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Old Jul 30th 2011, 06:31 PM
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Default Re: Collapse, by Jared Diamond

Originally Posted by Americano View Post
Easter Islanders inability to produce food is the major parallel I see with other, identified lost civilizations. While that circumstance was unquestionably self-imposed, I'd venture an opinion that contemporary society is moving in the same direction due to rapidly increasing populations exhausting finite resources. Throw in climate change, unsustainable demands on irrigation water and I'd think a major calamity is down the road for much of the future population.
Well yes, the inabillity to produce sufficient food is almost always the immediate cause of any extinct/lost civilization, but I think the key point about the Easter Islanders is that for them, this was an 'unintended consequence' of their passion for big statues and the resulting mass tree-chopping needed to move and erect those big stone statues.

One can't really fault them for not understanding the nature of soil erosion as that's a result of our modern science.

Originally Posted by Non Sequitur View Post
hmmm... I have never read the book or anything by Diamond because what he is interested in just doesn't grab my attention. However, my one problem from reading the wikipedia article and reading your synopsis is that his framework seems to give societies to much control over their own circumstances. Those four responses give a lot of power to societies to self determine
Well, looking at the data presented, that seems to be exactly it - these small and isolated societies approached problems in different ways - some succeeded and some failed for various different reasons. That's an interesting topic of study in my opinion.

And Diamond does make a further study of comparision of various 'features' in common for the disasterous decision-making societies. It does seem as if there are several notable features in common in those cases studied (successes and failures) - Diamond studies in detail the North Atlantic Norse settlements where several succeeded (Orkneys, Shetlands and Faroe Islands Iceland) while a couple failed (Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland). Likewise with several Polynesian colonized islands in the South Pacific Ocean - several succeeded despite being very tiny (less than two square mile island in one case, has maintained a population of about 1400 people for over 1000 years).

Btw, Iceland is a bit of a mixed case - the original settlement was a disaster and pretty much denuded the island of trees and vegetation. Iceland's subsequent poverty and eventual survivial seems to have involved substantial new immigrations and major adaptions to the environment.

Diamond points out that 'failures' tend to have geographic areas too large for one person to see and understand the landscape, but too small to produce a centralized government apparatus. This seems to apply to us, by the way.

Originally Posted by Non Sequitur View Post
Also, the question "why do societies make horrible disastrous decisions" is a question that reveals 20/20 hindsight bias. We can simply cases like Easter Island because we know the end game. However it wasn't just one set of islanders that caused the problem. The problem built up over a long time. I don't think anyone would have been able to see it coming.
The question is not about assigning 'blame' rather the question seems to be motivated by the desire to prevent our own society from making an equally disasterous decision. That is to say, some societies met challenges and succeeded - others failed in spectacular ways. Asking why is there a difference there might help us prevent our own extinction.

Originally Posted by Tom Palven View Post
Why do societies make horrible decisions like building "urban renewal" projects that Rothbard poked fun at, sending drone missiles controlled from Creech Air force base in Nevada to kill people half way around the world, developing Cash for Clunkers, Quantitative Easing, and extravagant "Economic Stimulus Packages", while reneging on Social Security benefits which are not entitlements, but were paid for by payroll taxes and and "put into a special trust account"? Because that is the way expanding imperialist collectives operate. North Americans need to exorcise themselves of their delusional emotional attachment to the metastasizing cancer that is the ethically and financially bankrupt US government, instead of trying to find gimmicks to aid and abet it and prolong its demise.
While I certainly do agree that our present form of government does seem to be horribly corrupted, I can't help but to consider the fact that the only thing worse than the government that we've got, is not having an effective government at all - and with or modern world, that would be havoc and hell. I don't see any viable way out of this problem.
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