Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Film 3- Jared Diamond - Ted Talk

Question: How did we get this way?


  1. When I first listen to this Ted Talk, I was really confused by the concepts Jared Diamond was relating within the 5 elements in the framework he is analyzing. He is talking about how entire societies collapse and disappear completely after reaching the peak in their development. This concept was a little disturbing to me at first, but now that I’ve been thinking about it he might have a good point of view.

    He is saying that some societies at some point use all their resources to reach their maximum development. He is also mentioning some of the concerned questions that his students at UCLA ask like: How aren’t these societies realizing that they are finishing all their resources, or that they have just used the last palm tree? He is explaining that what seems to us really obvious, it wasn’t for these societies in that moment of history. The actions we are doing now will as well be criticized for future societies as bad use of resources. I think that the point he is trying to make with this is about the smart use of resources, so that societies will reach a maximum development in a very sustainable way. This will allow and ensure societies a continuation though history.

  2. What I could gather from Jared Diamond’s Ted Talk is that America is a “ticking time bomb.” The curious thing about our situation is that we hold both the match that lit the fuse and the bucket of water that could put it out as well. As I listened to Jared go through his 5 point framework of factors leading to societal collapse I very quickly realized that America, on it’s current “unsustainable” course, is headed for eventual collapse. However, it was the “common thread” of a conflict of interest among past collapsed societies that grabbed my attention, as this was a subject we had discussed previously in relation to the corporations in my ethical issues in business class.

    The problem with American society today is the fixation upon the immediate, providing an immediate solution, meeting this months quota, increasing this years bottom line, providing visible results NOW. This is true in both the business and political fields. The fact is that we are hesitant to jump in with both feet into the environmental issues we face today because we are searching for a quick fix, where only a long term solution can make a difference (a major conflict of interest). We keep searching for a solution that promises to solve our problems today so we don’t have to acknowledge our blindness that lead us to our last “palm tree” tomorrow. “There is no single most important thing we need to do… there is a dozen things” we need to do all at once. We have to tie off all of the loose ends we neglected previously so the fabric of our lives will not have any place it can unravel (collapse) in the future. The fact of the matter is that there is no magic ‘quick fix’ solution to the symptoms of collapse our country is starting to exhibit. But there is hope for us still. Because we are the creators of the causes of our own symptoms, we can take our “short-term” blinders off and see the bucket of water in the “long range” to dowse the fuse.

  3. Each generation has their own set of unique challenges confronting their very existence. How generations choose to resolve their set of challenges leaves a profound impact on society as a whole. We move on, we forget, and history is written by the winners, but have we learned our lessons from the past?

    In their youth, my parents grew up during the depression, and as such, they tried to teach their children the value of a dollar. As a young man, my father landed in the third wave at Normandy during World War II. He would never speak of the war, but made a point to visit the memorial when he went to Europe.

    In my youth, one of my earliest recollections was that of President Kennedy being shot. Even today I can recall an entire society aghast at the experience. Not long after that, and a bit older to understand, I remember the scenes of his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy being shot at the Ambassador hotel just after winning the California primary for the presidency. As a young teenager in high school I remember seeing the fear in the eyes of the upperclassmen as they talked about receiving orders to report for service during the Vietnam War. Many did not return, and often those that did were never the same. I lost a very close childhood friend to leukemia. At the time, not knowing much about this disease, it left me wondering what caused it. Listening to adults talk about cancer clusters and the association with the environment made me acutely aware of my environment, and who were damaging it.

    Still in all, I was one of the lucky ones, living an ideal childhood of playing games and singing songs far removed from the ugliness of life. When I didn’t want to eat the healthy meal my mother had prepared for me she would respond; “there are children starving in Biafra!” My parents wanted their children to be grateful for what we had, because no matter how bleak you think things might be, many are much worse off.

    Much of my political and world views have been shaped by these dominate factors that dotted my life: guns, war, the environment, and sustainability. The 60’s were considered a turbulent time in our country’s history. Growing up in that time, I don’t think it was any more turbulent then the times we live in today, but what we did have was real leaders willing to do the right thing for society as a whole.

