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In Chapter 5 of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond looked at the fact that some parts of the world invented farming before other parts of the world. In Chapter 6 of the book, he asks why people in any part of the world “chose” to become farmers. He cites a variety of factors to explain why this happened.
In Chapter 6, Diamond tells us that the first people to become farmers would not have known that farming was going to be a good step. They would have had no contact with any farming societies and so they could not know that farming would make them richer and more powerful. So why did they choose to farm?
One reason (shown on p. 110) was because wild foods were becoming less available. As proof of this, Diamond gives a piece of evidence from New Zealand. He says that people there did not “intensify their food production” until they had killed off the moas and the seals that had been major sources of food for them.
A second reason, also on p. 110, is that domesticated wild plants were becoming more available. A third factor was that more technologies were being created that helped make farming easier. When these technologies piled up, they made it more likely that people would choose to farm. Beginning on p.110 and going on to p. 111, Diamond tells us that the invention of things like sickles for harvesting grain and baskets for carrying it occurred just as the people in the Fertile Crescent were making the transition to farming. This is a second piece of evidence for his thesis.
A fourth factor was the fact that people started to need to farm as their populations grew. This happened in a sort of spiraling effect. As people began to produce some food, they were able to support larger populations. As their populations grew, they needed to farm so as to make enough food to support all the people.
In Chapter 6, Diamond’s main argument is that these four factors influenced people to move away from hunting and gathering and become farmers.
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