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have you read Collapse by Jared Diamond?  RSS feed

 
Leah Sattler
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by Jared Diamond.  this book illustrates how many societys have orchestrated their own demise. Many times through unsustainable agriculture practices. I think it should be required reading!

http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Societies-Choose-Fail-Succeed/dp/0670033375
 
Kelda Miller
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Leah, this post has been bugging me, good job by the way, so I just am now reading Collapse. I'm on now the 4th or 5th chapter, about the Maya.

Very good, and all sorts of eery-with-our-economic-situation passages that Jared Diamond saw coming.

So far, some thoughts:
1) I was talking with friend with a compare/contrast of As the World Burns (I posted about that book in 'alternative energy', and she said that Collapse actually gave her much hope. I don't see that quite. Instead I'm realizing what it would have been like on Easter Island, slowly deforesting more of it with each generation, and thus not realizing how f****d up the whole situation was getting. I bike by little squares of forest surrounded by urban sprawl, and can't help feeling the same queasiness in my stomach.

2) What's worth keeping in our culture? I mean, if our lousy experiment is going to last for such a briefer time period than many others, what do we want to give to our children to give to their children, etc?

I asked my little brother this, just cause I'd knew what he'd say: "Our Stuff! Nobody has technology like we do!" (I went into some argument about how we're still trying to figure out the technologies of pre-historic cultures...) To which he could say "who cares about moving rocks or making calendars" and which he Did say: "We have the internet! We have cell phones! There isn't going to be a collapse!"

Anyway, if this experiment is going down, I Do NOt want to pass onto my children a story about how we had all this great Stuff and lost it. I'd rather pass on a story about how we had all this stuff and luxuries, and because our human skills were so lacking, we actually weren't that happy.

And what Really I'd like to pass on, ideally, are enclaves of places where there are skills, with the earth, with community, and that those skills, those children, will be the survivors. They'll be the polynesians living peacefully on Easter Island today, descended from the others, who after a few generations of just calm and just enough food, are figuring out how to reforest the mess.

Like an alchemy, you boil and boil up this culture enough, and what might actually survive is the subculture that sees the story and moves past it. It becomes something else. 

Some thoughts for now...
 
Leah Sattler
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great post kelda. I was left with a sense of hope also after the book so maybe later you will see it. I think later it talks a bit more about how things could be turned around at so many stages if the people would have just looked at what they were doing. maybe that sense of hope stems only from thinking that there are some people out ther that see it

I think you hit the nail on the head with you question to your brother and my daughter is one of the primary reasons I pursue this lifestyle. I want her or her children or theirs to be the survivors. to know how to live and to know what is important. at some point I will have to 'pass the torch' and cross my fingers but I hope that I can instill the priorites and values and skills that will be needed in a world gone awry and that I can convey the importance of passing those things on to her children. I look around and see so many easter islanders.
 
Susan Monroe
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I have several of Diamond's books on my list to read, hopefully this winter.

The comment from your brother on our technology is very common.  People like to think that technology will cure all our ills, but our technological advances have far outstripped our common sense.

Leah's observation on wanting to teach the next generation is very important.  It may well be all that stands between Man and disaster.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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put "guns, germs and steel" on your list sue if it isn't already, it is one of my favorite books of all time. another good read and a favorite is "1421 the year china discovered america" by gavin menzies not a permie book but quite revealing when it comes to how historical memory can be warped and in my opinion can be related to how information in general makes it, or rather doesn't, to the general population intact. people put their own spin on everything based on their personal motives or genuine misunderstandings, including modern day polititions, scientists, social analysts, and activists.
 
Kelda Miller
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agreed, 1491, but I DO think it's a permaculture book! I was reading those passages about indigenous land management, about open forests with productive berries and animals and symbiosis, and was just thrilled to have accounts of forest permaculture guilds to think on!

also, as I'm now in the final 100 pages of Collapse, I can't help but think of how much this ties into Derrick Jensen's "The Culture of Make Believe". That people can be in so much denial about the environmental damage around them definitely delves a lot deeper into our human psychology than Diamond can give space too. But Jensen gives plenty of thought to it, that our culture is living in 'make-believe' land.

