Diamond, J. 1999, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The fates of Human Societies. Ch. 4,5,6,8, W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. New York
My perfect day always starts with espresso and some milk. I sat at my table drinking my daily morning necessity, reading more of “Guns, Germs, and Steel” this morning thinking to myself: “Why is it that something like this coffee first cultivated in Ethiopia, is now grown in over 70 countries? The coffee I drink regularly is harvested in Nicaragua. Coffee had a long way to travel from first being cultivated in the Horn of Africa all the way to Central America. Why spend all the time and energy to move cultivation of a plant from a place where it is known to be successful to other areas? Why grow plants in soils other than where it is first cultivated? Maybe it’s for convenience. Maybe it’s to reduce cost, or maybe its just the simple fact that Growing coffee in Ethiopia just isn’t as productive as it is in other countries.
In this book Diamond discusses the movement of cultivated crops from one country to another and why humans first started to cultivate these foods. He does this in a way where he mostly just states hard known facts. I can see why someone would really not enjoy reading a piece like this maybe calling it “dry” or “boring”, however I enjoy it. Sometimes I love to read dreadfully boring books, and this is one of those cases I guess. I actually enjoy reading the textbooks I buy for incredibly inflated prices at the bookstore.
I think it is important for us humans to understand the history of our own culture, as well as other cultures to some extent. Diamond helps us do this by describing basic concepts and history throughout this book. He introduces the reader to the experiences of different cultures and people from around the globe. Not only does he discuss the differences between hunter gatherer lifestyle, and agricultural lifestyle but he also discusses the reasons why humans broke away from this lifestyle to agriculture and sometimes back again.
I really like how he described carbon dating in this book. Not only was it necessary to create an understanding of carbon dating for the readers, but I feel that he explained it in a way that allowed somebody with little to no chemistry/scientific background to understand this relatively complicated process. It’s always nice to see that an author doesn’t only focus on one central demographic.
At around noon today, still in deep thought about the book I had dove into this morning, I went to get yet another cup of coffee and bumped into my friend Mark. He asked me what book I was holding so I showed him. He then told me that he plans on reading it since he recently picked up a copy at a yard sale for dirt cheap. I told him I think he would really enjoy the book (him being a history major).I’m definitely not a very big history person but this book seemed to be an exception for me as Iv’e completely enjoyed it so far. The only history I can stand to read about is history of war and science. This book kind of mixes the two into a big mashup of the two topics which for me is lovely, as they are two very related topics. Diamond Is able to describe the different topics in great detail without making it seem like just a regurgitation of information he learned throughout his life. The book has no humour whatsoever, but brings something that a lot of books these days fail to provide for the reader: knowledge. Sure, I love books that provide ideas or topics of discussion to ponder, but it’s sometimes important to read books that you know that you can learn facts from directly in my opinion.
As I sat down to finish the final little bit of the reading, I pulled my last shot of coffee for the day. and as I stared into the thick rich crema that formed on the surface, I thought to myself: “Maybe I’m thinking about this too much. Maybe humans just do what Is most productive and what works best. That is why to this day, we still grow crops and livestock used by humans in a much earlier age. Not only do we still grow these calorie rich and useful foods at a much later date, but we always tend to grow them in their most optimal and productive habitats.” I’m sticking with this opinion on the subject. After all, It’s not every day you see a bag of coffee beans grown in Antarctica.