He [Jared Diamond] elaborated a bit on his book's account of the Easter Island collapse, where a society that could build 80-ton statues 33 feet high and drag them 12 miles, and who could navigate the Pacific Ocean to and from the most remote islands in the world, could also cut down their rich rain forest and doom themselves utterly. With no trees left for fishing canoes, the Easter Islanders turned to devouring each other. The appropriate insult to madden a member of a rival clan was, "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth!" The population fell by 90% in a few years, and neither the society nor the island ecology have recovered in the 300 years since.
Diamond reported that his students at UCLA tried to imagine how the guy who cut down the LAST tree in 1680 justified his actions. What did he say? Their candidate quotes:
- "Fear not. Our advancing technology will solve this problem."
- "This is MY tree, MY property! I can do what I want with it."
- "Your environmentalist concerns are exaggerated. We need more research."
- "Just have faith. God will provide."
---Summarized by Stewart Brand (source)
That was Jared Diamond's take on the impending end of things. I've already made that analogy.
Via Billmon, who has more to say:
Ordinarily, I'd be the last one to challenge Jared Diamond's thinking -- the man is a genius. But in this case I have to wonder if he isn't overanalyzing things. Maybe the reason humans act so dumb isn't because of their intellectual frame of reference, or their clan structure, or because they lack historical awareness. Maybe people act dumb because a lot of them are dumb -- dumb as turnips. So stupid they have trouble each morning remembering that their shoes go on their feet. So mentally challenged they have to use crib notes to remember their ABCs. So monumentally dense they can't even do the job of a cable news talk show host -- or at least not properly. Borderline vegetative, in other words.