February 07, 2005 12:00 PM

How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
By Jared Diamond


The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel asks why humans consistently destroy their societies “through disastrous decisions.” Examining extinct cultures including the Mayans, Easter Islanders and Norse Greenlanders for clues, the author cites deforestation and refusal to depart from tradition as crucial pitfalls (“ecocide” he calls it) and argues that modern society’s rate of consumption is “unsustainable.” Rendering complex history and science into entertaining prose, Diamond reminds us that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.

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