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Human Societies. by Jared Diamond. Reader Q&A. To ask other readers questions about Armas, gérmenes y acero / Guns, Germs, and Steel, please sign up. Jun 30, Armas germenes y acero book. Read reviews from world's largest community for readers. Apr 26, Armas, Germenes y Acero (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies) by Professor of Physiology Jared Diamond. Armas.
Large societies develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracies , which in turn lead to the organization of nation-states and empires. In particular, Eurasia has barley , two varieties of wheat, and three protein-rich pulses for food; flax for textiles; and goats, sheep, and cattle. Eurasian grains were richer in protein, easier to sow, and easier to store than American maize or tropical bananas.
As early Western Asian civilizations began to trade, they found additional useful animals in adjacent territories, most notably horses and donkeys for use in transport. Australia and North America suffered from a lack of useful animals due to extinction , probably by human hunting, shortly after the end of the Pleistocene , whilst the only domesticated animals in New Guinea came from the East Asian mainland during the Austronesian settlement some 4,000—5,000 years ago.
Biological relatives of the horse, including zebras and onagers proved untameable; and although African elephants can be tamed, it is very difficult to breed them in captivity;   Diamond describes the small number of domesticated species 14 out of 148 "candidates" as an instance of the Anna Karenina principle : many promising species have just one of several significant difficulties that prevent domestication.
He also makes the intriguing argument that all large mammals that could be domesticated, have been. Large domestic animals such as horses and camels offered the considerable military and economic advantages of mobile transport.
Armas, gérmenes y acero : la sociedad humana y sus destinos
Eurasia's large landmass and long east-west distance increased these advantages. Its large area provided it with more plant and animal species suitable for domestication, and allowed its people to exchange both innovations and diseases.
Its east-west orientation allowed breeds domesticated in one part of the continent to be used elsewhere through similarities in climate and the cycle of seasons. The Americas had difficulty adapting crops domesticated at one latitude for use at other latitudes and, in North America, adapting crops from one side of the Rocky Mountains to the other.
Similarly, Africa was fragmented by its extreme variations in climate from north to south: crops and animals that flourished in one area never reached other areas where they could have flourished, because they could not survive the intervening environment. Europe was the ultimate beneficiary of Eurasia's east-west orientation: in the first millennium BCE , the Mediterranean areas of Europe adopted Southwestern Asia's animals, plants, and agricultural techniques; in the first millennium CE, the rest of Europe followed suit.
The rise of nonfarming specialists such as craftsmen and scribes accelerated economic growth and technological progress. These economic and technological advantages eventually enabled Europeans to conquer the peoples of the other continents in recent centuries by using the guns and steel of the book's title.
Eurasia's dense populations, high levels of trade, and living in close proximity to livestock resulted in widespread transmission of diseases, including from animals to humans. Smallpox , measles , and influenza were the result of close proximity between dense populations of animals and humans. Natural selection forced Eurasians to develop immunity to a wide range of pathogens. When Europeans made contact with the Americas, European diseases to which Americans had no immunity ravaged the indigenous American population, rather than the other way around the "trade" in diseases was a little more balanced in Africa and southern Asia: endemic malaria and yellow fever made these regions notorious as the "white man's grave";  and syphilis may have originated in the Americas.
Threats posed by immediate neighbours ensured governments that suppressed economic and technological progress soon corrected their mistakes or were outcompeted relatively quickly, whilst the region's leading powers changed over time. Other advanced cultures developed in areas whose geography was conducive to large, monolithic, isolated empires, without competitors that might have forced the nation to reverse mistaken policies such as China banning the building of ocean-going ships.
Western Europe also benefited from a more temperate climate than Southwestern Asia where intense agriculture ultimately damaged the environment, encouraged desertification , and hurt soil fertility. Agriculture[ edit ] Guns, Germs, and Steel argues that cities require an ample supply of food, and thus are dependent on agriculture.
As farmers do the work of providing food, division of labor allows others freedom to pursue other functions, such as mining and literacy. The crucial trap for the development of agriculture is the availability of wild edible plant species suitable for domestication.
Farming arose early in the Fertile Crescent since the area had an abundance of wild wheat and pulse species that were nutritious and easy to domesticate. In contrast, American farmers had to struggle to develop corn as a useful food from its probable wild ancestor, teosinte. Also important to the transition from hunter-gatherer to city-dwelling agrarian societies was the presence of 'large' domesticable animals, raised for meat, work, and long-distance communication.
Diamond identifies a mere 14 domesticated large mammal species worldwide. I predict that in the future, just as in the past, changes in public attitudes will be essential for changes in businesses' environmental practices. Chapter "Big businesses and the environment: different conditions, different outcomes", section "Businesses and the public" Penguin Books, 2011, page 485, ISBN 978-0-241-95868-1. Those numbers ay not sound like a bid deal until one reflects that average global temperatures were "only" 5 degrees cooler at the height of the last Ice Age.
