February 02, 2006

In Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Jared Diamond identifies 5 factors that can contribute to a society's collapse:

  • natural climate changes
  • manmade environmental damage
  • reduced support from neighbors or trading partners
  • hostile neighbors
  • how societies identify and respond to environmental problems

Diamond suggests that while each of these can affect a society, the fifth factor, society's own reaction, plays the biggest role in whether a society will continue or collapse. If this idea is correct, how can we, as a society, address these concerns and devise and act on solutions that sustain us?

On a planet where systems of economics, politics and the environment are inextricably connected, is it possible for humankind to isolate the issues that could be leading us towards collapse? Can such issues be addressed individually or must they be considered as part of larger systems? Are the lessons of history sufficiently relevant to guide us in the choices we make today? Do we have the scientific and technical knowledge and tools to address these issues once identified? Can our society choose to succeed? We look forward to hearing your thoughts.