Jared Diamond on Civilization Collapse

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond is a well-published professor of physiology and geography at UCLA.  His book Collapse, published in 2005, examines how and why societies failed.  He looks at a variety of civilizations including the Greenland Norse, the Anasazi, the Mayans, and the Polynesians of Pitcairn Island.  What is unique about Diamond's book is that he attributes societal collapse to five factors.  These are the five factors he uses as a framework:

1) Climate Change - this is part of the natural cycle of the world
2) Environmental Problems - due to human interference and degradation of their environment, unintentional or intentional
3) Hostile Neighbors - bad relations with those who live closest
4) Friendly Trade Partners - good relations with other societies
5) Political/Cultural/Social Response - how does the society respond to their environmental and social problems?

Since Diamond closely examined the Greenland Norse and touched on the Greenland Inuit, two civilizations that we cover on this website, we chose to incorporate some of his framework into our own case studies.  That being said, we realize that there are problems with Diamond's analysis.  For example, he looks at each factor separately but does not take into account the complex interaction between factors.  We know that this oversight is a big one in climate change science.  Because Diamond's framework has been criticized for oversimplification, we tried to incorporate more of complex story behind the climate and civilization collapse.

To see Diamond explain his five point framework: http://www.ted.com/speakers/jared_diamond.html 

For more information about Diamond: