"Collapses of Ancient Societies and their Lessons for Today", 9 OCT 2002 lecture by Jared Diamond, author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Guns, Germs and Steel.

"I can't help wondering what the Easter Islander who chopped down the last palm tree said as he or she did it. Was he saying, 'What about our jobs? Do you care more about our trees than about our jobs for us loggers?' Or maybe he was saying, 'What about my private property rights? Get the big government of the chiefs off my back.' Or maybe he was saying, 'You're predicting environmental disaster but your environmental models are untested. We need more research before we can take action.' Or perhaps he was saying, 'Don't worry -- technology will solve all our problems.'"

[Easter Islanders wiped out their fragile environment and the last survivors turned to cannibalism before dying out.]

Another weird fact Diamond mentioned in this lecture or some other online lecture I found was that the clearest predictor of a society that's going to collapse is their infant mortality rate. Scary. I assume the US infant mortality rate has been stable, but it's consistent described as the lowest out of 20 or 30 of the most technologically advanced industrialized nations, if that tells you anything.


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