October 25, Topic: Security Grand Strategy Region: If the China continues growing rapidly, the US will once again face a potential peer competitor, and great-power politics will return in full force.
Everything important that has happened to humans since the Paleolithic is due to environmental influences. History as a whole reflects these environmental differences and forces.
Culture is largely irrelevant: Diamond proceeds systematically through the main phases of history in all parts of the world and tries to show, with detailed arguments, how each phase, in each major region, is explainable largely by environmental forces.
The final outcome of these environmentally caused processes is the rise and dominance of Europe. The essential argument is very clear and simple.
Almost all of history after the Ice Ages happened in the temperate midlatitudes of Eurasia. The natural environment of this large region is better for human progress than are the tropical environments of the world, and the other temperate or midlatitude regions -- South Africa, Australia, and midlatitude North and South America -- could not be central for human progress because they are much smaller than Eurasia and are isolated from it and from each other.
Although many civilizations arose and flourished in temperate Eurasia, only two were ultimately crucial, because of their especially favorable environments: Some years ago China's environment proved itself to be inferior to Europe's in several crucial ways.
Therefore Europe in the end was triumphant. Diamond distinguishes between the "ultimate factors" that explain "the broadest patterns of history" and the "proximate factors," which are effects of the "ultimate factors" and explain short-term and local historical processes.
The "ultimate" factors are environmental. The most important of these "ultimate" factors are the natural conditions that led to the rise of food production. Those world regions that became agricultural very early gained a permanent advantage in history.
The "ultimate" causes led, in much later times, to regional variations in technology, social organization, and health; these, then, were the "proximate" causes of modern history.
More than half of Guns, Germs, and Steel is devoted to elucidating the "ultimate" causes, explaining why differing environments led to differing rates in the acquisition of agriculture, and explaining how the resulting differences largely determined the "fate" his word of different peoples.
The "ultimate" causes are three primordial environmental facts: The first and most basic cause is the shape of the continents: Eurasia, Africa, and the Americas.
Eurasia has an east-west axis; the other two have north-south axes. This has had "enormous, sometimes tragic consequences" for human history p. Africa and the Americas were unable to progress throughout most of history because their "axes" are north-south, not east-west.
But Diamond is not really talking about axes; mostly he is making a rather subtle argument about the climatic advantages that in his view midlatitude regions have over tropical regions. The world's largest continuous zone of "temperate" climates lies in a belt stretching across Eurasia from southern Europe in the west to China in the east.
Rather persistently neglecting the fact that much of this zone is inhospitable desert and high mountains, Diamond describes this east-west-trending midlatitude zone of Eurasia as the world region that possessed the very best environment for the invention and development of agriculture and, consequently, for historical dynamism.
Why would one expect the origins and early development of agriculture to take place in the midlatitude belt of Eurasia?
Diamond notes, correctly, that there are thought to have been several more or less independent centers of origin, and only two lie in the temperate belt of Eurasia: China and the Near East his "Fertile Crescent".
Diamond needs -- for his central argument about environmental causes in history -- to show that these two midlatitude Eurasian centers were earlier and more important than tropical centers New Guinea, Ethiopia, West Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Mesoamerica, the Andes And he needs, further, to show that the Fertile Crescent was the earliest and most important center because this region's environment led, by diffusion westward, to the rise of Western civilization.
Indeed, at various places in Guns, Germs, and Steel the traditional Eurocentric message is conveyed that the Fertile Crescent and Mediterranean Europe are a single historical region; that history naturally moved westward. The priority of the Fertile Crescent, according to Diamond, resulted from its climate in relation to the distribution of cultivable grains a second "ultimate factor".
First he eliminates tropical regions because tropical domesticates are mainly non-grain crops.
He uses an old and discredited theory to claim that root crops and the like yams, taro, etc. Whatever deficiencies some of these staples may have had were amply compensated for by eating more of them, along with supplementary foods.This essay delves deeply into the origins of the Vietnam War, critiques U.S.
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