Jared Diamond – USA

Dr. Jared Diamond, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, UCLA School of Health, and Professor of Geography, UCLA. Diamond’s formal training is in physiology and membrane biophysics. He has also pursued a parallel career in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Jared Diamond – USA

A recent outgrowth of Diamond’s evolutionary studies has been in the area of human history. In 1988, his book Guns, Germs, and Steel won both the Pulitzer prize for general non-fiction and Britain’s Science Book Prize. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1999.

Jared Diamonds lectures routinely draw thousands of rapt listeners, who walk away with a deeper and more nuanced view of the development of human civilization and the continued gulf between rich and poor in the global community.

Can collapse happen to U. S. and Europe? Prof. Diamond says: there is a 50/50 chance the answer is yes. Already around the world, several countries such as Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq have already collapsed. America and Europe have the huge challenge of propping up governments in an effort to provide more political and economic stability in the world. Iraq alone has so far cost the United States taxpayers $280 billion, plus more than a thousand military lives. If six more countries blow up into strife, that requires double the number of troops that we’ve got. Six more countries blowing up ­ the world can’t cope with it.

In the past, societies that had not many people and with rather simple technology still managed to destroy their environments. For example, Easter Island with maybe 20,000 people with just stone and wooden tools ­ they did manage to deforest the island and so doing, they destroyed their society. It took them 850 years to do it. Today, though, (on the Earth), we don’t have 20,000 people. We have 6.5 billion and we have bulldozers and nuclear power, so we’re far more people and far more potent and destructive technology. We can destroy our environment much faster than the Easter Islanders. In fact, there are many parts of the world that have gotten de-forested within half a dozen years, or within a few decades. That’s what makes our present situation serious. … Somalia already collapsed in 1991 and American troops went in there. It did not pull us down, but it did involve military intervention. Or what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are virtually collapsed governments ­ particularly in the case of Afghanistan. Those are two countries that blew up and the result has been 200,000 American troops and $280 billion. That has not caused our economy to collapse yet, but it’s an enormous drain on our economy. So, the United States and Europe ­ we can’t insulate ourselves. Another expression is that both the United States and Europe are getting lots of immigrants from collapsing countries, both legal and illegal.

There is a real potential and lots of people in our government, many congressmen and senators as well as a large fraction of the American population, is very concerned about the U. S.’s future,­ both our power and our economy. The interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan ­ one can describe it as ’short term’ attempts to solve the problem. They are not attempts to prevent a problem, but problems arose and they were met with short term response. But there are literally dozens of countries out there with the potential to become the next Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. It’s perfectly obvious that the U. S. is not rich enough to invest $280 billion into each of about 25 countries, countries just waiting to blow up: Nepal, where there was a coup from the top … Haiti; Philippines; Indonesia; Solomon Islands; Rwanda; Burundi. So, the United States is going to have to get involved in long term problem solving ­ that is, addressing the underlying problems of environment, public health and population planning that cause countries to blow up.

We are one of the two countries (in First World), along with Australia, that has not signed the Kyoto Protocol. But there again, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that our federal government is not monolithic. Our president is opposed to signing the Kyoto Protocol. But there are many Americans who are deadly serious about the importance of dealing with climate change. For example, my wife and kids and I spend part of our summers in Montana. In the state of Montana which gets water for agriculture from irrigation,­ the irrigation comes from the snow peacks. Thanks to global warming and climate change, the snow pack is melting. Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers and Montana agriculture, in short order, is going to be in deep trouble because of climate change.

Published books:

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed – ‘All of us moderns – house-owners, investors, politicians, university administrators, and others – can get away with a lot of waste when the economy is good. We forget that conditions fluctuate, and we may not be able to anticipate when conditions will change. By that time, we may already have become attached to an expensive lifestyle, leaving an enforced diminished lifestyle or bankruptcy as the sole outs.’ Abstract: the ruined cities, temples and statues of lost civilisations post more than famous romantic mysteries – there may be lessons in their collapses which were due in part to the types of environmental problems that beset us today. The long list of “victims” includes Easter Island, the Anasazi, the Lowland Maya, Angkor Wat, Great Zimbabwe, and many others. In this lecture, Dr Jared Diamond will ask what makes certain societies especially vulnerable to collapse? Why didn’t their leaders perceive and solve their environmental problems? What can we learn from their fates, and what can we do differently today to help us avoid their fates?

Guns, Germs and Steel, which details the role of geography, climate, and animals in creating human civilisation. Diamonds’ text has serious insight to give to any economist or social theorist looking to understand the origins of civilization and society (Hoppe had it on his reading list at last summer’s seminar and it can be found on numerous undergrad and graduate macro courses).

Diamond spends his introduction discussing the difference between ultimate and proximate causes of historic phenomenon. Judging from the title he attribute the three items Guns, Germs, and Steel as the ultimate causes of western dominance in modern society. He breifly summarizes his text as, “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” While I agree with his dismissal of biological differences as an ultimate cause, I question his sole emphasis on environment as their replacement. I think a reader with a strong knowledge of economics could inturn change this sentence to realize that, differences among people (biological and subjective preferences) are influenced by environmental conditions and manifest in action and interaction with other people and their own environments to produce the modern civilization in which we live today. An understanding of these differences and interaction processes gives a greater understanding to history and is one of the greatest calls to study economics.

And here a link to discuss the book.

Globalization: For Better or For Worse

Diamond’s lectures tackle the giant questions: why do some societies thrive and prosper, while others shrivel and die; how can humanity maximize the opportunity for human happiness, while saving the planet from ecological ruin and collapse; are there lessons we can learn from other great civilizations who have grown to world dominance? The huge crowds that attend his talks are testament both to his reputation as a great speaker, and his ability to spellbind an audience with insights into the most important issues we face. Currently a professor of Geography at UCLA, he is also the author of two other best-selling books, The Third Chimpanzee and Why Is Sex Fun?. He has received some of the most prestigious awards the world has to offer, including a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, the Conservation medals of the Zoological Society of San Diego (1993), the Carr Medal (1989), and Japan’s International Cosmos Prize (1998), as well as the USA’s highest civilian award in science the National Medal of Science, for his landmark research and breakthrough discoveries in evolutionary Biology. In 2001 he was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

links:

the LAVIN agency;

ABC net;

The Earth Institute;

Nomadic Thoughts;

Toni Rogers.

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