Thursday, August 11, 2005

Collapse!!! (Book review/environmental)

I have been reading Jared Diamond's book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed for the past month (for a grad school class; summer seminar). Diamond argues that the failure of many (though not all) past and present societies is caused by environmental degradation. Though at times it seemed like he was a bit repetitive, I really liked this book (and the class too!) for several reasons. First, he writes in a friendly, easy to understand yet intelligent manner. I think he does a good job in reaching the public with his message, without using complex environmental concepts. I liked the fact that he researched societies from all over the world--from the Maya to pre-modern Japan to Rwanda to Australia--instead of just focusing on one area. He also makes it a point to note that while we tend to think of past civilizations of being 'pristine stewards' of the earth, environmental problems have plagued human kind since the beginning of civilization; it's just we're faced with issues on a greater, more global scale.

A couple things bothered me though, and it's partially because I am a bit nitpicky when it comes to writing and researching since they are my passions. I found it slightly annoying that although he included a 'further reading section' at the back of the book, he did not footnote any of the information in the book. I realize that this is a novel for the general public, and not a research article, but it would have been nice to know all of his sources. I point this out, because in class I was required to do presentations on some of the subjects, and when doing extra research often found figures that were slightly different than what he used (only slightly though, nothing too drastic). Furthermore, although I think he is generally a good writer, occasionally his grammar was horrible! Not that my grammar is 100% correct all the time, but I am not a novelist (not yet anyhow ;) ) and do not have an editor to double check my work! Aside from these slight issues, I definitely think that this book is worth checking out!

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