Guns, Germs, and Steel, also on my list to read.
 
Leah Sattler
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I do remember there being lots of fun tidbits in 1421. I should read it again. I always walk away with something a bit different on the second go around. I remember it being a bit of a jaw dropping experience when he puts ogether all the evidence as well as some interesting coincidience. my favorite...and Ihope I'm not spoiling it for anyone..... is that "yin dian" means "from china" or something of that nature in chinese. (disclaimer...I have not fact checked that for myself) so if that is true maybe its no wonder that old columbus thought he was in the indies. and the native americans got the label they did. it gets even better than that for anyone ineterestd in the book. genetic and linguistic evidence etc....I know someone from peru. I always thought she very much looks asian. 
 
Steve Nicolini
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I have not read collapse.  It sounds interesting.  A book I have read on this topic is Thomas Berry's The Dream of the Earth.  It's verbose, but full of excellent insights and observations.  He talks about business, and the "heart and soul" of a particular company.  He goes on to say that the sole purpose of a business is to manipulate someone into buying their product.  It is very interesting, especially in the food industry.  I work for a grocery store and witness this phenomenon often. 
 
Kelda Miller
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Okay, now am officially finished. (i get a lot of reading done since I ride the bus often)

Wow. more thougts

1) Some passage he said about I think the Anasazi really struck me. About the peasants with all the food and resources just pouring it into the city and getting nothing back that we can tell (maybe they had religious reasons, orfelt duty about it, or just felt like slaves). And I thought about that, about all the people who work land and why they heck we are tied to a bigger system that is destroying us.

I think what controls us/the landworkers is the real or perceived story-in-our-heads that we can't survive without the bigger culture.  And my train of thought leads to the inverse: if we knew we could
just walk off into the woods and be fine, then noone can control us. We could just say no thank you, I'm outta here.

I'm not talking back-to-the-land homesteading, that's got its own leashes. I'm thinking more primitive skills, walk into the woods, buy some time till something Gives in the culture, or create something new. A little inspiration for me to get cracking on some primitive skills knowledge. It could mean the difference between slavery and freedom.

2) How fucking desperate and stupid our situation is. Hundreds of pages of deforestation, soil loss, cultures and people dying, and then to modern times. Hello! deforestation and soil loss. And then, Inuit women's breastmilk being so high in PCBs that it actually classifies as 'hazardous waste'. After hundreds of pages and then this.

(I admit, a side thought to this was all the population talk. Ugh. And my gut, or whatever, just wishing I was living in a time where I could feel good about having a child, like the earth actually wanted it.)

Anyway, so this poor Inuit woman, trying to keep her culture alive, even just her language alive, through this child that has to drink toxic breastmilk. I just started crying and couldn't read more. I was sitting at a busstop across from a costco, so I was crying and just watching people drive in and out of the costco parking lot.  and thinking 'how in the world could i tell them that their comfort is bad? look at them, they actually Really Enjoy their comfort. the human race has tried so hard to have soft cushions and on-demand heat, and tons of fat and sugar to coat our tongues. here we've got it all. we really thought the stuff would make us happy. and we enjoy it, yes, but how happy can we really be when there's this inuit breastmilk thing going on so we can buy a flame-retardant couch at costco?'

3) hope or despair? i like the 'cautious optimism'.

I think i'll have more thoughts on all of this later, I'll sleep on it.
 
Steve Nicolini
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That was great Kelda.  "just wishing I were living in a time where I could feel good about having a child, like the earth actually wanted it." I love it.

The primitive skills.  I am in school for just the thing now.  The school's website is www.wildernesscollege.com

I am beginning to feel more at home out in the woods.  We've learned some great great stuff.  Making friction fires, building shelters, wrapping cordage, stone tools, etc. 

