From Wild Animals to Civilization

Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York, NY: Norton and Company, Inc. pg. 85 – 113; pg. 131 – 156.
“Did the problem lie with the Indians or with the apples?” (p. 134), Diamond asks himself as he investigates the transition from a Hunting-Gathering to Domesticated Food Producing lifestyle of humans on a global scale. Moreover, Diamond supports the notion that this transition further pushed humans towards a civilized society. Diamond then continues to question  why certain regions “evolved” to the Domesticated Food Producing lifestyle much earlier than others by examining carbon 14 dating evidence.

Is a sedentary lifestyle better?

It makes sense that many factors would influence this transition and often decisions would be made unconsciously and without awareness of their consequences (p.106). This transition did not happen over night – it’s less than obvious why the conversion to Domesticated Food Production in regions that the Hunting-Gathering lifestyle was highly productive, such as Japan where seafood was plentiful and could support population growth, was slower than others (p.109). Diamond says that these different life styles were alternative strategies and competed with each other (p.109), although it is apparent that to ensure their survival, peoples must have utilized a combination of these strategies for quite sometime during the transition. That is one reason that makes this something very difficult to measure.

I enjoyed this question a lot:

“Did a rise in human populations force people to turn to food production, or did food production permit a rise in human population?” (p.111)

This question is too simplified to answer credibly, though I liked how Diamond used this question to make you stop and really think about the subject matter. In this somewhat dry, historical reading this was a well needed break in the tone and made me want to continue reading to see how he may answer this from his own perspective.

Something that Diamond touches on in this reading is how Domesticated Food Production lead to a more sedentary lifestyle (p.89) and in turn allowed for specialization in skills (p.99).  Furthermore, Domesticated Food Production lead to an increase in the ability to store food which freed up time that allowed for the development of chiefdoms and kingdoms, metalworkers, arts and priests (p.99). Domesticated Food
Production framed wild mobile savage animals into a sedentary civilization.

Thanks for your time – Cheers!

Jenna May Kavanagh



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