Salon interviews Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, about his latest book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It's history from an ecological perspective, looking at how the success of civilisations has been influenced by their environment. The Guardian also has an extract from the book (with topical lead-in about the tsunami), which points out the striking agreement between a list of countries facing serious environmental stress and those considered the world's "trouble spots" and breeding grounds for war, revolution and terrorism. And the link is fairly obvious when you think about it: serious environmental stress encourages political instability because
[w]hen people are desperate, undernourished, and without hope, they blame their governments, which they see as responsible for or unable to solve their problems. They try to emigrate at any cost. They fight each other over land. They kill each other. They start civil wars. They figure that they have nothing to lose, so they become terrorists, or they support or tolerate terrorism.
ObservatioNZ attacks this idea as "stuff and nonsense", but this relies on a crude equation of environmental stress with population density, with no conception of carrying capacities. At the same time, it needs to be pointed out that environmental stress is not the only story, and in fact a key focus of Diamond's book is on how societies react (or fail to react) to environmental problems.
Anyway, after GG&S, I'm going to have to buy this one too...