A little light on the hunting and trapping, but at the end of the year we have a one week survival trip.  Like our final exam. 

You might be into it.
 
Susan Monroe
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A few years ago I read a book called Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.  He was a public school teacher for 30 years, and voted NY teacher of the year two or three times.  It was a fascinating book -- he would explain WHY the public schools do what they do, and I kept thinking, "Yes!  Yes!  I always wondered why they did that!"

He said it's all about control.  They want to produce people who don't ask questions and will be good consumers.  And I would say that it's worked beautifully.  We don't trust our government to do anything right, but we trust it with our children.

In my local travels, I pass two high schools.  When I hit the area when school has just let out, I am amazed at the vehicles these 16-yr-olds are driving!  Big honkin' SUVs, tricked-out red pickup trucks, sports cars.  And it's reached the point where the kids think they are OWED all this, that it's part of their Constitutional rights or something. 

Some of it is natural, but most of it is trained in.  And the bill is now coming due.

Sue

 
Kelda Miller
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okey-doke, some more thoughts today.

Another good passage I found myself talking about with friends was about how we pass on a secure world to our children. Jared points out that many parents before the holocaust, and other social disasters, were planning education for their children, writing wills so their children would have future security, etc. BUT since not enough of these parents were looking at the bigger social and environmental pictures, their children ended up inheriting the crappy world of the holocaust anyway.

It's a great thing to bring into the conversation with any parents who are making trust funds for their kids or buying them SUVs for their safety. Well, they may have to inherit a shitty planet and not have clean water to drink too.

sad.
about the public schools, a weird coincidence is that I was talking with an ex-military friend of mine yesterday. I asked her what about the military would really surprise me as an unknowing civilian. She said one thing: "it's just like public school. JUST like it. you go into the military and you know why and how education is done this way in this country. it's to make us all good little soldiers." kind of eery.
 
Leah Sattler
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wow, that is a great insight into the military and therefore the public schools. I vowed never to send my children to public schools as they provided nothing but misery for me. A little digging into the history shows that they are not there to provide a good education.  my sil (husbands sister) is a teacher and her hsuband is the cop assigned to work the schools in a nearby suburb. they are pulling their kids out to homeschool next year because of all they have seen. I congratulated them and tried real hard not to say "I told you so" 
 
Steve Nicolini
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Public schools, like y'all said, suck.  But I think there are some great things about public schools, at least the public schools I went to in California.  One was the diversity of kids.  I met people from Finland, Switzerland, Africa, and Italy.  Exchange students and what not.  Not to mention the hispanic kids.  I learned about different cultures by making friends. 

Also, when I came home from school and told my parents about all the stuff my rich friends had, it opened up opportunities for my mom and dad to teach lessons.  When I asked my mom for 100 dollar shoes after seeing a buddy wearing them, she told me that it doesn't matter what shoes I wore, as long as they functioned and I was comfortable. 

The other was a class I took called "Futures."  THis guy, Mr. Anello, had us read Alas Babylon, Brave New World, Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse 5, Farenheit 451, amongst others.  He really got us thinking about what life might be like in the future. 

So, public schools have some advantages, I think. 
 
Susan Monroe
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Public schools like that tend to ONLY be like that when the parents have raised a big stink in the past, OR if the schools are not funded by the government.

Public schools don't want you to think, they want you to do as your're told, which is basically sit down and shut up.

I, too, went to 12 years of California (Azusa, Covina) public school, and it was a pointless nightmare the whole way through.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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of course those same "advantages" that public school offerered are simply real life experiences that kids who stay with their parents would get in the normal course of life. society shuts their children in a classroom and then tries to put together artificial life experiences. like most contrived learning attempts they are only a mere shadow of the real thing.
 
Susan Monroe
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Very well put, Leah!

There is a homeschooling family here in my small town.  I see them out and about every so often.  I've heard the mother giving them pencil and paper and having them add up the restaurant bill and figure the tip.  I've heard her having them reading the labels in the grocery store.  She takes them to the library, the police station, at least one local food farm.  She says they grow fruits and vegetables and chickens at home. 

