Maya del Mar's Daykeeper Journal: Astrology, Consciousness and Transformation
In Association with


by Maya del Mar

Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Jared Diamond, Viking, New York, NY, 2005.

It’s too bad that there isn’t a preparatory school for politicians, where they learn about the world and how it works. If there was such a thing, Collapse should be a required text.

Jared Diamond (who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel) is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. He shows a combination of fact-finding, and a broad perspective which enables him to place those facts into patterns, and to make meaningful wholes.

At this moment of ecological collapse, Jared Diamond has much to teach us about the lessons learned through archaelogy and history. Jared examines a dozen civilizations of both past and present, failed and successful, with the question, “What made the difference?”

Why did Easter Island fail? And the Anasazi? And the Maya? Why did the Icelanders survive, and the Greenlanders fail? Why the differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, right next door? How have China and Japan been able to survive for centuries?

The most important thing for survival was, duh, understanding environmental limitations, and taking conscious action to support an environment which could support them. This took many forms, from planting appropriate trees and farming using sophisticated conservation principles, to limiting population, even in one case getting rid of all pigs (their favorite food) because they were ecologically damaging.

Where there was this general understanding, either the people together (in a democracy), or their ruler, took steps to ensure their survival.

A major factor against survival was great social inequality, where the ruler (and ruling class) used an inordinate amount of resources for ostentatious show. When tough times (such as drought) came, the people were starved out. The Greenland Norse had this situation, and the archaeology shows that indeed the wealthiest man was the last to starve. Small comfort.

This is a very comprehensive book. We move through nations, continents, societies, history, current problems, current solutions, and more. It is fascinating, informative, and provocative.

Diamond lists about a dozen current ecological problems, which need to be addressed. However, he is hopeful. First of all, he says, there are solutions for all of them. Secondly, ecological consciousness is growing worldwide. There are half a dozen actions which we can take which prove effective, but, he says, we need to recognize that we need to organize to be effective. He suggests voting as one of the most effective ways to influence public policy. I must add that ecological education needs to be part of voter education.