. Anthropogenic climate change
  2. Buildup of toxin
    Toxin
    A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms; man-made substances created by artificial processes are thus excluded...

    s in the environment
  3. Energy shortages
  4. Full human utilization of the Earth
    Earth
    Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

    ’s photosynthetic capacity


Diamond also writes about cultural factors, such as the apparent reluctance of the Greenland Norse to eat fish.
The root problem in all but one of Diamond's factors leading to collapse is overpopulation
Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

 relative to the practicable (as opposed to the ideal theoretical) carrying capacity
Carrying capacity
The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment...

 of the environment. The one factor not related to overpopulation is the harmful effect of accidentally or intentionally introducing nonnative species to a region.

Diamond also states that "it would be absurd to claim that environmental damage must be a major factor in all collapses: the collapse of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 is a modern counter-example, and the destruction of Carthage by Rome
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 in 146 BC
146 BC
Year 146 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Lentulus and Achaicus...

 is an ancient one. It's obviously true that military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 or economic factors alone may suffice" (p. 15).

Book structure


Collapse is divided into four parts.
  • Part One describes the environment of the US state of Montana
    Montana
    Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

    , focusing on the lives of several individuals in order to put a human face on the interplay between society and the environment.
  • Part Two describes past societies that have collapsed. Diamond uses a "framework" when considering the collapse of a society
    Society
    A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

    , consisting of five "sets of factors" that may affect what happens to a society: environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbors, loss of trading partners
    Trade
    Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

    , and the society's own responses to its environmental problems. The societies Diamond describes are:
    • The Greenland
      Greenland
      Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

       Norse
      Norsemen
      Norsemen is used to refer to the group of people as a whole who spoke what is now called the Old Norse language belonging to the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, especially Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish and Danish in their earlier forms.The meaning of Norseman was "people...

       (climate change, environmental damage, loss of trading partners, irrational reluctance to eat fish, hostile neighbors and most unwillingness to adapt in the face of social collapse)
    • Easter Island
      Easter Island
      Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people...

       (a society that collapsed entirely due to environmental damage)
    • The Polynesia
      Polynesia
      Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

      ns of Pitcairn Island (environmental damage and loss of trading partners)
    • The Anasazi of southwestern North America
      North America
      North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

       (environmental damage and climate change)
    • The Maya
      Maya civilization
      The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

       of Central America
      Central America
      Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

       (environmental damage, climate change, and hostile neighbours)
    • Finally, Diamond discusses three past success stories:
      • The tiny Pacific island of Tikopia
        Tikopia
        Tikopia is a small and high island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Covering an area of 5 km² , the island is the remnant of an extinct volcano. Its highest point, Mt. Reani, reaches an elevation of 380 m above sea level. Lake Te Roto covers an old volcanic crater which is 80 m...

      • The agricultural success of central New Guinea
        New Guinea
        New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

      • The Tokugawa
        Edo period
        The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

        -era forest management
        Forest management
        200px|thumb|right|[[Sustainable development|Sustainable]] forest management carried out by [[Complejo Forestal y Maderero Panguipulli|Complejo Panguipulli]] has contributed to the preservation of the forested landscape around [[Neltume]], a sawmill town in Chile...

         in Japan.
  • Part Three examines modern societies, including:
    • The collapse into genocide of Rwanda
      Rwandan Genocide
      The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days through mid-July, over 500,000 people were killed, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate...

      , caused in part by overpopulation
    • The failure of Haiti
      Haiti
      Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

       compared with the relative success of its neighbour on Hispaniola
      Hispaniola
      Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

      , the Dominican Republic
      Dominican Republic
      The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

    • The problems facing a developing nation
      Developing country
      A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...

