xj读书了. Collapse - How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond。


送交者: Latino2 于 2005-2-10, 20:21:30:

JD他老兄写了Why sex is fun, 后来恐怕自个也觉得 sex没Q啥fun。现在又回来写文明的兴衰。

"Collapse" 继续探索文明兴衰的原因,为什么一些伟大的文明最终崩溃瓦解, 裆前的畅销

I haven't read this one yet. The review sounds interesting.


The Crash of Civilizations

Reviewed by Robert D. KaplanSunday, January 9, 2005; Page BW03

How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
By Jared Diamond

In a world that celebrates live journalism, we are increasingly in need
of big-picture authors like Jared Diamond, who think historically and spatially
-- across an array of disciplines -- to make sense of events that journalists
may seem to be covering in depth, but in fact aren't. He did this so well
in Guns, Germs, and Steel, which has been a huge bestseller since its publication
in 1997, that one might think Diamond would have little more to say about
the vast sweep of human history. Think again. In his extraordinarily panoramic
Collapse, he moves his wide lens to yet another telling phenomenon: failed
nations, of both the distant and the recent past.

Take the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda, which produced the third-largest body
count of any genocide since the 1950s, topped only by Bangladesh in 1971
and Cambodia in the mid-'70s. According to the media, liberal intellectuals
and Hollywood, the Hutu militias' mass murder of Tutsi civilians was the
consequence of evil men manipulating ethnic hatreds, while the United Nations
and the United States stood by and did nothing. As Collapse indicates, that
interpretation is accurate and places the moral responsibility squarely
where it belongs. Nevertheless, it is far from complete.

In perhaps the wisest and most all-encompassing short summary of why genocide
occurred in Rwanda, Diamond observes that pre-genocide Rwanda had a population
density approaching that of Holland, supported by Stone Age agriculture:
In the years preceding the genocide, Rwanda suffered a precipitous decline
in per capita food production because of drought and overworked soil, which
in turn caused massive deforestation. The upshot was dramatically rising
levels of theft and violence perpetrated by landless and hungry young men.
Diamond quotes a French scholar on East Africa, Gerard Prunier: "The decision
to kill was of course made by politicians, for political reasons. But at
least part of the reason why it was carried out so thoroughly by the ordinary
rank-and-file peasants . . . was feeling that there were too many people
on too little land, and that with a reduction in their numbers, there would
be more for the survivors."

Diamond adds that such a partial explanation should be respected as such
and not dismissed out of hand as an excuse for genocide, as moralists have
been wont to do. By not reducing Rwanda to a cut-and-dried morality tale,
and by including environmental factors that can be usefully employed as
early-warning systems to prevent future genocides, Diamond has provided
a truly enlightened vision of what happened there. He has the intellectual
bravery to say that, in this case, the much-abused late 18th-century philosopher
Thomas Malthus was right: "population and environmental problems created
by non-sustainable resource use will ultimately get solved . . . if not
by pleasant means . . . then by unpleasant" ones.
Rwanda forms but a strand in Diamond's complex historical web of how human
communities either master their environments or become victims of them.
A professor of geography at UCLA, Diamond rightly states that his book "doesn'
t preach environmental determinism." Still, he extracts a plethora of environmental
explanations for why things have turned out as they have. Collapse, like
Guns, Germs, and Steel -- which was about how Western civilizations developed
the technologies and immunities that allowed them to dominate the world
-- is the work of an academic superstar in the mode of Samuel P. Huntington
and David S. Landes. He takes a lifetime of research and, in normal English
(free of academic jargon), leads the reader painstakingly where the media
and intellectual journals have often refused to go. For example, while recent
media reports correctly describe a decline in the rate of world population
growth, the more crucial short-term truth is that there will be a continued
rise in the population of poor young males for a few years yet in some of
the most political unstable countries, as children born in the last decade
reach their teens and twenties. Diamond's book makes one think of connections
like these. Or take the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South
Asia. Because humans are living in environmentally fragile zones where they
have never before been in such concentrated numbers, the normal occurrence
of earthquakes and other natural events the environment has faced since
time immemorial is poised to wreak considerable havoc in the new century.
In other words, while the urban elite intelligentsia focuses on abstract
ideas, nature and demography will be driving history.
In an exploration of why medieval societies such as the Mayans in central
America, the Anasazis in the American southwest, the Polynesians on Easter
Island and the Norse in Greenland all ultimately became extinct, of why the
Inuit in the Arctic and Polynesians on Tikopia managed to survive, and of
why places like Montana's Bitterroot Valley and the Dominican Republic have
had happier destinies than Rwanda and Haiti, Diamond brings balance to a
debate that went from one extreme at the beginning of the 20th century to
another at that century's end. Partly because of the corruption of Darwin's
theory of evolution by Nazi eugenics, post-Holocaust intellectuals have
tended to avoid explanations of human behavior rooted in environmental, ethnic,
cultural or demographic causes. Occasionally, this reaches the point where,
say, no differences are perceived between Swedes and Iraqis; that, after
all, would be racism and essentialism, as each group is merely a mass of
similarly exalted individuals in a global meeting hall. By avoiding both
extremes, Diamond, a geographer in the old 19th-century sense of the word,
sheds light on what the media have often left in darkness.

