Sunday, February 20, 2005

Random comments on "Collapse"

I'm currently reading Jared Diamond's Collapse, another good book along with his Guns, Germs, and Steel and The Third Chimpanzee. I've read enough blog commentary to believe that you can't count on accuracy in details in his books, but the overall ideas seem pretty good.

So, comments:

*He says that it takes 10 yearst for a Forest Service logging plan to get final approval because of lawsuits. As someone who's been involved with such suits, that is hardly typical. The only way it could take ten years is if the Forest Service was successfully sued over flawed environmental documentation, came back with new documents, and was successfully sued again. The point is that if it takes a long time, it's unusual and it's because the Forest Service is screwing up and trying to hide the impacts of its proposals.

*He says that Hutu-Tutsi ethnic division existed before Belgian colonization of Rwanda and Burundi, although the Belgians took steps that made the division worse. I've seen asserted on several occasions that the Belgians created the concept of them being two different groups (most recently in the movie, Hotel Rwanda), and I've never found that believable. Aside #1: of course as soon as I find something asserting the position I agree with, I consider the matter settled. Aside #2: Belgians are infamous for devastating and screwing up the Belgian Congo, as well. They must be the worst of the modern imperialists. Good thing they weren't a major power.

*Diamond discusses how for cultural status reasons the elite members of the Greenland Norse wasted resources on cows that had to be fed hay in stalls for nine months out of the year (sheep and goats are better at foraging in snow). He discusses how the elite Polynesians gave up their garden-destroying pigs on Tikopia Island, an isolated 1.8 square mile island that has been successfully inhabited for centuries. My question is what our elite will do about this.

Matt Yglesias has some commentary on Collapse, see here for more.

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