Jared Diamond and Easter Island

I am in the middle of reading Jared Diamond’s superb book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive. I have always been a fan of his, ever since I read through his brilliant The Third Chimpanzee, and then the ground-breaking Guns, Germs, and Steel. He has a way of picking ideas from history and analysing them forensically, adding in biology, geography, biodiversity, environmentalism, and other interconnected ideas, and adding them up to a cogent and persuasive story.

The story of Easter Island, the second section of the book, is chilling. It is a perfect environmental “experiment” – isolated, small enough in scale, and accessible to archeology. And the results of this “experiment” in human environmental destruction, deforestation, and collapse, is a warning to us: war, cannibalism, population loss, abandonment of high-culture, and eventually, almost total destruction.

Here’s a video on YouTube featuring Jared talking about Easter Island, it gives some sense of the argument in the book. But the book goes into the story in much greater detail and is rigorous and academic.

The video – of course – sensationalises the potential for disaster. It might give the impression that Jared Diamond is some kind of fringe looney. But he most definitely isn’t. He is a remarkably insightful and careful academic with a very detailed and compelling argument. All the more reason why we should sit up and listen. I’d highly recommend anybody to start by reading the book.



  1. Derek Slater said,

    November 3, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Thanks for passing along the video. Thematically Diamond is right up my alley – muddling various disciplines as you note – but I confess, despite much anticipation, I didn’t make it through Guns, Germs and Steel. In fact my informal polling of coworkers finds it to be the book Most Often Started but Not Finished 🙂 I’ll have to give it another shot.

  2. David said,

    November 4, 2007 at 1:37 am

    Yes, thanks for the video. Not a fringe looney. At all. Dead on target. We are destroying ourselves and our planet. It will all be over soon. Maybe the earth will recover if we can kill ourselves off first, as in Alan Weisman’s conjecture. What a thing to hope for.

  3. wpm1955 said,

    November 4, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Guns, Germs and Steel was absolutely one of the best books I’ve ever read. Collapse is about my second favorite book. I wanted to recommend one further book–anyone who likes Jared Diamond will like this one, too. It’s 1421, The Year the Chinese Discovered America. Great book.

    Madame Monet
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine (in the Middle East)

  4. wpm1955 said,

    November 4, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Sorry, that was winewriter.wordpress.com (for Madame Monet)

  5. November 4, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    […] 2007 Books , Culture , History , Reassembly Eclectic Irish blogger Shazgood found a nice video clip featuring that flame-bearer of interdisciplinary scholarship, Jared Diamond, author of the #1 Book I Should Have Finished but Didn’t, Guns, Germs and […]

  6. November 22, 2007 at 11:32 am

    […] in 1450, 1650, and 1820. Each was followed by periods of war, famine, or both. I wrote about Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive before and followed that with some analysis of the ecological issues behind it. I am now seeing […]

  7. November 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    watching video clips on youtube have been may past time, Youtube have the most free video clips to watch on the internet ~

  8. December 4, 2010 at 1:28 am

    of the many video clips that i download, i always watch those that are very funny “‘~

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