Pin It
Favorite

Listening to the Land 

Publisher's Note

We're getting a real Earth Day treat with Jared Diamond giving two lectures on April 23, the day after the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day. For me, his 2005 book Collapse is the best I've read about ecology and the future of our life on this planet. What sticks with me is Diamond's optimism: If we are smart about these challenges, he wrote, we can continue to thrive.

click to enlarge mcgregor.jpg

Diamond's a surprising public scientist — Harvard- and Cambridge-educated, he started out as an expert on the gall bladder, then became a noted bird watcher. Only later in life did he embrace geography as his focus, which produced the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel, Collapse and most recently The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? A Bostonian transplanted to Los Angeles, he's folksy and engaging, à la Neil deGrasse Tyson — and he's waded into plenty of controversy, too.

Diamond's study of Easter Island is a powerful fable of our life on Earth. As remote and alone in the Pacific as our planet in the Milky Way, Easter Islanders had a thriving little society until they started overworking their land. The most evocative passage in Collapse is Diamond wondering what the person who chopped down the last tree on Easter Island was thinking.

He studied other places where people vanished. The Anasazi in the Southwest went from master road builders and astronomers to — poof! — gone. The Norse settlers in Greenland had a 450-year run that ended in ruin. By listening to the mountains, the soil, the water, Diamond relays the cautionary tales: A drought pushed the Anasazi to abandon their homes; a cultural taboo against eating fish led to the starvation of the Norse.

Earth Day started on an oil-soaked beach near Santa Barbara in 1969, when Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was so devastated by the notorious oil spill that he put into motion the event now celebrated across the globe. That environmental disaster was not far from Diamond's home in Los Angeles, which is now gripped by the kind of drought that has brought other societies to their knees. These painful wake-up calls have forced us to listen to the land like never before, but to manage our way through such challenges, we need action, too. ♦

Jared Diamond will be at EWU's Showalter Auditorium in Cheney to discuss Collapse at 1 pm on Thursday, April 23. This event is free. At 7 pm, he will lecture on The World Until Yesterday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. Tickets are $15.

  • Pin It

Speaking of Comment, Publisher's Note

  • Puppy Love
  • Puppy Love

    Burned out by politics? Winston and his kind can help
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Staying Engaged
  • Staying Engaged

    From the Mayfair Cafe to Central Park
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • What Now?
  • What Now?

    How a career change forced me to reevaluate fatherhood
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Comment

  • Class Act
  • Class Act

    Seeing through money differences can build relationships focused on fairness
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Don's Ultimate Con
  • Don's Ultimate Con

    Trail Mix: Trump's birther problems and Johnson's polls
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Transparent Motives
  • Transparent Motives

    One candidate's an open book; the other is shrouded in secrecy. Guess which one isn't transparent enough
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science

Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 6

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

  • After the Deluge
  • After the Deluge

    Cleaning up Trump's hot mess is going to take some heroic leadership
    • Sep 1, 2016
  • <b>From Crimson &#10;to Purple</b>
  • From Crimson to Purple

    Bob Gregory was a Spokane-bred Cougar through and through; now he's prowling the sidelines for the Huskies
    • Sep 1, 2016
  • Staying Engaged
  • Staying Engaged

    From the Mayfair Cafe to Central Park
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Murrow's Nightmare

    Debate moderators need to be much more than an onstage prop to make our democracy work
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

election 2016


trail mix


Briefs


green zone


marijuana


Readers also liked…

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation