A colleague, though a friend, lent it to me. Two years ago, I read in Spanish “El tercer chimpancé”, about anthropology, by the same author. At that time, I thought Diamond was a very educated writer. But now, I am even more impressed because the matters described in “Collapse” come from very different fields of Science. It is a real pleasure to read this kind of Renaissance work nowadays, at the time of blind specialisation.
The book is about some old and modern societies and civilizations. It is focused on the important question “Why some societies survived and other collapsed?” Obviously, it is a clever way of asking “Is our civilization going to survive or fail?”
Diamond explains that societal collapses usually involve an important environmental component, climate changes, hostile neighbours and other minor factors. Each society gave different responses to those problems. He chooses civilizations from different ages and places, surrounded by different environmental conditions, and with different degrees of knowledge and technology.
He considers isolated and underdeveloped societies as the Easter Island or the Norse colonies in the North Atlantic. But he also describes advanced societies, proud of their development, as contemporary China or old Maya civilization. Many of them collapsed at their growth peak.
Nowadays, we see ourselves as the omnipotent protagonists of the History of Human Race, as old Mayas saw themselves, but our lonely planet seems dangerously similar to fragile Easter Island, in the middle of South Pacific, and our modern buildings maybe will have the same posthumous meaning as the Moai have.