According to scripture, "How are the mighty fallen in the midst of battle" (II Samuel 1:25). To war, Jared Diamond in his new book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, adds self-inflicted environmental degradation, climate change, disastrous trading relations, and unwise responses to societal problems. In his earlier, Pulitzer Prize¿winning Guns, Germs and Steel, Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California at Los Angeles, celebrated the rise of communities and nations despite microbial and self-imposed adversities.
Collapse is the downside of those dynamics, the societies that didn't make it, barely made it, or are destined, as Diamond sees it, for the fall. In this exhaustively researched new book, he pre-sents carefully detailed case histories of failed societies¿islands in warmish waters (Easter, Pitcairn, Haiti), an island in coolish waters (Greenland), a continental semidesert (the Anasazi of the Southwest U.S.), a continental tropical forest (the Maya of Mexico).
This article was originally published with the title How Are the Mighty Fallen?.