Jared Diamond goes deeper into the natural histories of societies in Collapse, continuing a broad and detailed look he began in Guns, Germs, and Steel. This time, Diamond looks into the details of why some societies failed and what those failures can say about our current world. While Collapse is less steamlined and more myopic (at times) than was Guns, this amazing historical investigation, centering on ecological and environmental subjects, offers a wealth of knowledge for those willing to dig through it.Unlike Guns, Diamond stays small throughout much of this book, giving the reader in-depth descriptions of many societies that have existed over the past two thousand years. His thesis emphasizes a set of five basic areas where societies tend to prosper or fail, and focuses on those where the society had an opportunity to affect the outcome directly. In each society he investigates, Diamond takes time to detail how and why the society eventually collapsed or survived. Much of the book reveals that deforestation and destruction of basic natural resources should be primary concerns for everyone at all times. No society, shows Diamond, is immune to the dire consequences which come from such ecological disasters.Starting off with discussions of a small area of Montana (which did set a slow pace) and the mysterious Easter Island (where the pace began to get much better), Diamond moves on to explore Pacific islands such as Henderson and Pitcairn. From there, he explains the collapse of the Anasazi in the southwestern US, the large-scale decline of the Maya long before Spanish arrival, and the westward exploration, expansion, and settlements of the Viking Norse. The Norse examination takes several chapters, and Diamond uses different fates of each Norse colony to explain why some failed while others succeeded. Further discussions open the book to New Guinea (a speciality of Diamond's own first-hand research), as well as modern societies in Rwanda, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, China, and Australia. Each society offers clues to its own environmental situation, opportunities to exploit resources, and internal decisions which directly affected survival. Diamond spares no time on biased judgements, ensuring that his natural experiment has ample opportunity to define the characteristics of failed versus surviving societies.The latter parts of the book consider all the information Diamond has layed out for the reader, and takes the time to carefully work up to a set of important environmental and ecological priorities. These priorities, including ensuring sustainable use of forests and marine resources, are Diamond's prescription to anyone wishing to affect survival of any society. Diamond includes points about big businesses, such as oil companies, and uses both positive and negative examples to show how these companies, as well as the public at large, can directly determine how ecological decisions play out.This book is dense by popular history standards, but not overburdening in any way. While the text itself is a solid 525 pages, the dozen or so societies on which Diamond focuses offers the reader a new area of interest every few dozen pages. While the overall flow and subject matter are not as well-constructed as Diamond's Pulizer Prize-winning Guns (the opening discussion on Montana was a touch dry), this book nonetheless offers a unique natural history of societies to which most readers will have only brief exposure. Four solid stars and recommended to anyone interested in natural history, ecology, environmental issues, climate change, and histories of societies around the world.