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'Collapse' author Jared Diamond speech to launch Earth Month at UF
April 2, 2009
Writer: Aaron Hoover, 352-392-0186, [log in to unmask]
Source: Dedee DeLongpré Johnston. 352-392-7578. [log in to unmask]

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond will speak about his latest book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," at 8 p.m. April 9 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The speech kicks off "Earth Month," a series of seminars, celebrations and other activities at the University of Florida surrounding Earth Day on April 22. It is free and open to the public -- but people planning to attend are required to pick up tickets available the day of the speech at the Phillips Center box office.

Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California-Los Angeles, is a noted scientist who has contributed to ecology, evolutionary biology and ornithology. The author of eight books, he is best known for 1997's "Guns, Germs and Steel" and 2004's "Collapse," which tell the story of how and why human civilization developed at different paces in different regions of the world, how past civilizations brought about their own environmental degradation and ruin -- and whether modern society is moving along the same ill-fated path.

Diamond, whose book has generated widespread discussion and controversy, mentions the work of UF researchers in at least two instances in "Collapse."

On page 173, he names David Hodell and Mark Brenner in connection with their work on how drought contributed to the collapse of the Mayan civilization. Hodell is a professor of geology who recently left UF, while Brenner is an associate professor of geology.

And on page 104, Diamond lauds the work of UF Florida Museum of Natural History ornithologist Dave Steadman in piecing together the variety of bird species that frequented Easter Island before people inhabited the island. One of the most discussed themes of "Collapse" is that the ancient inhabitants of Easter Island caused their own decline and eventual extinction by steadily killing off the island's animals, eliminating its trees and causing other environmental degradation.

 "As an ornithologist myself, I bow in awe before Dave's identification skills and tolerance of eye strain," Diamond writes. "Whereas I wouldn't know how to tell a robin's bone from a dove's or even a rat's, Dave has learned how to distinguish even the bones of a dozen closely related petrel species form each other."

Among many other accolades, Diamond has won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, the National Medal of Science, and the Conservation medals of the Zoological Society of San Diego. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for "Guns, Germs and Steel" in 1998, he has a reputation as an excellent speaker.

Organizers of Earth Month have scheduled two seminars, also open to the public and free, in connection with Diamond's visit.

The first, "Sustainability Mythbusters," will feature UF experts discussing common sustainability conflicts and ways of resolving them. It is set for 6:30 p.m. April 14 in Room 270 of Weil Hall. Two days later, "Is Collapse Imminent?," will showcase UF research on how climate, environment and society interact. It is set for 6:30 p.m. April 16 in Weil 270.

Other events for Earth Month include a 5K "Green Run/UF Hustle for Humanity," a Sustainable Products Trade Show, Earth Day Celebration and Earth Day at Shands. More information about all Earth Month activities is available at

There will be approximately 1,500 tickets available for the Diamond lecture. People can pick tickets up from the Phillips Center box office anytime between noon and 8 p.m.  April 9.

The speech is sponsored by the UF Office of Sustainability, Department of Soil and Water Science, Dean of Students Office, Water Institute, Honors Program, School of Natural Resources and Environment and Gators for a Sustainable Campus.