Collapse (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
History is littered with the ruins of past civilizations, great and small, whose fate stands as a cautionary warning to modern people. Is it possible to analyze scientifically the reasons complex civilizations collapse? Can the insights of science and history be combined to provide warnings about the risks facing technologically advanced cultures that overexploit their environments? Out of such analysis, is there a message for the modern Western culture of gas-guzzling cars, so-called McMansions, “big box” shopping centers, superhighways, suburban sprawl, and gridlocked cities? Can members of complex societies learn from their mistakes and modify their behaviors when threatened by collapse, or are they doomed to continue their unsustainable, environmentally destructive behavior? How aware were past societies of the impact of their behavior?
In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond likens the plan of his book to “a boa constructor that has swallowed two very large sheep”case studies of past and present societies which have either succeeded or failed to resolve their environmental problems. After beginning with a discussion of the environmental problems of Montana, Diamond compares the disappearance of four past societiesthe Easter Islanders, the Mayans, the Anasazi, and the Greenlanderswith the survival of othersthe Icelanders, the New Guinea highlanders, and the Japanesein order to...
(The entire section is 1843 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
America 192, no. 17 (May 16, 2005): 16-17.
Booklist 101, no. 5 (November 1, 2004): 442.
Commentary 119, no. 4 (April, 2005): 85-88.
Library Journal 130, no. 3 (February 15, 2005): 154.
Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2004, p. E1.
National Review 57, no. 6 (April 11, 2005): 43-44.
Nature 433 (January 6, 2005): 15-16.
New Statesman 135 (February 7, 2005): 50-51.
The New York Review of Books 52, no. 6 (April 7, 2005): 4-6.
The New York Times Book Review 154 (January 30, 2005): 10-11.
The New Yorker 80, no. 41 (January 3, 2005): 70-73.
Publishers Weekly 251, no. 46 (November 15, 2004): 48.
Time 165, no. 7 (February 14, 2005): 61.
The Wall Street Journal 245, no. 5 (January 7, 2005): W1-W4.
(The entire section is 71 words.)