There are just so many things that a parent can teach if they decide to take the time. 

Sue
 
Steve Nicolini
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I agree.  I think about this all the time... having children I mean.  I want to be able to dedicate a lot of time to my children, if I have them. 

Both of you are right, in my opinion.  Real life experience does teach the same things that I shared, but that doesn't mean that my experience in public school was not "real life." 

And that teacher did teach us to question, to consider what lies ahead, and to speak up. 

I think homeschooling has a lot more advantages than public schooling, if the parents have any knowledge at all!  Some people just can't teach, and most of them are employed by public schools!
 
Susan Monroe
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You said a mouthful there, Steve! 

But there are some good teachers in the public schools, they just aren't allowed to teach the way they want.

If you want to raise your blood pressure, go to the archived articles by Linda Schrock Taylor, a schoolteacher of many years, who homeschooled her son:  http://www.lewrockwell.com/taylor/taylor-arch.html

Sue
 
Kelda Miller
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oh yeah, back to the Collapse bit: I'd like to introduce y'all to The crashwatch blog, and I'm also proud to say he took a permaculture course I helped teach. Without further ado: Ran Prieur.

http://ranprieur.com/
 
Mathew Ritchie
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November 28, 2008, 01:54:27 AM Reply with quote
Leah, this post has been bugging me, good job by the way, so I just am now reading Collapse. I'm on now the 4th or 5th chapter, about the Maya.

Very good, and all sorts of eery-with-our-economic-situation passages that Jared Diamond saw coming.

So far, some thoughts:
1) I was talking with friend with a compare/contrast of As the World Burns (I posted about that book in 'alternative energy', and she said that Collapse actually gave her much hope. I don't see that quite. Instead I'm realizing what it would have been like on Easter Island, slowly deforesting more of it with each generation, and thus not realizing how f****d up the whole situation was getting. I bike by little squares of forest surrounded by urban sprawl, and can't help feeling the same queasiness in my stomach.

2) What's worth keeping in our culture? I mean, if our lousy experiment is going to last for such a briefer time period than many others, what do we want to give to our children to give to their children, etc?

I asked my little brother this, just cause I'd knew what he'd say: "Our Stuff! Nobody has technology like we do!" (I went into some argument about how we're still trying to figure out the technologies of pre-historic cultures...) To which he could say "who cares about moving rocks or making calendars" and which he Did say: "We have the internet! We have cell phones! There isn't going to be a collapse!"

Anyway, if this experiment is going down, I Do NOt want to pass onto my children a story about how we had all this great Stuff and lost it. I'd rather pass on a story about how we had all this stuff and luxuries, and because our human skills were so lacking, we actually weren't that happy.

And what Really I'd like to pass on, ideally, are enclaves of places where there are skills, with the earth, with community, and that those skills, those children, will be the survivors. They'll be the polynesians living peacefully on Easter Island today, descended from the others, who after a few generations of just calm and just enough food, are figuring out how to reforest the mess.

Like an alchemy, you boil and boil up this culture enough, and what might actually survive is the subculture that sees the story and moves past it. It becomes something else.

Some thoughts for now...      The arceological evidence indicacates that loging had little to do with that disaster:the settlers bought rats with them as food.In the absence of predators their population exploded ,caves all over the island are full palm nuts eaten by rats.
 
Don Splitter
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To even take this topic onto a more "conscious" level.  If you liked Collapse.  Do your mind a favor, and read Daniel Pinchbecks "2012 return of Quetzalcoatl".  It's a heavy read...big time.  It will turn your brain inside out to the possibilities in our future.  Most people freak out about what may come in 2012.  We know the planets will align, but I say... don't fret.  Be positive.  Our minds as a collective conscious have the ability to create our collective path.

To me there is a whole lot more going on than cyclical crash and burn revolutions. 