    Jared Diamond’s analytical assessment of societal collapse puts into a concise framework valid reasoning behind the collapse of our own society. I know all this to be true, yet I feel powerless to stop it. I constantly reflect back to my education on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and can’t help but see the parallels. I feel our nation is running out of time and all we are doing is tuning out to our next text message. I could write on and on about our geopolitical hegemony, the disparity, the lack of concern for our environment, climate change, and our arrogance in the world, but then I would be too political in this writing, and missing the point. What I choose to do instead it to impress upon the reader that Jared Diamond’s message is very real. I will take up the challenge to do my part, to help bring about change in my own way, through design, lobbying for justice and sustainability, but it will take more than just me. I have all my legislative representatives on speed dial, do you? It will take all of us, because Jared Diamond is right about our hope for the future. It is man made problems that man can solve.

    In writing this piece I recalled a song from my youth that spoke of its time. Somehow I feel its relevant today. It was written a 19-year-old songwriter, P.F. Sloan, and recorded by Barry McGuire. It culminated the times from Selma Alabama to a youthful generation that was told “your old enough to kill but not for voting.” It mobilized a generation into action, Eve of Destruction.

  4. After my post I found a much better youtube link to the song "Eve of Destruction" that shows scenes of the turbulent times of the 60's, the protests against the war, the famine in Africa, the shooting at Kent State, Nixon, and many other relevant images from that period. Then in proving my post, it flashed to the attack on the twin towns in NYC, Bush, Cheney, and the relevant issues of the day. I hope you'll take a moment to see what we have learned from history.

  5. “TED Talk” shows are interesting because they show fresh and new ideas and concepts. This TED talk is about Jared Diamond research about reasons that cause a society to collapse in the past and the present. The reasons that he mentions to are: using the energy sources, climate changes, relationship with neighbor societies, relation with hostile societies, and political social-cultural factors. All of these reasons have route in the environment and the relation of the human being with his environment. Some of these factors directly connect to the environment, like energy sources and climate changes and some indirectly connect to the environment, like relationship with neighbor society or hostile societies as well as political social-cultural factors that by affecting the environment damage the society which will lead to its collapse.
    The last part of the talk is very appealing to me, while he explains about how the collapsing societies can’t foresee the future and the consequence of their decisions. He recognizes two reasons: conflict of interest between long term and short term achievement, and the fact that society does not change its situation into a better one based on the new needs and all of it is because of their cultural or religious mind sets. The point is, the collapsed societies didn’t know about these reasons, but now that we are aware of these reasons, we need to do something, we have to start changing our mind sets. By changing the way of our lives, decision making process, our priorities and many other factors, we can change the path that directs to collapse and downfall. The solution that he offers for fixing the environmental issues is very close to Thomas Barry’s idea: “universe is not selection of objects, it is communal of objects". Based on this concept we can’t solve one issue and expect to fix the problem. We should look at the universe as a whole and come up with a thorough solution to avoid the collapse.

  6. Professor Anna Marshall-Baker:
    Spencer Wells is a geneticist who has tracked a marker on the male chromosome in an effort to locate the origins of human beings. His investigation located a tribe in Africa which seems to have generated a small number of travelers whose ancestors populated the world. Given the enormous challenges they faced and survived, it is difficult to imagine "life without people." Nonetheless, I imagine that if dinosaurs could speculate about their existence they also could not foresee any kind of event that would cause their extinction. Yet that is exactly what happened. Without people, we more clearly see the effort, energy, and resources we've poured into the construction, habitation, and maintenance of -- quite frankly -- physical environments that are completely unsustainable. What is sadly apparent but completely frustrating is that despite what we know (species become extinct; people destroy environments that sustain them) and what we see (climate change, toxins, ...even markers of extinction), Jared Diamond tells us that these behaviors will continue and that they will be devastating.

    The question for me, then, as an educator, is 'what do teachers need to bring into the classroom that enables students to understand and activate necessary changes into our culture and society?' -- because change will only happen when our culture shifts.