Guns, Germs, and Steel Part 2

If you haven’t read Part One yet, pause here and click this link to retrace and catch up on the beginning of the book.

Chapter 4 begins a new section of the book, telling the story of how food production, which is the transition from Hunter, gatherer status to agriculture, shaped the success of developing civilizations, including Pizarro and the Swiss Fred Hershey.

Availability of more consumable calories means more people.

– Jared Diamond

Hunting and Gathering has its limitations

Only a small percentage of wild plants and animals are worth hunting or gathering.

Most wild plants and animals are:

  • Indigestible.
  • Poisonous 
  • Low in nutritional value
  • Tedious to prepare
  • Difficult to gather
  • Dangerous to hunt

Wild land can often provide only 1% available food biomass while farmed land can produce as much as 90%. So we see why villages and eventually cities were formed around the development of agriculture. Without it, we spread ourselves out further across the land. Agriculture exponentially increases food production using the same amount of labor.

Hunter-gatherer societies were more egalitarian than farming communities because all able bodied men were required to participate in the pursuit of food.

Once a community developed agriculture, a select few would rise to the top and pursue control over the food supply. Everyone else becomes dependent upon the food controller, and the class system is born.

Why does this matter to me?

Several times I’ve stopped myself and asked why I’m taking the time to read this book, when my ultimate goal was to increase my knowledge and capacity to sell and operate a successful business.

As my university philosophy professor Dr. Davey Naugle once said, liberal arts exist to teach us when and why, not just what and how. He was referring to a four year liberal arts education versus a trade school.

He believed that if everyone took up a trade and developed skills in one thing, we’d lose something akin to the soul of our culture. Not because there’s anything wrong with learning a trade, but because we’d only know what and how, and we wouldn’t remember the history of it all or the why behind what we are doing… as a civilization, not just as an employee or tradesman.

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5 Comments

  1. My big takeaway from this chapter is there are pretty serious consequences for advancements we all enjoy. No one wants to hunt and gather anymore but if we did we might feel more connection and similarity.

  2. Not the best book choice if you want people to read with you. This book is torture. Nothing wrong objectively, but not obviously valuable and hard to stick with.

    Let me know when you start the next book. I’ll start there.

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