Jared Diamond: There’s a 49 Percent Chance the World As We Know It Will End by 2050


The New York magazine has the article Jared Diamond: There’s a 49 Percent Chance the World As We Know It Will End by 2050.

Jared Diamond’s new book, Upheaval, addresses itself to a world very obviously in crisis, and tries to lift some lessons for what do about it from the distant past. In that way, it’s not so different from all the other books that have made the UCLA geographer a sort of don of “big think” history and a perennial favorite of people like Steven Pinker and Bill Gates.

So as not to leave you with a completely pessimistic view, I’ll quote one the final Q & A.

If there’s hardly a nation in the world that seems to be a good model, a thriving example for other nations of the world to follow behind, how much faith does that give you that we can find our way to a kind of sustainable, prosperous, and fulfilling future?

That’s an interesting question. If I had stopped the book on the chapter about the world without writing the last six pages, it would have been a pessimistic chapter, because at that point I thought the world does not have a track record of solving difficult problems. The U.N., well bless it, but the U.N. isn’t sufficiently powerful, and therefore I feel pessimistic about our chances of solving big world problems.

But then, fortunately, I learned by talking with friends that the world does have a successful track record in the last 40 years about solving really complex, thorny problems. For example, the coastal economics. So many countries have overlapping coastal economic zones. What a horrible challenge that was to get all the countries in the world to agree with delineating their coastal economic zones. But it worked. They’re delineated.

Or smallpox. To eliminate smallpox it had to be eliminated in every country. That included eliminating it in Ethiopia and Somalia. Boy, was it difficult to eliminate smallpox in Somalia, but it was eliminated.

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