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Jared Diamond thinks that our society may not die a suffocating, treeless death after all. In a recent Publishers Weekly interview, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel says that, in the last chapter of his latest book, “I conclude with what I see as signs of hope.” But it’s hard to ignore the parallels that certain Western, über-consuming nations share with famed doomed civilizations—such as the oft-cited example of Easter Island. In the cheerily titled Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond examines the reasons behind the downfalls of various cultures, as well as the habits of more modern wasters. It all makes for quite the grim read, particularly a last paragraph that seems to pin the world’s hopes on television. Still, the car wreck of Diamond’s detailed history is impossible to look away from. As he unfolds his work, which has roots in an undergraduate course he taught at UCLA, Diamond keeps the prose readable and focused, easily connecting troubled societies separated by oceans and centuries. And his message is clear: With so much evidence pointing to ecological short-sightedness as a reason for societal failure, we’d better clean our shit up. Diamond reads at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13, at the George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. $15. For reservations call (202) 357-3030. (Mike Kanin)