The most incisive portion of Collapse deals with the Dominican Republic
and Haiti, two countries sharing the Caribbean island of Hispaniola -- the
former a modestly developing society and the latter a complete social failure.
From the air, the border between the two countries is clear: The western,
Haitian portion is pale, brown and largely denuded of tree cover, while the
Dominican side is lush and green. The visual image telescopes hundreds of
years of differing environments, cultures and histories. Because, as Diamond
explains, the rains come to Hispaniola from the east, the eastern, Dominican
side of the island supports higher rates of plant growth. Moreover, because
the eastern side has the highest mountains, whose rivers flow east, the Dominican
side gets even more water from the run-off, leading to thicker, more nutrient-
rich soils. Haiti's mountains aren't as high, but they cover more of its
land mass, thus drastically reducing the area for agriculture. Since Haiti
was a prized colony of France, large numbers of slaves were imported there,
increasing the population while overworking the available farmland. Spain,
by contrast, treated the Dominican side with benign neglect: a demographic
blessing in disguise, it later turned out. Another advantage for the eastern
part of the island was that the Spanish speakers there were more culturally
receptive to European immigrants and investors than were the Creole speakers
in the west.

Finally, Diamond clarifies the difference between the dictators in the Dominican
Republic and those in Haiti, thereby avoiding the journalistic clich of
labeling all dictators bad and all democrats good (for the differences between
one dictator and another are often greater than those between a dictator
and a democrat). To wit, the Dominican strongman Rafael Trujillo and his
successor, Joaqun Balaguer, may have been personally cruel and corrupt,
but they also developed an industrial economy, a modern state and a system
of environmental safeguards. By contrast, Haiti's dictators -- Francois "Papa
Doc" Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude, or "Baby Doc" -- did nothing but
exploit their subjects for personal gain. The result is two countries that
sit side by side but are as different from each other as the United States
and Mexico.

Of all the countries surveyed in Collapse, China is the most pivotal. Its
goal of achieving a first-world lifestyle for its 1.3 billion people will
double the world's human resource use, but as Diamond tells us, "it is doubtful
whether even the world's current human resource use . . . can be sustained.
Something has to give way." Raising the stakes is what the author calls China'
s pattern of unified lurches. China's geographical unity -- unlike Great
Britain, it lacks major islands, and unlike Italy it lacks large peninsulas
-- has given it a political and linguistic homogeneity that Europe never
had. Thus China's leaders have had the organizational capacity to create
gargantuan tragedies such as the Great Leap Forward, when 20 million people
were killed between 1958 and 1962, or to take positive steps on a similarly
grand level, as when they instituted a national ban on logging in 1998.

Diamond's cautious optimism about the fate of the Earth is conditioned on
vigilance. He defends the false alarms about resource scarcity issued in
the 1970s and '80s by the demographer Paul Ehrlich, suggesting that Ehrlich's
(and Malthus's) larger, implied point about surging populations and diminishing
resources is true: While these trends do not necessarily lead to global cataclysm,
they certainly have been a factor encouraging warfare and civil unrest
across the underdeveloped world. Moreover, as the author notes, false alarms
are a necessary and unavoidable part of any protective process -- just ask
any fire department. True irresponsibility lies in optimism based on ideology,
rather than the facts on the ground.

That's the reason why Diamond expends so much detail on the failure of such
obscure civilizations as Easter Island and western Greenland. On Easter
Island, the felling of trees for high-altitude gardens, the cremation of
bodies, the building of canoes and scaffolding for statues led to massive
deforestation and decreased crop yields. The toppling of the stone statues
there reminds the author of the toppling of the monuments of Stalin and
Nicolae Ceausescu upon the socioeconomic collapses of Soviet Russia and
Romania. As for the Greenland Norse, they were a fiercely communal and hierarchical
society, whose strict adherence to European Christianity may have accounted
for their conservatism and consequent failure to learn from the indigenous
Inuits, who burned whale and sea blubber for fuel and used sealskins in
their kayaks in order to conserve wood. But as Diamond notes, we shouldn't
be dismissive of these failed civilizations. Norse Greenland, for example,
survived for 450 years -- twice the lifetime of the United States -- in
one of the most remote and inhospitable regions of the globe, without the
benefit of modern technology.
The parallels between an interconnected Earth, in which each continent increasingly
affects the other, and the dozen clans of Easter Island are, in the author's
words, "chillingly obvious." Like them, we would have no place to flee if
something fundamentally goes wrong: not just suddenly wrong but gradually
wrong, so that the danger remains deniable until it's too late. Thus false
alarms like Ehrlich's and Malthus's will continue to be made in a good cause.
Thank heavens there is someone of the stature of Diamond willing to say
so. ¨

Robert D. Kaplan is a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and the author
of "The Ends of the Earth" and "The Coming Anarchy." His latest book, "Imperial
Grunts: The American Military on the Ground," will be published in August.



笔名: 密码(可选项): 注册笔名请按这里