      , China
      China
      Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    • The problems facing a First World
      First World
      The concept of the First World first originated during the Cold War, where it was used to describe countries that were aligned with the United States. These countries were democratic and capitalistic. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the term "First World" took on a...

       nation, Australia
      Australia
      Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

  • Part Four concludes the study by considering such subjects as business
    Business
    A business is an organization engaged in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers. Businesses are predominant in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and administered to earn profit to increase the wealth of their owners. Businesses may also be not-for-profit...

     and globalization
    Globalization
    Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

    , and "extracts practical lessons for us today" (p. 22 – 23). Specific attention is given to the polder model
    Polder Model
    The polder model is a term with uncertain origin that was first used to describe the internationally acclaimed Dutch version of consensus policy in economics, specifically in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the term was quickly adopted for a much wider meaning, for similar cases of consensus...

     as a way Dutch society has addressed its challenges and the "top-down" and most importantly "bottom-up" approaches that we must take now that "our world society is presently on a non-sustainable course" (p. 498) in order to avoid the "12 problems of non-sustainability
    Sustainability
    Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

    " that he expounds throughout the book, and reviews in the final chapter. The results of this survey are perhaps why Diamond sees "signs of hope" nevertheless and arrives at a position of "cautious optimism" for all our futures.

Reasons for Easter Island collapse contested


Jared Diamond's thesis that Easter Island society collapsed in isolation entirely due to environmental damage is contested by ethnographers and archaeologists who argue that the introduction of diseases carried by Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an colonizers and slave raiding
Slave raiding
Slave raiding is the military practise of performing a raid for the purpose of capturing people and bring them out of the raid area to serve as slaves. Sometimes seen as a normal part of warfare it is nowadays widely considered a crime. The practise of slave raiding is known to have occurred since...

, which devastated the population in the 1800s, had a much greater social impact than environmental decline and that introduced animals, first rats and then sheep, were greatly responsible for the island's loss of native flora which came closest to deforestation as late as 1930–1960.

Greenlanders reluctance to eat fish contested


Isotopic analysis of bones has shown that Greenlanders ate large amounts of seafood, with seafood supplying 20% of their diet initially, rising to 80% at the end.

Reviews


Tim Flannery
Tim Flannery
Timothy Fridtjof Flannery is an Australian mammalogist, palaeontologist, environmentalist and global warming activist....

 gave Collapse the highest praise in Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

, writing
... the fact that one of the world's most original thinkers has chosen to pen this mammoth work when his career is at his apogee is itself a persuasive argument that Collapse must be taken seriously. It is probably the most important book you will ever read.


The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

's review was generally favorable, although the reviewer had two disagreements. First, the reviewer felt Diamond was not optimistic enough about the future
Future
The future is the indefinite time period after the present. Its arrival is considered inevitable due to the existence of time and the laws of physics. Due to the nature of the reality and the unavoidability of the future, everything that currently exists and will exist is temporary and will come...

. Secondly, the reviewer claimed Collapse contains some erroneous statistic
Statistic
A statistic is a single measure of some attribute of a sample . It is calculated by applying a function to the values of the items comprising the sample which are known together as a set of data.More formally, statistical theory defines a statistic as a function of a sample where the function...

s: for instance, Diamond supposedly overstated the number of starving
Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

 people in the world. University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia is a public research university. UBC’s two main campuses are situated in Vancouver and in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley...

 professor of ecological planning William Rees wrote that Collapse's most important lesson is that societies most able to avoid collapse are the ones that are most agile; they are able to adopt practices favorable to their own survival and avoid unfavorable ones. Moreoever, Rees wrote that Collapse is "a necessary antidote" to followers of Julian Simon
Julian Lincoln Simon
Julian Lincoln Simon was a professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute at the time of his death, after previously serving as a longtime business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Simon wrote many books and...

, such as Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg is a Danish author, academic, and environmental writer. He is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and a former director of the Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen...

 who author
Author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

ed The Skeptical Environmentalist
The Skeptical Environmentalist
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World is a book by Danish environmentalist author Bjørn Lomborg, controversial for its claims that overpopulation, declining energy resources, deforestation, species loss, water shortages, certain aspects of global warming, and an...

. Rees explained this assertion as follows:
Human behaviour towards the ecosphere has become dysfunctional and now arguably threatens our own long-term security. The real problem is that the modern world remains in the sway of a dangerously illusory cultural myth. Like Lomborg, most governments and international agencies seem to believe that the human enterprise is somehow 'decoupling' from the environment, and so is poised for unlimited expansion. Jared Diamond's new book, Collapse, confronts this contradiction head-on.


