Guns, Germs, and Steel

Topics: Agriculture, Civilization, Human Pages: 8 (2855 words) Published: September 3, 2013
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond, attempts to explain why history progressed differently for people from various geographical regions. Diamond introduces his book by pointing out that history followed different courses for different people because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among people themselves. Through his convincing explanation for how civilizations were created and evolved throughout the course of history, he argues that environmental factors gave some societies advantages over others, allowing them to conquer the disadvantaged societies. While I agree with Diamond’s argument that the orientation of continental axis, availability of potential crops and domestic animals, population size, and transfer of ideas between continents played a role in the evolution of human development, I believe that it was the actions of highly influential individuals and the people themselves that greatly impacted the course of history. Continental differences in axis orientation affected the rate of distribution of crops and livestock and contributed heavily to the varying experiences of Native Americans, Africans, and Eurasians in the last 500 years. Just as some regions proved much more suitable than others for the origins of food production, the ease of its spread also differed greatly around the world. Eurasia’s west-east axis allowed Fertile Crescent crops to establish agriculture and arise independently in eastern Asia, whereas Africa and the Americas’ north-south axis halted the spread of domestic plants and animals. Regions located east and west of each other at the same latitudes contained the same day length, seasonal variations, diseases, temperature, climate, and habitats (Diamond 1999, 186). Seasonal changes of these environmental conditions stimulate seeds to germinate, seedlings to grow, and mature plants to develop flowers, seeds, and fruit. Similarly, since animals become well adapted to the climates of the regions to which they are spreading, domesticates of the Fertile Crescent begin to spread west and east so rapidly. Thus, the absence of large geographical barriers allowed food production to disperse rapidly throughout. On the contrary, it is much more difficult for plants and animals to spread beyond the latitude to which they are adapted. Although Africa and the Americas have much more landmass in a north-south orientation than east-west, there are deserts and other natural barriers that interfere with the further development of food production (Diamond 1999, 190). Plants in the Fertile Crescent are unable to fight the new diseases and live within the alternating climates of the north-south axis in Africa or the Americas. Animals are not any different when adapting to the latitude features in the north-south regions. Livestock are genetically engineered to withstand various climates in the wild and only eat a certain variety of plants or animals. However, if the conditions of the environment exceed the limit, domesticates struggle to survive and reproduce. The natural barriers and superior technological advancements had made it increasingly difficult to further domesticate animals. Hence, the spread of agriculture and livestock was much slower and in some cases didn’t happen at all. While continental differences in axis orientation distinguished agriculturally advanced societies from tribal and band regions, they also formed a great diversity in the accessibility of domestic plants and animals. The availability of potential crops and livestock formed a separation between hunter-gatherers and farmers, causing the rates of development in agriculture to vary between different societies. Several factors influencing the adoption of food production include the decline in wild foods, increase in domesticable plants and animals, development of technology, and change in population density (Diamond 1999, 110). With the...

Cited: Works
1. Diamond, Jared Mason. “Farmer Power.” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 85-92. New York: Norton, 1999.  
2. Diamond, Jared Mason. “To Farm or Not to Farm” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 104-113. New York: Norton, 1999.  
3. Diamond, Jared Mason. “Zebras and Unhappy Marriages” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 157-175. New York: Norton, 1999.  
4. Diamond, Jared Mason. “Spacious Skies and Tilted Axes” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 176-191. New York: Norton, 1999.  
5. Diamond, Jared Mason. “Blueprints and Borrowed Letters” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 215-238. New York: Norton, 1999.
6. Diamond, Jared Mason. “Necessity 's Mother” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 239-264. New York: Norton, 1999.  
7. Diamond, Jared Mason. “The Future of Human History as a Science” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, 405-425. New York: Norton, 1999.
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