Friday, June 5, 2009

Guns, Germs and Steel

I don't know if I've mentioned recently how much I enjoy my book club. I'm still participating, and we are still reading fabulous books. This is one of the books I suggested last year.

I recommend this book to just about anyone (including former mormons in particular). It is long and at times, difficult to wade through (wordy). This is exactly the type of book I would have been assigned to read in a college history course. I don't think that should discourage anyone. It was certainly much more interesting than some of the assigned readings I remember.

It has a lot of information about why various countries and cultures are in the situation they are in currently. Some countries control most of the wealth in the world, and others don't.

The distribution of large mammals/animals that could be domesticated appeared to be a huge factor. Most of those animals were based out of Eurasia, not Africa, North or South America. There were also more species of edible plants based out of Eurasia originally than those other continents. Diamond includes data (charts and graphs) to back up these assertions (as well as an extensive bibliography).

The book club discussion was lively, even among the few people who joined us for the discussion. The discussion leader had set up the projector to view parts of the pbs special - we didn't even get to a "lull" in the discussion to view the scenes.

My only personal question was with his assertion about the north/south axis of the various continents vs. the east/west axis. Diamond claimed that various plants and animals didn't spread throughout the continents (North and South America and Africa) due to the change in climate. It is certainly true that there is a huge difference between the climate in Maine than Florida or Texas. And I think it would take a great deal to attempt to cross a desert if one didn't know when or if the desert ended.

But with that said, I also believe people will do just about anything to save themselves and their families from starving. In other words, people move towards paths of least resistance. Humans are resourceful and have a great deal of courage. I saw this myself the other day, someone had parked in an empty gas station lot with their pick up truck, selling watermelons. It's too early for watermelon season here - so my guess is this person had driven from a place where watermelons are currently ready for harvest (i.e. Texas or Florida). And as a phenomenon, this is incredibly common. People move to where the work is, to a place where they can feed their families.

In an epilogue in a later edition that I read, Diamond acknowledged that there were still many fields for research and encouraged scholars to investigate those fields. I will definitely be reading his "Collapse" book as well. This book challenged many assumptions, and included the data to back up Diamond's theories. I recommend

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