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Saturday, February 07, 2004

Why Societies Collapse: Jared Diamond at Princeton University

If you enjoyed Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel, you might be interested in reading this transcript of his talk on the collapse of past societies.

If Montana were an isolated country, Montana would be in a state of collapse. Montana is not going to collapse, because it’s supported by the rest of the United States, and yet other societies have collapsed in the past, and are collapsing now or will collapse in the future, from problems similar to those facing Montana. The same problems that we’ve seen throughout human history, problems of water, forests, topsoil, irrigation, salinisation, climate change, erosion, introduced pests and disease and population; problems similar to those faced by Montanans today are the ones posing problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Australia, Nepal, Ethiopia and so on.

Answering a question on whether technology is the answer to envionmental collapses of the future...

The second thing is that the lesson we’ve learned again and again in the environmental area is it’s cheaper, much cheaper and more efficacious to prevent a problem at the beginning than to solve it by high technology later on. So it’s costing billions of dollars to clean up the Hudson River, and it costs billions of dollars to clean up Montana, it would cost a trivial amount to do it right in the beginning. Therefore, I do not look to technology as our saviour.

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About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.