Why did the Fertile Crescent fail where Europe prospered in long term food production?
I do not know if your class is currently studying Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, but this is a question that Diamond addresses in his book. He concludes that the Fertile Crescent, which was where farming began, was less successful in the long term because it was ecologically fragile.
As Diamond says on p. 410, it is very odd for us today to think that the “Fertile Crescent” could ever have had that name. The land that was once the Fertile Crescent is now mostly desert. He notes that the countries in this area have a hard time feeding themselves. Diamond says that this area was fertile, but only for a short time. When agriculture arose, populations grew and the people cut down the trees, overgrazed the grass with their livestock, and denuded the land. This led to erosion. The soil of the area also became saltier because of agriculture. All in all, Diamond says (on p. 411), the people of this area “committed ecological suicide.”
In short, the Fertile Crescent failed and Europe prospered in the long term because Europe was ecologically much better suited for intensive agriculture and high population densities.
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