From the Roots Up Diamond’s Response to Yali’s Question

Topics: Agriculture, Ancient Egypt, Middle East Pages: 5 (1984 words) Published: October 1, 2011
Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs and Steel, began his research over thirty years ago. Diamond is a biologist by profession, but his real interest lies in bird watching. It is because of this that Diamond traveled to Papa New Guinea. It was there that Diamond was presented with the question that spurred his research. A New Guinean named Yali, asked Diamond “Why you white man have so much cargo and we New Guineans so little?” This question was one that Diamond was unable to answer right away, although he figured it would not be too difficult to figure out. Through his years of research, Diamond claims that race has nothing to do with prosperity, but that it is ultimately agriculture and geography. He makes several points throughout the book to support this claim. When Diamond started his research to the understanding of inequality amongst civilizations, he came to the conclusion that he needed to begin thirteen thousand years ago, back into prehistoric times when all humans were equal. The Middle East was where Diamond noticed the factors that would come into play when forming a civilization. History shows that all the different cultures began as hunters and gatherers. This caused a constant nomadic way of life. This nomadic way of living was due to the fact that they had to continuously move to wherever there were animals to hunt or plants to gather. The animal movements were attributed to the change in seasons, thus the nomads were forced to follow the cycle of migration in order to prevent starvation from lack of animals and plant life. Over time, hunting became a major epidemic because as the civilizations became more populated; fewer animals were available to hunt. Although gathering was more productive, it was unable to provide them with enough nutrition in most cases to live off of. This would eventually lead to diversity amongst civilizations due to their geographic locations. Thus resulting in two very different ways of life.

The diversity between the Highlands of New Guinea and the Middle East became more profound when the civilizations living in the Middle East encountered a territorial downfall caused by an ice age. This enhanced the issues they were already facing every day which resulted in communities having to endure longer days trying to find sufficient resources to feed them. Contrarily, in New Guinea, they never experienced as much temporal adversities which would explain why they were never forced to change their way of life as hunters and gatherers. Meanwhile, the difficulties of the civilizations in the Middle East forced them to generate new, more efficient ways of survival. Amidst the harsh climates and famine they were dealing with due to the environmental changes from the ice age, the civilizations in the Middle East were able to establish new proficient ways of producing food. One of their earliest inventions was granaries. This gave them a place to store all the grains, which they produced year round. It also created a shield to keep the grains out of the harsh seasonal changes and gave protection from insects which would result in longer lasting crops. This development often raises the question how were they able to produce so much crops in order to fill these granaries? It was thought by some that at this point they were choosing to settle in any location as long as water was near-by. In doing this, it allowed them to begin cultivating their own crops. As an alternative to constantly moving place to place in search of food, they began planting their own crops in close proximity to their villages. Throughout the process of planting and harvesting, they began choosing the profitable crops out of the entire harvest. By targeting the crops that were the most beneficial to them, they were breaking new boundaries in agriculture called domestication without realizing it. Through the accidental formation of domestication, humans were beginning to manipulate nature in ways that would be...
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