Institutions, the Resource Curse and the Collapse Hypothesis
University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Economics; Resources for the Future; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center
April 17, 2012
PERC Research Paper No. 12/5
In his influential and highly readable book Collapse, Jared Diamond claims that human-induced ecological and environmental degradation and the over-use of natural resources have caused civilizations to collapse. The term ‘collapse’ means “… a drastic decrease in human population size, and/or political/economic/social complexity over a considerable area, for an extended time” (Diamond, p. 3). Adjectives such as ‘drastic’, ‘considerable’ and ‘extended’ are sufficiently imprecise to allow latitude in deciding whether or not a particular historical or contemporary episode qualifies as a collapse. Few would argue, however, that the iconic cases of Easter Island, the Maya empire and the Angkor civilization, which are among the Diamond’s focal cases, represent instances of collapse. Diamond also offers contemporary examples that are less compelling or at least less evocative. These include Rwanda, Haiti and modern day Australia and Montana; the latter two are judged to be vulnerable to collapse from environmental and resource degradation, if not yet on the brink.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Date posted: April 21, 2012 ; Last revised: April 25, 2012