Adopting a self sustain life style is just one part of the puzzle.  Mankinds ability to grasp materialism with both hands is and will be our down fall

Make meditation a part of your weekly activities, and think good thoughts.  We all know capitalism, and materialism is a dead end street.  So, meditate on a bright more conscious future for us all, and our children.
 
Mathew Ritchie
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splitrippin wrote:
To even take this topic onto a more "conscious" level.  If you liked Collapse.  Do your mind a favor, and read Daniel Pinchbecks "2012 return of Quetzalcoatl".  It's a heavy read...big time.  It will turn your brain inside out to the possibilities in our future.  Most people freak out about what may come in 2012.  We know the planets will align, but I say... don't fret.  Be positive.  Our minds as a collective conscious have the ability to create our collective path.

To me there is a whole lot more going on than cyclical crash and burn revolutions. 

Adopting a self sustain life style is just one part of the puzzle.  Mankinds ability to grasp materialism with both hands is and will be our down fall

Make meditation a part of your weekly activities, and think good thoughts.  We all know capitalism, and materialism is a dead end street.  So, meditate on a bright more conscious future for us all, and our children.
Planetary alignments are not so rare as the con artists who right such trash claim.They have happened in recent history and no planet wide disaster ensued.As to capitalism you may not like it but it is the most efficient way of running an econimy,it does on the other hand require firm govenance to keep it under control ,the worst problems tend to start when some idiot says hey all these regs are getting in the way of buisness lets get rid of them.
 
Don Splitter
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Mathew... My point goes way beyond money, capitalism and planetary alignment.

We as humans have great potential.  Permaculture is but one way of developing our potential, and transcending any type of geo political system.

The author of this post was pointing to "collapse" of our system.  Which is very likely... The Soviet Union collapsed.  The people who did well were the people who developed communities, or Mafia type organizations which are in a sense communities.  Just like Paul has done here. 

Learn to open your mind to unlimited thoughts. You won't quickly dismiss intelligent authors as writers of "trash" when you really have no idea what the book is about.  Your statement signified that.  It's actually one of the most eye/mind opening pieces of literature I've read in awhile.  The tone is very "positive", and much better than watching things blowing up, and people dying in movies/TV.  The theories on Quatum Physics alone were astounding.

Take a look up at the night ski some time in a remote place, and erase some of that negativity in your mind.  You'll be suprised at how good you'll feel.
 
Tony Elswick
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I love this book! I hope this post doesn't get deleted... good info!
 
Dale Hodgins
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  Collapse is one of my favorite books of all time. I referred to it yesterday in a thread called breaking new land where one of our members are starting a new farm in Alaska. The book came out a few years ago and after the Haiti disaster I reread that section. Diamond predicted that Haiti was on the edge due to soil loss and other man-made environmental calamity.

  He doesn't get into making absolute predictions but rather deals with possible scenarios on societies that haven't yet collapsed. Australia is used as an example of a first world society which is headed down a very nonsustainable road. He refers to their agriculture as being similar to a mining operation since so much has been taken out and so little put back. Australia's problems with invasive species, lack of fresh water, soil infertility and salinity and the horrible cost of ill advised government policy are all covered.

    Diamonds other books include Guns Germs and Steel and the Third Chimpanzee. I have pretty much memorized Collapse and guns germs and steel. I agreed with much of what he says before I ever read the books and he framed many of the ideas in ways I hadn't thought of.

  Prof. Diamond is often referred to as an environmental determinist. Basically this means that he believes that there are very little differences between different races of man and that the vast differences in our technologies and cultural development are chiefly related to the natural resources available to various groups of people over time. Some societies had all of the natural building blocks to develop agriculture and industry while others had very little and thus remained hunter gatherers into modern times.

    Although I sometimes think he oversimplifies things in the documentary series adaptation of guns germs and steel, I agree with him much more often than I disagree. I'm probably much more of a social Darwinist than Mr. Diamond is, but I'll forgive him for that. For me to agree that any academic is more than a pretender he must agree with me most of the time
 
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