Confuse: How Jared Diamond Fails to Convince

Confuse: How Jared Diamond Fails to Convince EE 16-3-Morris_p2.qxd 30-6-05 9:54 am Page 395 Julian Morris In his latest book, Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed, Jared Diamond attempts to provide a scientific account of the causes of societal collapse: “This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapse to which environmental problems contribute … I compare many past and present societies that differed with respect to environmental fragility, relations with neighbours, political institutions, and other “input” variables postulated to influence a society’s stability. The “output” variables that I examine are collapse or survival, and form of the collapse if a collapse does occur. By relating output variables to input variables, I aim to tease out the influence of possible input variables on collapses.” (18) In so doing, he seeks to identify lessons for improving the chances that humanity will avoid or better cope with future calamities. Given this objective, five questions seem pertinent: First, how accurate is Diamond’s portrayal of the demise of the societies he describes (both those that collapsed and those that did not)? Second, how plausible are the reasons Diamond gives for societal collapse and sustainability? Third, how systematic is Diamond in his application of the rules that he http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Energy & Environment SAGE

Confuse: How Jared Diamond Fails to Convince

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Publisher
SAGE Publications
Copyright
© 2005 SAGE Publications
ISSN
0958-305X
eISSN
2048-4070
D.O.I.
10.1260/0958305054672376
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

EE 16-3-Morris_p2.qxd 30-6-05 9:54 am Page 395 Julian Morris In his latest book, Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed, Jared Diamond attempts to provide a scientific account of the causes of societal collapse: “This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapse to which environmental problems contribute … I compare many past and present societies that differed with respect to environmental fragility, relations with neighbours, political institutions, and other “input” variables postulated to influence a society’s stability. The “output” variables that I examine are collapse or survival, and form of the collapse if a collapse does occur. By relating output variables to input variables, I aim to tease out the influence of possible input variables on collapses.” (18) In so doing, he seeks to identify lessons for improving the chances that humanity will avoid or better cope with future calamities. Given this objective, five questions seem pertinent: First, how accurate is Diamond’s portrayal of the demise of the societies he describes (both those that collapsed and those that did not)? Second, how plausible are the reasons Diamond gives for societal collapse and sustainability? Third, how systematic is Diamond in his application of the rules that he

Journal

Energy & EnvironmentSAGE

Published: Jul 1, 2005

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