Sunday, December 21, 2008

Common Sense or Collapse

Common Sense

Author: Thomas Pain

Thomas Paine arrived in America from England in 1774. A friend of Ben Franklin, he was a writer of poetry and tracts condemning the slave trade. In 1775, as hostilities between Britain and the colonies intensified, Paine wrote "Common Sense" to encourage the colonies to break the British exploitative hold through independence. The little booklet of 50 pages was published January 10, 1776 and sold a half-million copies, approximately equal to 75 million copies today.

Library Journal

Penguin strikes again with a wonderful new series called "Great Ideas" featuring 12 books by great thinkers dating back to the first millennium B.C.E. through the mid-20th century, covering art, politics, literature, philosophy, science, history, and more. Each slim paperback is individually designed, and all are affordable at $8.95. A great idea indeed. Snap 'em up! Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Author: Jared Diamond

In his runaway bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond brilliantly examined the circumstances that allowed Western civilizations to dominate much of the world. Now he probes the other side of the equation: What caused some of the great civilizations of the past to fall into ruin, and what can we learn from their fates? Using a vast historical and geographical perspective ranging from Easter Island and the Maya to Viking Greenland and modern Montana, Diamond traces a fundamental pattern of environmental catastrophe-one whose warning signs can be seen in our modern world and that we ignore at our peril. Blending the most recent scientific advances into a narrative that is impossible to put down, Collapse exposes the deepest mysteries of the past even as it offers hope for the future.

"Diamond's most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that don't just educate and provoke, but entertain." -The Seattle Times

"Extremely persuasive . . . replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes [and] haunting statistics." -The Boston Globe

"Extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in [its] ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past." -The New York Times Book Review

The Washington Post - Robert D. Kaplan

In a world that celebrates live journalism, we are increasingly in need of big-picture authors like Jared Diamond, who think historically and spatially -- across an array of disciplines -- to make sense of events that journalists may seem to be covering in depth, but in fact aren't. He did this so well in Guns, Germs, and Steel, which has been a huge bestseller since its publication in 1997, that one might think Diamond would have little more to say about the vast sweep of human history. Think again. In his extraordinarily panoramic Collapse, he moves his wide lens to yet another telling phenomenon: failed nations, of both the distant and the recent past.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

Mr. Diamond - who has academic training in physiology, geography and evolutionary biology - is a lucid writer with an ability to make arcane scientific concepts readily accessible to the lay reader, and his case studies of failed cultures are never less than compelling. He presents some intriguing digressions about methods used by scientists and historians to diagnose the trajectory of long dead societies, and provides some provocative analyses of current environmental problems in Australia, the United States and China.

Publishers Weekly

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, geographer Diamond laid out a grand view of the organic roots of human civilizations in flora, fauna, climate and geology. That vision takes on apocalyptic overtones in this fascinating comparative study of societies that have, sometimes fatally, undermined their own ecological foundations. Diamond examines storied examples of human economic and social collapse, and even extinction, including Easter Island, classical Mayan civilization and the Greenland Norse. He explores patterns of population growth, overfarming, overgrazing and overhunting, often abetted by drought, cold, rigid social mores and warfare, that lead inexorably to vicious circles of deforestation, erosion and starvation prompted by the disappearance of plant and animal food sources. Extending his treatment to contemporary environmental trouble spots, from Montana to China to Australia, he finds today's global, technologically advanced civilization very far from solving the problems that plagued primitive, isolated communities in the remote past. At times Diamond comes close to a counsel of despair when contemplating the environmental havoc engulfing our rapidly industrializing planet, but he holds out hope at examples of sustainability from highland New Guinea's age-old but highly diverse and efficient agriculture to Japan's rigorous program of forest protection and, less convincingly, in recent green consumerism initiatives. Diamond is a brilliant expositor of everything from anthropology to zoology, providing a lucid background of scientific lore to support a stimulating, incisive historical account of these many declines and falls. Readers will find his book an enthralling, and disturbing, reminder of the indissoluble links that bind humans to nature. Photos. Agents, John Brockman and Katinka Matson. (Jan.) Forecast: With a 12-city author tour and a 200,000-copy first printing, this BOMC main selection and History Book Club featured alternate is poised to compete with its ground-breaking predecessor. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Foreign Affairs

Huls Farm and Gardar Farm seem to be models of successful agricultural enterprise. Both have lush settings, good grass, and imposing barns that house 200 head of cattle, and they are owned by respected community leaders. They also face significant difficulties: their high-latitude locations make for short growing seasons, and a changing climate signals greater problems to come.

The two farms form the center of an anecdote that comes at the beginning of Jared Diamond's Collapse, and the story's O. Henry ending, stealthily arrived at, encapsulates the book's message. Huls, Diamond reveals, is a still-expanding fifth-generation farm in Montana's Bitterroot Valley; Gardar, despite its apparent prosperity, was abandoned 500 years ago when Greenland's Norse society collapsed amid starvation and civic unrest.

Library Journal

The author of Guns, Germs, and Steel considers why some societies collapse when faced with environmental or political catastrophe, while others soldier on. Lessons for today? With a 12-city author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal

Adult/High School-This powerful call to action should be read by all high school students. Diamond eloquently and persuasively describes the environmental and social problems that led to the collapse of previous civilizations and threaten us today. The book's organization makes researching particular regions or types of damage accessible. Unfamiliar words are defined, and mention of a place or issue that has been described in greater detail elsewhere includes relevant page numbers. Students may become impatient with the folksy Montana fishing stories in part one, but once the fascinating account of the vanished civilizations begins, readers are taken on an extraordinary journey. Using the Mayan empire, Easter Island, the Anasazi, and other examples, the author shows how a combination of environmental factors such as habitat destruction, the loss of biodiversity, and degradation of the soil caused complex, flourishing societies to suddenly disintegrate. Modern societies are divided into those that have begun to collapse, such as Rwanda and Haiti; those whose conservation policies have helped to avert disaster, such as Iceland and Japan; and those currently dealing with massive problems, such as Australia and China. Diamond is a cautious optimist. Some of his most compelling stories show how two groups of people sharing the same land, such as the Norse and Inuit in Greenland, can end up in completely different situations depending on how they address their problems. The solutions discussed are of vital importance: how societies respond to environmental degradation will determine how teens will live their adult lives. As Diamond points out, in a collapsing civilization, being rich just means being the last to starve. Black-and-white photos are included.-Kathy Tewell, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Table of Contents:
Prologue : a tale of two farms1
Pt. 1Modern Montana25
Ch. 1Under Montana's big sky27
Pt. 2Past societies77
Ch. 2Twilight at Easter79
Ch. 3The last people alive : Pitcairn and Henderson Islands120
Ch. 4The ancient ones : the Anasazi and their neighbors136
Ch. 5The Maya collapses157
Ch. 6The Viking prelude and fugues178
Ch. 7Norse Greenland's flowering211
Ch. 8Norse Greenland's end248
Ch. 9Opposite paths to success277
Pt. 3Modern societies309
Ch. 10Malthus in Africa : Rwanda's genocide311
Ch. 11One Island, two peoples, two histories : the Dominican Republic and Haiti329
Ch. 12China, lurching giant358
Ch. 13"Mining" Australia378
Pt. 4Practical lessons417
Ch. 14Why do some societies make disastrous decisions?419
Ch. 15Big businesses and the environment : different conditions, different outcomes441
Ch. 16The world as a polder : what does it all mean to us today?486

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