PiU (samedi) wrote,

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jared diamond

Jared Diamond came to speak at the University of Idaho on Wednesday and, after hearing about the event from a classmate the day before, I called Violet to see if she was interested in going. She owns two of his books and has mentioned them in casual conversation, so it seemed like it would be worth attending since neither of us would be at NWAC (the Northwest Anthropological Convention). Violet said that she was excited to hear that he was coming to the area but added that she wasn't going because (a) she didn't finish with work until seven o'clock - when the event was scheduled to start - and (b) her car broke down on the drive back from Seattle during spring break and couldn't go any faster than 65 km/h on the freeway.

Violet's birthday was the day after Jared Diamond's appearance, so it presented the perfect opportunity to find a way to surprise her. I called Tsukasa later in the day and she agreed to drive us across the state line. In fact, Tsukasa said that if she was too busy to go herself she would give me the keys to her car so that I could drive Violet over myself. Despite not finishing a paper for class Tsukasa went anyway, which meant she was behind the wheel when we illegally drove through a basketball court and pedestrian walkway on the UI campus. We showed up twenty minutes late, and because it was Jared Diamond speaking the parking lots were full to capacity. After circling the block twice we finally found a spot between two other cars and headed inside.

The event was staged at the university's International Ballroom, and while we expected the seating to be sparce we were unprepared for what greeted us on the second floor - every seat was taken, people were standing along the back wall of the ballroom, both doorways were packed with spectators, and speakers had been set up in the hallway for the 40-odd people who couldn't get any closer. We spent the second-half of the presentation outside with the hoi polloi, while the twenty minute Q&A session saw enough people leave that we were able to grab a spot along the back wall.

Jared Diamond's presentation focused on the collapse or near-collapse of societies in the past, and environmental degradation was a prominent theme for most of the examples he introduced. The residents of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) had completely deforested the island by the time Europeans arrived, while the Mayans faced soil erosion and the Greenland Norse refused to learn from the local Inuit and suffered during the Little Ice Age as a result. One of Diamond's claims is that the more segregated a society's leaders are from the rest of the population the greater the likelihood that society will collapse rather than solve its problems. After all, why should they care about what's happening to the lower classes if they can continue living a life of luxury? There were also a few references made to the current government of the United States occupying a similar situation, although the same could be said about the governments of most countries today.

Walking out to the car in the crisp, night air we talked about the presentation and Tsukasa commented on how it went along with some of the work she was doing in her environmental science class. Her main reason for coming was to provide transportation, so it was nice to hear that she enjoyed coming with us to the event. However, once we made it out to the parking lot we found a ticket on the front window of Tsukasa's car. For $100. We had noticed the signs marking a fire lane in the area on our way in, but we didn't think we'd get a ticket for parking there such a short time. It looks like the campus police had been by a mere six minutes before we showed up, too. Of all the luck ...
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