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Collapse: How Societies Choose to fail or succeed.

“What are the choices that we must make if we are to succeed, and not to fail?"

Choices | Emblems | Values | Problems | Values | Hope

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"Two types of choices seem to me to have been crucial to tipping their outcomes towards success or failure: long-term planning, and willingness to reconsider core values. On reflection, we can also recognize the crucial role of these same two choices for the ourcomes of our individual lives."

"One of those choices has depended on the courage to practice long-term thinking, and to make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they have reached crisis proportions. This type of decision-making is the opposite of short-term reactive decision-making that too often characterizes our elected politicians--the tinking that my politically well-connected friend decried as '90-day thinking,' focusing only on issues likely to blow up in a crisis within the next ninety days.

environmental problems

"we are the ones in control of them, and we can chooses to stop causing them and start solving them. The future is up for grabs, lying in our own hands. We don’t need new technologies to solve our problems,…for the most part we ‘just’ need the political will to apply solutions already available.”

"the encouraging examples of of courageous long-term thinking in the past, and in the contemporary world of NGOs, business, and government."

p. 522

"Among past societies faced with the prospect of ruinous deforestation, Easter Island and Mangareva chiefs succumed to their immediate concerns, but Tokugawa shoguns, Inca emperors, New Guinea hihghlanders, and 16th century German landowners adopted a long view and reafforested."

pp. 522-523.

"Over the last thirty years a sustained effort by the U.S. government has reduced levels of six major air pollutantsnationally by 25%, even though our energy consumption and population increased by 40% and our vehicle miles driven increased by 150% during those same decades."

p. 523.

"Which of these treasured values must instead be jettisoned and replaced with different approaches?"

"Tikopia islanders did have the courage to eliminate their ecologically destructive pigs, even though pigs are the sole large domestic animal and principle status symbol of Melanesian societies. Australia is now in the process of reappraising its identity as a British agricultural society. The Icelanders and many other traditional caste societies of India in the past, and Montana ranchers dependent on irrigation in recent times, did reach an agreement to subordinate their individual rights to group interests. They tereby succeeded in managing shared resources and avoiding the tragedy of the commons that has befallen so many other groups."

pp 523-524

"In that spirit, a lower-impact society is the most impossible scenario for our future--except for all other conceivable scenarios.

Actually, while it won't be easier to reduce our impact, it won't be impossible either. Remember that impact is the product of two factors: population multiplied times impact per person."

p. 524.

"As for impact per person, the world would not even have to decrease its currentconsumption rates of timber products or seafood: those rates could be sustained or even increase, if the world's forests and fisheries were properly managed."

"Our television documentaries and books show us in graphic detail why the Easter Islanders, Classic Maya, and other past societies collapsed. Thus, we have the opportunity to learn from mistakes of distant peoples and past peoples. That is an opportunity that no past society enjoyed to such a degree. My hope in writing this book has been that enough people will choose to profit from that opportunity to make a difference."

p. 525.

For Diamond's criticism of the tragedy of the commons.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. (New York:Penguin Group, 2005).
Jared Diamond


Choices | Emblems | Values | Problems | Values | Hope

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Errors | Problems | Ceilings | Remedies

Related readings that focus on solutions based on long-term planning and a willingness to reconsider, refine and redefine core values:

October 22, 2006


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