In a recent edition of Energy and Environment
Energy and Environment
Energy & Environment is a peer-reviewed academic journal aimed at natural scientists, technologists, and the international social science and policy communities covering the direct and indirect environmental impacts of energy acquisition, transport, production and use. Its editor-in-chief since...

, Jennifer Marohasy
Jennifer Marohasy
Jennifer Marohasy is an Australian biologist, columnist and blogger best known for her work on the Murray River. She was a senior fellow at the free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs between 2004 and 2009 and director of the Australian Environment Foundation which she says was...

 of the Institute of Public Affairs
Institute of Public Affairs
The Institute of Public Affairs is a public policy think tank based in Melbourne, Australia. It advocates free market economic policies such as privatisation and deregulation of state-owned enterprises, trade liberalisation and deregulated workplaces, climate change skepticism , and the...

 has a critical review of Collapse, in particular its chapter on Australia’s environmental degradation. Marohasy claims that Diamond reflects a popular view that is reinforced by environmental campaigning in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, but which is not supported by evidence, and argues that many of his claims are easily disproved.

In his review in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

, Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell, CM is a Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. He is currently based in New York City and has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996...

 highlights the way in which Diamond's approach differs from traditional historians by focusing on environmental issues rather than cultural questions.
Diamond’s distinction between social and biological survival is a critical one, because too often we blur the two, or assume that biological survival is contingent on the strength of our civilizational values... The fact is, though, that we can be law-abiding and peace-loving and tolerant and inventive and committed to freedom and true to our own values and still behave in ways that are biologically suicidal.

While Diamond doesn't reject the approach of traditional historians, his book, according to Gladwell, vividly illustrates the limitations of that approach. Gladwell demonstrates this with his own example of a recent ballot initiative in Oregon, where questions of property rights and other freedoms were subject to a free and healthy debate, but serious ecological questions were given scant attention.

In 2006 the book was shortlisted for The Aventis Prizes for Science Books
The Aventis Prizes for Science Books
The Royal Society Prizes for Science Books is an annual award for the previous year's best general science writing and best science writing for children. The nominees and winners are decided by the Royal Society, the UK national academy of science...

 award, eventually losing out to David Bodanis
David Bodanis
David Bodanis is a popular science writer. Originally from Chicago, he lived in France for ten years. He is now based in London.His first commercial success The Secret House: 24 hours in the strange & wonderful world in which we spend our nights and days established him with the literary style of...

' Electric Universe.

Similar theories


Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold Joseph Toynbee CH was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global...

 in A Study of History
A Study of History
A Study of History is the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961, in which the author traces the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record...

(1934–1961) also studied the collapse of civilizations. Diamond agrees with Toynbee that "civilizations die from suicide, not by murder" when they fail to meet the challenges of their times. However, where Toynbee argues that the root cause of collapse is the decay of a society's "creative minority" into "a position of inherited privilege which it has ceased to merit", Diamond ascribes more weight to conscious minimization of environmental factors.

From another angle, U.S. historian Joseph Tainter
Joseph Tainter
Joseph A. Tainter is a U.S. anthropologist and historian.Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California and Northwestern University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1975. He is currently a professor in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University...

 in The Collapse of Complex Societies
Joseph Tainter
Joseph A. Tainter is a U.S. anthropologist and historian.Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California and Northwestern University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1975. He is currently a professor in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University...

(1988) argues that observable causes of collapse such as environmental degradation ultimately result from diminishing returns
Diminishing returns
In economics, diminishing returns is the decrease in the marginal output of a production process as the amount of a single factor of production is increased, while the amounts of all other factors of production stay constant.The law of diminishing returns In economics, diminishing returns (also...

 on investments in energy, education and technological innovation.

