Just finished the excellent book Collapse by Jared Diamond. I had read portions of his earlier Guns, Germs and Steel, and really liked his approach in that book, too. One of the things that make his book so convincing is his ability to see things from many points of view (the really essential cross-disciplinary approach), to not just see things as an ecologist, but also from the point of view of an economist, a sociologist, military historian, and a even a bit from other standpoints. His work builds upon, and greatly expands works such as Clive Ponting’s A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations.
Diamond examines many different societies that have collapsed, (and some that have narrowly avoided collapse) from a five point framework, which consists of:
– A societies degradation of it’s own environment, with special regard for deforestation, soil loss, and water management,
– Climate change’s effect on that society,
– Hostile neighbors which hurt that society,
– How trade and friendly relations with neighbors helped that society, &
– How a society responds to its problems, especially as that response interacts with its belief systems.
It’s a useful (=predictive) framework, and through the use of a comparative method, in analyzing societies as diverse as Norse Greenland, Easter Island, present day Montana, its value becomes clear. In particular, I was glad to see analysis that contrasted the top down solutions that evolved in Japanese society (pg. 294-306) with the bottom up approach in the New Guinea Highlands (pg 280-286), within a framework that gave some account of why different societies evolved different solutions (or re-phrased, why what is successful for one society would not be successful for another.)
Next is the book The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler and then Development as Freedom
Poverty and Famines by Amartya Sen. (Rationality & Freedom next?) Also, re-reading some briefings by Col. John Boyd.
Looking for a good book on the ergonomics of belief. Any suggestions?
Next series of posts will be about: Sustainability and War, and the tie-ins between these two processes.