About global warming. Chapter "The world as a polder: what does it all mean to us today? Thus, because we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustainable course, the world's environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults alive today The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies.
While all of those grim phenomena have been endemic to humanity throughout our history, their frequency increases with environmental degradation, population pressure, and the resulting poverty and political instability.
This one-liner puts the truth exactly backwards. Environmental messes cost us huge sums of money both in the short run and in the long run; cleaning up or preventing those messes saves us huge sums in the long run, and often in the short run as well.
In caring for the health of our surroundings, just as of our bodies, it is cheaper and preferable to avoid getting sick than to try to cure illnesses after they have developed.
In fact, one of the main lesson to be learned from the collapses of the Maya, Anasazi, Easter Islanders, and those other past societies as well as from the recent collapse of the Soviet Union is that a society's steep decline may begin only a decade or two after the society reaches its peak numbers, wealth, and power.
On reflection, it's no surprise that declines of societies tend to follow swiftly on their peaks. If the Easter Islanders couldn't solve their milder local problems in the past, how can the modern world hope to solve its big global problems?
On the other hand, we shall be able to solve our problems — if we choose to do so. Because we are the cause of our environmental problems, we are the ones in control of them, and we can choose or not choose to stop causing them and start solving them. The future is up for grabs, lying in our own hands.
What are the choices that we must make if we are now to succeed, and not to fail?
One of those choices has depended on the courage to practice long-term thinking, and to make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they have reached crisis proportions. Which of the values that formerly served a society well can continue to be maintained under new changed circumstances? Which of these treasured values must instead be jettisoned and replaced with different approaches?
Remember that impact is the product of two factors: population multiplied times impact per person.
Against other illnesses, though—including measles , mumps , rubella , pertussis , and the now defeated smallpox — our antibodies stimulated by one infection confer lifelong immunity. That's the principle of vaccination: to stimulate our antibody production without our having to go through the actual experience of the disease, by inoculating us with a dead or weakened strain of microbe.
Armas, gérmenes y acero : la sociedad humana y sus destinos
They were Europeans, or descendants of European emigrants to America. So were Archimedes and other rare geniuses of ancient times. Could such geniuses have equally well been born in Tasmania or Namibia?
Does the history of technology depend on nothing more than accidents of the birthplaces of a few inventors? Yet the compression brings a compensating benefit: long-term comparisons of regions yield insights that cannot be won from short-term studies of single societies. On reflection, we can also recognize the crucial role of these same two choices for the outcomes of our individual lives.
On the fates of past societies facing problems of sustainability , page [.. Cited by Tim Flannery, "Learning from the past to change our future" , Science, volume , 7 January , page Religious values tend to be especially deeply held and hence frequent cause of disastrous behaviour. My views may seem to ignore a moral imperative that businesses should follow virtuous principles, whether or not it is most profitable for them to do so. Instead I prefer to recognize that, throughout human history, [ Invocation of moral principles is a necessary first step for eliciting virtuous behavior, but that alone is not a sufficient step.
Chapter "Big businesses and the environment: different conditions, different outcomes", section "Businesses and the public" Penguin Books, , pages , ISBN Businesses have changed when the public came to expect and require different behavior, to reward businesses for behavior that the public wanted, and to make things difficult for businesses practising behaviors that the public didn't want.
I predict that in the future, just as in the past, changes in public attitudes will be essential for changes in businesses' environmental practices.
Chapter "Big businesses and the environment: different conditions, different outcomes", section "Businesses and the public" Penguin Books, , page , ISBN Those numbers ay not sound like a bid deal until one reflects that average global temperatures were "only" 5 degrees cooler at the height of the last Ice Age.
About global warming. Chapter "The world as a polder: what does it all mean to us today?The anthropologist Jason Antrosio described Guns, Germs, and Steel as a form of "academic porn," writing, "Diamond's account makes all the factors of European domination a product of a distant and accidental history" and "has almost no role for human agency—the ability people have to make decisions and influence outcomes.
It has been argued that hunting and gathering represents an adaptive strategy , which may still be exploited, if necessary, when environmental change causes extreme food stress for agriculturalists. Prologue, section "Why study traditional societies? They were Europeans, or descendants of European emigrants to America. Eurasia's dense populations, high levels of trade, and living in close proximity to livestock resulted in widespread transmission of diseases, including from animals to humans.
Businesses have changed when the public came to expect and require different behavior, to reward businesses for behavior that the public wanted, and to make things difficult for businesses practising behaviors that the public didn't want. Which of the values that formerly served a society well can continue to be maintained under new changed circumstances?
Invocation of moral principles is a necessary first step for eliciting virtuous behavior, but that alone is not a sufficient step. On reflection, it's no surprise that declines of societies tend to follow swiftly on their peaks.
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