The Canadian author Ronald Wright
Ronald Wright
Ronald Wright is a Canadian author who has written books of travel, history and fiction. His nonfiction includes the bestseller Stolen Continents, winner of the Gordon Montador Award and chosen as a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times...

 penned a similar but shorter book-length essay A Short History of Progress
A Short History of Progress
A Short History of Progress is a non-fiction book and lecture series by Ronald Wright about societal collapse. The lectures were delivered as a series of five speeches, each taking place in different cities across Canada as part of the 2004 Massey Lectures which was broadcast on the CBC Radio...

in 2004. Wright surveys fewer societies in less detail than Diamond, but begins much earlier in human prehistory
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

 with the worldwide slaughter of megafauna
Megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...

 whenever and wherever humans migrated to new lands in the Stone Age
Stone Age
The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric period, lasting about 2.5 million years , during which humans and their predecessor species in the genus Homo, as well as the earlier partly contemporary genera Australopithecus and Paranthropus, widely used exclusively stone as their hard material in the...

, including Neanderthal man. His conclusions did not share the "cautious optimism" of Diamond.

In 1966 American historian Carroll Quigley
Carroll Quigley
Carroll Quigley was an American historian and theorist of the evolution of civilizations. He is noted for his teaching work as a professor at Georgetown University, for his academic publications, and for his research on secret societies.- Biography :Quigley was born in Boston, and attended...

 explored sociocultural evolution
Sociocultural evolution
Sociocultural evolution is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies have changed over time...

 and posited economic and political theories for collapse.

Film


In 2010, National Geographic released the documentary film
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 Collapse based on Diamond's book.

See also

  • Societal collapse
    Societal collapse
    Societal collapse broadly includes both quite abrupt societal failures typified by collapses , as well as more extended gradual declines of superpowers...

  • Sustainability
    Sustainability
    Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

  • Creeping normalcy
    Creeping normalcy
    Creeping normalcy refers to the way a major change can be accepted as the normal situation if it happens slowly, in unnoticed increments, when it would be regarded as objectionable if it took place in a single step or short period...

  • Global warming
    Global warming
    Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

  • Risks to civilization, humans and planet Earth
    Risks to civilization, humans and planet Earth
    Various existential risks could threaten humankind as a whole, have adverse consequences for the course of human civilization, or even cause the end of planet Earth.-Types of risks:...

  • A Study of History
    A Study of History
    A Study of History is the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961, in which the author traces the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record...

    by Arnold J. Toynbee
    Arnold J. Toynbee
    Arnold Joseph Toynbee CH was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global...

  • The Collapse of Complex Societies
    Joseph Tainter
    Joseph A. Tainter is a U.S. anthropologist and historian.Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California and Northwestern University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1975. He is currently a professor in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University...

    by Joseph Tainter
    Joseph Tainter
    Joseph A. Tainter is a U.S. anthropologist and historian.Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California and Northwestern University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1975. He is currently a professor in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University...

  • A Short History of Progress
    A Short History of Progress
    A Short History of Progress is a non-fiction book and lecture series by Ronald Wright about societal collapse. The lectures were delivered as a series of five speeches, each taking place in different cities across Canada as part of the 2004 Massey Lectures which was broadcast on the CBC Radio...

    by Ronald Wright
    Ronald Wright
    Ronald Wright is a Canadian author who has written books of travel, history and fiction. His nonfiction includes the bestseller Stolen Continents, winner of the Gordon Montador Award and chosen as a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times...

  • Decline of the Roman Empire
    Decline of the Roman Empire
    The decline of the Roman Empire refers to the gradual societal collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Many theories of causality prevail, but most concern the disintegration of political, economic, military, and other social institutions, in tandem with foreign invasions and usurpers from within the...

    , over 200 theories on why Rome collapsed.
  • Deforestation during the Roman period
    Deforestation during the Roman period
    The rise and fall of the Roman Empire encompasses the time when Rome was the leading contributor to deforestation in the Mediterranean. Whereas the Mediterranean was largely "prehistoric" in 1000 BC, it was definitely "historic" by 500 AD. Roman geographical and population expansion spread methods...

  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
    Jared Diamond
    Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

  • Ecocide
    Ecocide
    The neologism ecocide can be used to refer to any large-scale destruction of the natural environment or over-consumption of critical non-renewable resources...

  • Environmental disaster
    Environmental disaster
    An environmental disaster is a disaster to the natural environment due to human activity. It should not be confused with the separate concept of a natural disaster.-History:...


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