Measles and TB evolved from diseases of our cattle, influenza from a disease of pigs, and smallpox possibly from a disease of camels. The Americas had very few native domesticated animal species from which humans could acquire such diseases.
The Norse held values that would not allow them to deal with… pagans and certainly would not let them eat fish and hunt ringed seals the way these pagans did. So here is a case where the values that sustained them for 450 years ultimately killed them. The United States faces similar agonizing reappraisals today.
The metaphor is so obvious. Easter Island, isolated in the Pacific Ocean ”’ once the island got into trouble, there was no way they could get free. There was no other people from whom they could get help. In the same way that we on Planet Earth, if we ruin our own (world) we won’t...
For anyone inclined to caricature environmental history as ‘environmental determinism,’ the contrasting histories of the Dominican Republic and Haiti provide a useful antidote. Yes, environmental problems do constrain human societies, but the societies’ responses also make a difference.
In much of the rest of the world, rich people live in gated communities and drink bottled water. That’s increasingly the case in Los Angeles where I come from. So that wealthy people in much of the world are insulated from the consequences of their actions.
Population densities of farmers and herders are typically 10 to 100 times greater than those of hunter/gatherers. That fact alone explains why farmers and herders everywhere in the world have been able to push hunter/gatherers out of land suitable for farming and herding.
[W]hat makes patriotic and religious fanatics such dangerous opponents is not the deaths of the fanatics themselves, but their willingness to accept the deaths of a fraction of their number in order to annihilate or crush their infidel enemy.
Most people are explicitly racists. In parts of the world – so called educated, so-called western society – we’ve learned that it is not polite to be racist, and so often we don’t express racist views, but… Racism is one of the big issues in the world today. Racism is the big social problem in...
Rhino-mounted Bantu shock troops could have overthrown the Roman Empire. It never happened.
[In the last several months I have been reading] Collapse … Guns, Germs and Steel.
Tasmania lies 130 miles southeast of Australia. When it was first visited by Europeans in 1642, Tasmania was occupied by 4,000 hunter-gatherers related to mainland Australians, but with the simplest technology of any recent people on Earth. Unlike mainland Aboriginal Australians, Tasmanians couldn’t start a fire.
Many of our problems are broadly similar to those that undermined … Norse Greenland, and that many other past societies also struggled to solve. Some of those past societies failed (like the Greenland Norse) and others succeeded … The past offers us a rich database from which we can learn in order that we may...
Biology is the science. Evolution is the concept that makes biology unique.
The Indian civilizations of Central and North America remained entirely without pack animals; and it took thousands of years for the corn that evolved in Mexico’s climate to become modified into a corn adapted to the short growing season and seasonally changing day-length of North America.
Twelve thousand years ago, everybody on earth was a hunter-gatherer; now almost all of us are farmers or else are fed by farmers. The spread of farming from those few sites of origin usually did not occur as a result of the hunter-gatherers’ elsewhere adopting farming; hunter-gatherers tend to be conservative…. Instead, farming spread mainly...
Tasmanians actually abandoned some technologies that they brought with them from Australia and that persisted on the Australian mainland. For example, bone tools and the practice of fishing were both present in Tasmania at the time that the land bridge was severed, and both disappeared from Tasmania by around 1500 B.C.
The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics and genocide. Those collisions created reverberations that have still not died down after many centuries, and that are actively continuing in some of the world’s most troubled areas.
Thanks to this availability of suitable wild mammals and plants, early peoples of the Fertile Crescent could quickly assemble a potent and balanced biological package for intensive food production. That package comprised three cereals, as the main carbohydrate sources; four pulses, with 20—25 percent protein, and four domestic animals, as the main protein sources, supplemented...
People are responding so well to the book – it’s really an upper.