Microsoft Word - AP WH summer assignment instructions 2014 15.doc What is the author's personal view on civilized and progressive societies versus hunter-gatherers societies?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Diamond is critical of the so-called "civilized" and "progressive" societies which either radically displaced the hunter-gatherers or outright killed them off. 

“Twelve thousand years ago, everybody on Earth was a hunter-gatherer; now almost all of us are farmers or else are fed by farmers."

From the tone here, one can infer that Diamond is critical of people who cultivating the land in a controlled way and even more critical of those completely divorced from the land. He continues: 

"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 through farmers' out-breeding hunters, developing more potent technology, and then killing the hunters or driving them off of all lands suitable for agriculture.” 

Diamond is also critical of so-called "progressive" societies who continually must gain new members because diseases, easily spread by the close proximity due to overcrowding: 

“Not until the beginning of the 20th century did Europe's urban populations finally become self-sustaining: before then, constant immigration of healthy peasants from the countryside was necessary to make up for the constant deaths of city dwellers from crowd diseases.” 

Diamond doesn't restrict his criticism of "progressive" societies of the past. Today's societies have become even more divorced from the natural world than societies of the past. Diamond argues:  

“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.” 

Gated communities separate us from our neighbors; this separation fosters mistrust and misunderstandings. Consider the case of Trevon Martin, for example. As for bottled water, the bottles themselves cause waste problems and require the use of fossil fuels. How much "better" is this than the rural, connected societies of the past? 

Read the study guide:
Guns, Germs, and Steel

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