After reading Guns, Germs and Steel, I decided to tackle Jared Diamond’s follow-up book Collapse.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond is an amazing piece of research. At times I thought there was too much detail. This book documents several past societies that collapsed, a few that survived, and the current state of the world today. Even though the author states at the end of the book that he is cautiously optimistic that we can solve the ecological problems of our time, I was left with the impression that as India and China try to make the leap to 1st world status, things are going to get much worse.
Jared Diamond did force me to abandon an environmental idea that I’ve always had. Until I read this book, I always felt that smart engineers (not politicians) could solve the problems we face today. He laid out the case that historically new problems are often created while responding to previous problems and the magnitude is often far greater than the original problem. To assume that a technological solution to an environmental problem will always be found, found in time, and be correct is a poor assumption.
A point he makes in the book is that a solution will be found to all environmental problems, it just might be painful. Something I’ve learned from reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other books is how our use of petroleum products is destroying the nutrient quality of food. We are seeing testosterone levels plummet in the past two generations as a response to environmental estrogens. Man poisons the Earth through over-farming, deforestation, and pollution. The Earth fights back and now couples in the 30s are having difficulty conceiving.
A friend of mine living in Tampa posted today on Facebook that his local grocery store was selling oranges flown in from South Africa. Think about the environmental impact of that for a moment.