Scientific Methods

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Hi Everyone

To complete the section on Civilization you will need to VIEW THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS

Assyrian Legacy (21 min)

"Assyria in earliest historical times referred to a region on the Upper Tigris river, named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur. Later, as a nation and Empire, it also came to include roughly the northern half of Mesopotamia (the southern half being Babylonia).Assyria proper was located in a mountainous region, extending along the Tigris as far as the high Garden or Carduchian mountain range of Armenia, sometimes called the "Mountains of Ashur". The Assyrian kings controlled a large kingdom at three different times in history. These are called the Old, Middle, and Neo-Assyrian kingdoms, or periods. The by far most powerful and best-known nation of these periods is the Neo-Assyrian kingdom 911-612 BC."

Summary extracted from:

Can be viewed at

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is a 2005 English-language book by University of California, Los Angeles geography professor Jared M. Diamond, (ISBN 0143036556) (1 HOUR)

The broad premise of Diamond's book is that it deals with "societal collapses involving an environmental component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change, hostile neighbors, and trade partners, plus questions of societal responses" (p. 15). In writing the book Diamond intended that its readers should learn from history (p. 23).


Diamond says Easter Island provides the best historical example of a societal collapse in isolation.Collapse is divided into four parts.

Part One describes the environment of the US state of Montana, focusing on the lives of several individuals in order to put a human face on the interplay between society and the environment
Part Two describes past societies that have collapsed. Diamond uses a "framework" when considering the collapse of a society, consisting of five "sets of factors" that may affect what happens to a society: environmental damage, climatic change, hostile neighbors, loss of trading partners, and the society's own responses to its environmental problems. The societies Diamond describes are:

1.Easter Island (a society that collapsed entirely due to environmental damage)

2.The Polynesians of Pitcairn Island (environmental damage and loss of trading partners)

3.The Anasazi of the Southwestern USA (environmental damage and climate change)

4.The Maya of Central America (environmental damage, climate change, and hostile neighbours)

5.The Greenland Norse, whose society collapsed owing to all five factors, including the final one (unwillingness to change in the face of social collapse).

Finally, Diamond discusses three past success stories:

1.The tiny Pacific island of Tikopia

2.The agricultural success of central New Guinea

3.The Tokugawa-era forest management in Japan.

Part Three examines modern societies, including:

1.The collapse into genocide of Rwanda, caused in part by overpopulation

2.The failure of Haiti compared with the relative success of its neighbour, the Dominican Republic

3.The problems facing a Third World nation, China

4.The problems facing a First World nation, Australia

Part Four concludes the study by considering such subjects as business and globalization, and "extracts practical lessons for us today" (p. 22 - 23). Attention is given to the polder model as a way Dutch society has addressed its challenges.

In the prologue, Diamond previews Collapse in one paragraph, as follows.

This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapses to which environmental problems contribute. My previous book (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies), had applied the comparative method to the opposite problem: the differing rates of buildup of human societies on different continents over the last 13,000 years. In the present book focusing on instead of collapses rather than buildups, I compare many past and present societies that differed with respect to environmental fragility, relations with neighbors, political institutions, and other "input" variables postulated to influence a society's stability. The "output" variables that I examine are collapse or survival, and form of the collapse if collapse does occur. By relating output variables to input variables, I aim to tease out the influence of possible input variables on collapses. (p. 18)"

Extracted from Wikipedia
Dr Richard Knight
Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville 7535
Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
Fax 27 + 21 + 959 1237