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.