Updated: June 20, 2021

Jared Diamond examines several traditional societies, such as Easter Island, the Anasazi, the Maya, and the Greenland Vikings, that have collapsed due to abuse of their natural resources, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices. The author then compares them to some current cases where warning signs have begun to emerge even in some of the most ecologically robust areas of the planet.

The ultimate question of the book is: "How can our world best avoid committing ecological suicide?"

Favorite quotes from the book:

All of us moderns - house-owners, investors, politicians, university administrators, and others - can get away with a lot of waster 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.

It is difficult for us to acknowledge that people are not consistent, but are instead mosaics of traits formed by different sets of experiences that often do not correlate with each other.

Life is full of agonizing choices based on trade-offs, but that’s the cruelest trade-off that we shall have to resolve: encouraging and helping all people to achieve a higher standard of living, without thereby undermining that standard through overstressing global resources.