I purchased this book wanting to read about what made some civilisations succeed and others fail from a historical perspective. The book met that expectation. What was surprising was the fact that Jared Diamond's work is clearly focused on the interrelation between the environment and the success or failure of each of the civilisations which he considers.
As an academic text, it is an impressive work. As a wake up call on the significance of environmental issues to us today, it had a far greater impact on me than watching "An Inconvenient Truth" (which I also regard highly). The massive amounts of detail given are presented alongside the human story in a manner which makes for compulsive reading rather than the more common problem with lengthy works on technical subjects of dryness. As an example, the story of the establishment and ultimate failure of the Norse settlements in Greenland is precisely attributed to a number of factors (some man made, others not) which conveys the importance of environmental factors in the demise. At the same time Diamond presents a chilling depiction of what the final years of the settlements may have been like.
The book is not all historical. Diamond also considers a number of modern successful societies such as parts of the United States, Australia and Haiti/Dominican Republic. His review of some of the major extraction industries (mining, oil, fishing and forestry) made very interesting reading from both an environmental as well as economic perspective.
The issues raised in the book have a direct relevance to personal finance. Just to take the subject of water as an example, the effects of the environmental changes we are witnessing on the supply of water (both quantity and quality) are explained in a manner which makes it clear that not all sources of water are created equal. Some are more vulnerable that others which has implications for those looking to invest in land (whether for farming, lifestyle or other purposes).
Very highly recommended.