Culture Kills

This weeks reading was a New Yorker book review article of the book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”, which was written by Jared Diamond who is very famous for writing Guns, Germs, and Steel. This is a book that also focuses on the ecological and cultural differences between societies in order to analyze if they “succeed” or not. In his first book, succeeding meant domination. In this book, succeeding simply means surviving.

Diamond looks into a couple different societies and mainly focuses on the Norse colonies in Greenland, which were established by vikings led by Erik the Red 1000 years ago. This colony ended up not surviving and dying out after a cold winter. Diamond argues that this is due to cultural reasons- the Norse, and specifically their culture- were too at odds with the land of green and were not willing to adapt to it at all. Another example of this is how the people of Easter Island have chopped down every tree they could down to the stump. This was a little different though, with Diamond talking about how the location, among many other physical factors, made their society at very high risk to not survive. Diamond also talked about Measure 37, a law that we recently passed here in Oregon that scaled back on zoning restrictions that had previously been protecting wildlife and coastal areas for years. This is another example of how the cultural aspect of our societies being at odds with where the societies are located can have dire consequences. It will be interesting and extremely depressing to see how Measure 37 proves Diamond’s point. We can only pray that it doesn’t.

This got me thinking about the focus of this class. In my view, our current cultural values are diametrically opposed with the will of nature. Well, I go as far as diametrically, but you get the point. Are we going to starve once the cold winter comes? Or are we going to eat the fish? I would think that once it comes to eating cow hoofs we would change our ways but I don’t really know. The capitalist society that is currently dominating the world might not find it economically feasible to eat the fish, which is a scary thought.

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