I am really liking Guns, Germs and Steel. I like ‘whole systems’ explained to me and having trends pointed out. I never really understood what it meant to domesticate a crop. Or considered how early hunter-gather groups figured out farming. Or how crucial domesticated animals were to pretty much everything.
So far what I find most fascinating is how moving to farming opens up a society for a whole new level of development. Farming brings about excess food. Excess food means sedentary living. Sedentary living means mothers can have children faster (nomadic groups have to wait until the newborn is able to walk and keep up before having another child). That increases population growth which increases demand for food. Labor division starts with the food producers and then others, opening the way for bureaucrats and a hierarchical government.
Or about the domestication of wheat. That wild wheat needs stalks that break easily and bring the seed back down to the ground to be replanted. But humans would have more easily picked the stronger stalks that kept the weight above the wet soil (at risk of rot). As strong stalks got singled out and bred, voila: domestic wheat.
Or what kinds of plants make for good domestication. Totally captivating stuff.
I did read a bit of his next book ‘Collapse’ to find that since food production increases population which increase need for more food production that often societies start farming marginal lands to maintain food supplies leading to environmental disaster and food supply/societal collapse.
I like the word societal.
Quiet weekend. Ron is off to LA for a 3-day trip – he’ll be back on Wednesday.