May 30, 2014

Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond asks: What makes societies rise - or fall? Credit: James Duncan Davidson/ TED Conference / Flickr Creative Commons

Guest:

From the environment to health to political structures, many factors contribute to the success — or failure — of civilizations. 

Best known for his sweeping studies of human history, Jared Diamond has now become particularly worried about the future of today's most advanced civilizations. Young people, he believes, will have to confront issues that have been insufficiently addressed by world governments - particularly climate change.

"What really gets the attention of wealthy leaders of business is if they come home to their 14-year-old children, and the 14-year-old asks mommy or daddy, 'What do you think of the world's environmental problems?'"

Perhaps not surprisingly, Diamond's own wake-up call came courtesy of his children. When they were born, he thought of the year 2050 as a far-off number. But soon, he realized that his sons would only be in their 60s in 2050 - and would care a great deal about the state of the world in the mid 21st century.

"The course that we're on now is one that if we didn't straighten our course would leave us in a messed up world by 2050 — probably before," he says. "Perhaps my New Guinea friends will still be making stone axes, but you and I, or our equivalents, will not be having a conversation."

There are some technologies that give Diamond hope — specifically changes in the media landscape. "Ideas now can spread quickly," he points out. "I would never have predicted that by now the majority of Americans accept the reality of climate change. That's the result of mass media."

But the power of the media isn't enough.

"Some people will say technology will solve our problems. The reality is that the problems that we face are mainly problems of political will."

Still curious? Read more about Jared Diamond's work here

Green, Jared Diamond, history

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