cover
ISBN: 0670033375

(“Tragedy of the commons” – can be used to explain why ppl don’t give way on roads, or let ppl get out of trains fearing their place would
be taken.)

One takeaway – we are intricately linked to our environment. Whether we realise it or not.

The book explains and gives insights to why and possibly how societies collapsed or didn’t: the Easter, Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, the
Anasazi, the Maya, the Vikings who settled in Greenland and Iceland, the New Guinea, Japan, China, Rwanda, Dominican Republic and Haiti,
Australia, Montana mining industry.

Prologue explains his credentials, methods (comparative studies), overview of the chapters, and explains why he wrote the book.

Diamond tries to humanise the issues (things you can’t really see if you’re not in Montana) by quoting quite extensively other people and
their stories. E.g. P 68. perspectives of individuals.

P143 – abundant food supply during good years leading to population boom. then during lean years, food supply cannot sustain demand and
collapse results.

P147 deforestation one significant cause of collapse in Easter Island and Anasazi.

151. Environmental collapse, followed by famine, followed by war and societal disintegration.

P155/ 156. We can get away with a lot of waste when times are good. But when conditions change, “we may already have become attached to an expensive lifestyle, leaving an enforced diminished lifestyle or bankruptcy as the sole outs”.

165 food supply and war; how limitation on food storage and supply affected the ability to wage war and likely to result in fragmented
states.

P176 Chp 5 Mayan collapse

P179 – collapses are not inevitable. Depends on how people respond.

202 – iceland’s history, how it shaped the conservative attitudes of its people (caution due to failed experiments, where recovery from
sociological failure is tougher due to its climate and environment).

Norse and Inuits as example of one that chose to bring their own agricultural practices that weren’t suited to the environment (cows, sheep) vs those who adapted to the environment (specialised hunting technology suited for Greenland). But see p 274/ 275. Where adaptation/ flexibility + import of technology + friendly relations may have allowed Norse to prosper better than Inuits. Of course the part about flexibility may mean erosion of cultural values so there’s a fine line, i think.

Japan as case study of successful top-down forest management (original forests cut down 300 years ago, and current forests are growths and
their forest area is growing). P303 some favourable conditions for Japan.

P318. The Rwanda Hutu-Tutsi genocide was not as simple it seems. It was not completely on racial lines, for that was blurred in some
cases.

[I realised Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory can be a model for anyone who’s planning sustainable environments. Food, Shelter, Safety… And if we only have earth and it’s food and natural resources for food/ energy, we must look into sustainable energy and food crops. What the problem seems to be is that those who fulfill their higher-tiered needs at the expense of those who have not fulfilled the basic. But communism doesn’t work, as shown. Capitalism does but also has shortcomings. Perhaps a mix that’s between capitalism and socialism. And from one perspective, what the book implies is that those who have no young might be less concerned about future and only current lifetime, and less inclination for sustainable development.]

Insights to the political development of Haiti and Dominican republic.
Evil dictators. The enigmatic dictator. Current problems.

On China – impressive facts and figures. Though it occurred to me Diamond seems to express a certain despondency when citing China.
Perhaps the Chinese isn’t seen as taking stronger measures to address the problem? Yet China’s problems will inevitably become the world’s
problems of of its sheer size and scale. P 376.

At first I thought Diamond was simply biased against China. But P377 where Diamond admits feeling a sense of despair with the magnitude of the environmental impact China makes. I wonder then, what the world can do, for part of China’s consumption boom and excesses comes from the investment and consumption by the rest of the world too.

P 379 on Australia, suggesting factors like gross mismanagement? Uneducated populace (in earlier days of colonisation)? Maybe. Though that sounds like generalization to me.

But P496 Diamond acknowledges it is not possible to ask Third World countries not to be First.

Why some societies make disastrous decisions p421. Fail to anticipate the prob, Not aware of prob when it happens, aware but not doing
anything, try to do but not succeed.

P428 tragedy of the commons – “even if I keep to the rules, someone else will break the rules and get away with it, so it might as well be
me.”

About the elites and masses sharing common outcomes and not the elite being isolated.

Case study of Chevron oil extraction in Papua New Guinea. That cost of preventing environmental disaster is ultimately cheaper than cost of
cleaning up one.

Differences in mining for metals/ rocks Vs oil. Forestry and Fishing/ seafood industry.

Chp16 summarises the serious problems modern society face today (loss of natural habitats, forests, overfishing).

p491 photosynthetic ceiling – cities take up available space for plant growth.

[Reading the book, I can’t help but think Humans are now more like parasites that consume the host until the host dies, and then it dies. Wealth, and aspirations for wealth, exceeds the rate at which education is acquired and knowledge is assimilated. And by the time
environment problems are recognised, it may be too late or too costly to do anything to rectify. Third World countries seem doomed to repeat the mistakes of First Worlds. Tragedy of the commons also cited as factor for inaction or worsening in spite of knowing the problem. Responsible governments needed.]

P498 – the mistake is to focus only on one problem. Says all 12 major problems of non-sustainability has to be solved together.

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