Monday, August 22, 2011

Geography determines outcomes

Throughout Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond consistantly brings the idea that geography plays a huge role in determining human history. Although he never identifies himself as a geographic determinist, I believe that he is. Diamond emphasizes the fact that neither culture nor genetics have a determining factor in the independent advancement of the human race. What he does mention is how geography becomes what really determines the rate at which humans evolve socially. In particular, one are Diamond bases most of his ideas on is the Fertile Crescent. He also mentions that the axes of continents such as Eurasia also benefit the people around it. An east-west alignment like that of Eurasia which is near the Fertile Crescent was the most prosperous area of its time. In the mind of Diamond, this conclusion makes sense. An east-west alignment gives humans more land that has a similar climate. The Fertile Crescent also provides many nutritious plants. Animal domestication comes more easily once a steady food supply is established. Not to mention Eurasia has an abundance of animals that are likely candidates for domestication. With animal domestication expanding, humans begin to build resistances to the diseases which the animals carry. Years and years of animals developing along side the Europeans give the Europeans a huge advantage. When Europeans begin to conquer new lands, the native peoples stand no chance against these foreign diseases. Not only do these diseases kill off most native populations, but the Europeans also have guns. These weapons take out even more natives and give the Europeans more power to force their values and customs upon them. The point of this is that all of it is possible for the Europeans because they are located in an extremely rich area full of tools (land, plants, animals, minerals, etc.) for the taking. However, places that are isolated, such as Madagascar, Australia, Papua New Guinea, are less fortunate. They are separated from the rest of the world and its advancements. Also, continents such as North and South America and Africa are at a disadvantage because of their axes. Climate and daylight hours vary immensely from northern and southern latitudes. Regions within these continents also vary. Take Africa for example. There's the Sahara Desert and right under are rain forests of the Congo. Diamond takes all these things into consideration when writing his book. Because of this, knowingly or not, he portrays himself a geographical determinist and is guilty as such.

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