Diamond, J., 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton and Company, New York.
Let me begin by saying that I love Diamond’s chapter titles. He really pulls you in with his simplistic but intriguing headers. This is important when your novel is going to be jam packed with wordy paragraphs with fact after fact. At least he could draw me in one way or another!
Over the course of the few chapters I read this week, Diamond takes me on a journey to understanding the relationship between hunter-gatherers, farmers, and food production. From the beginning of this course, I always just said “Plants and People.” I never thought to differentiate even further. Go deeper. What different types of people used plants? When in history? Why did these people use their resources different than others? Diamond has the answers!
Diamond did a great job in differentiating hunter-gatherers and farmers, and explaining major differences in lifestyles, the problems each faced, what worked and what didn’t.
I liked the idea that hunter-gatherers are seen as just as productive as farmers in some ways. We often think of them as being pretty useless most of the time, prehistoric and old-fashioned. A waste of time. But Diamond brings up a good point when he mentions how farmers spend all day raising food, doing physical work, sometimes to not even get a great result. They are both equally as hard and pressing but in different ways.
Oh how odd it is to think in a different light.
Diamond’s explanation of radiocarbon dating was extremely detailed, hard to follow sometimes, but very thorough. A very important issue he brings up that I never thought to question was that the atmospheric ratio of carbon 14/carbon 12 is not a constant, but fluctuates, so often our calculations can be off. It was fascinating when he explains how this dilemma can be fixed through the reading of tree rings. Although it wasn’t my favourite part of this reading, he definitely made learning these facts truly interesting.
Diamond mentions how food production is neither a discover not an invention, but an “evolution as a by-product of decisions made without awareness of their consequences”pg 101. He says, “we must consider food production and hunting-gathering as alternative strategies competing with each other.”pg 105. So here, slowly the scale began to tip, and farming with took up the majority of food production.
What were the factors that made such a change in food production?
One of the biggest factors that I read about was technology(duh)! Whether it be basket weaving, carving knives, to modern day mills and assembly lines. Technology over time has made food production the easiest options for us to survive.
Diamond surfaced so many questions stirring around in my head. I hope to delve into these matters further, and continue to question the things that surround me.
Keep curious, folks!
“Did a rise in human population density force people to turn to food production, or did food production permit a rise in human population density?”pg 107