Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Feature Book Review: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond 文明崩壊 上: 滅亡と存続の命運を分けるもの (草思社文庫) ジャレド ダイアモンド

In this follow up by Pulitzer Prize award winning author Jared Diamond, he continues his detailed observations of human life and their global economic impact. He uses his training in anthropology to search for how people prosper economically or just disappear after a collapse. He has a very entertaining way of comparing ancient societies around the globe. He then compares these people with the current US population in the same locations. 

This is really a scientific approach to various sections of finance. Real estate development, population control, and renewable energy impacts on economic wealth and prosperity. Using his wonderfully clear explanations with just enough numbers to keep you in full attention, you see a bigger picture of the world economy. The cost of military power, basic food and resources bring unexpected changes to the economy of each society observed.

Empires rise and fall, be they Roman, Mayan or Anasazi. Water and cheap energy show how certain communities rise and fall. They do so very quickly in fact, they collapse. Water is a key resource impacting the economy of California, and this book reflects how the modern world may have to change, as a result. South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and many other water bottle necks around the globe have a water crisis on the horizon. Major global cities like Hong Kong, New York or Mumbai may have to move.

Will people really be able to live in Southern California in the future without water? Will parts of India or China be able to sustain populations without local water supplies? If global warming melts the ice on top of the Himalaya mountains without replacing the snow, will the great rivers like the Indus or Ganges just stop flowing? Massive migration of large cities may be needed, or wide scale famine may spread afterward anyway.  The impact of Syrian refugees into Europe, will seem very minor by comparison.

Jared Diamond, paints many dark worse case scenarios in order to focus attention, but does offer the balance that they is a choice. Some societies may take the best action for survival long term. Eco habits and organic farming seem to be the kind of choices that the author hopes more people will make. Energy in the middle east may not be valuable in future, yet over half of all food is imported. What happens when there is not enough money for food? Will the Arab spring be a small sign of change to come in that region?

The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:

1) There is a lot to learn about how the USA, China or India thinks about the world and their economic policies. Many hard truths cannot be escaped. Globalization has both winners and losers. Some economies may fail quickly and actually collapse.

2) The economies of Europe or the USA cannot expect to stay number one without knowing how rivals economies are working and taking advantage. Facts on Africa or Russia need to be learned. Differences need to be understood.

3) When becoming a successful global investor, you have to put in the long hours, work hard and learn by experience. You have to consider a wide variety of scenarios. You never get lucky long term.

Local sustainable farms in large cities with easy transport of locally grown food, seem to be a successful long term goal. Information is now widely spread via the Internet. This was never the case with the Roman, Mayan or Anasazi empires. This access to figure out how to avoid the mistakes of the past is hopefully the choice we make. Will the current age of information help us learn to avoid the great mistakes of the past? Only time will tell, but there is a chance to minimize misery. A very thought provoking book, highly recommended!

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