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Farmers vs Hunter- gatherers

February 5, 2012

Diamond, J. 1999. Chapter 4 Farmer Power, 5 History’s Haves and Have- Nots, 6 To Farm or Not to Farm and 8 Apples or Indians . pg. 114-130 in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, London.

There is a battle that has been waging for more than 10,000 years which affects everything on earth, but you won’t find it easily in any history book. In this series of chapters Diamond travels through the journey of the transition of people from a hunter gatherer way of life to that of a food producer. He starts off with a personal account of how he came across this battle first hand working on a farm as a teenager in 1956 and continues the accouter within the following chapters with more of a historical account of the slow and scattered emergence of agriculture arround the world. I found Diamond’s writing very informative however, honestly could not focus while reading chapter 5: History’s Haves and Have-Nots. By the end I felt I could have bypassed the whole chapter and simply read the final paragraph and been better off, “In short, only a few areas of the world developed food production independently, and they did so at widely differing times.” pg 103.

Chapter 6, is an account of the long struggle for the change from hunter- gatherer to agriculture with many explanations as to why it took place in some areas and not in others as well as why it took such a long period of time. During this time no one was getting along, “Similarly throughout human history farmers have tended to despise hunter- gatherers as primitive, hunter- gatherers have despised farmers as ignorant, and herders have despised both.” pg 108. I believe that any change comes slowly and with much adversity from those who don’t understand it or who are simply happy with how their world is working right at that moment. If we today did not have the extensive network of technology and media in order to spread new ideas globally I believe any  change would take considerably longer than it does. In the case of agriculture to me food production was the next step in furthering our species and ensuring our survival in this world. The hunter-gatherer way of life could not sustain itself the wild plants and animals where depleting in number and disease would soon wipe the rest out.

Diamond concludes these chapters with a comparison of agriculture between two extremes the Fertile Crescent, an utopia for agriculture, and New Guinea and the Eastern united states with deficient food production systems. These comparisons conclusively prove that the reason for slowed emergence of agriculture in certain areas and not in others was by the simple availability of plant and animal species in that area. ” Instead, the reason Native Americans did not domesticate apples lay with the entire suite of wild plant and animal species available to Native Americans.” pg 156.


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