Guns Germs and Steel

Chris Buckner
Human Ecology
5/20/2011

What Has Lead Other Cultures To Be
More Advanced Than New Guinea

Jared Diamonds video Guns, Germs, And Steel brings about many questions

concerning the advancement of different cultures. The main question the video tries to answer however is why a place such as New Guinea, which developed at around the same time as surrounding European Cultures, has not developed as much in terms of technology and growth. Diamond sought out this answer throughout the video and provided a relatively simple answer which he describes as geographical luck.
Hunters and gatherers like the people in New Guinea were just as clever and knowledgable as people in other parts of the world around 40,000 years ago, so why is it that their lifestyle has changed so little and the surrounding area changed so drastically The first clue in Diamonds research was found through watching the people of New Guinea forage and hunt for food. He notes that this method of acquiring food is very time consuming and takes up a lot of energy. Diamond also points out that not every hunt is successful, so sometimes much energy is wasted for seemingly nothing.
Another line of reasoning for New Guineas lack of growth is that even when hunting and gathering is productive, these people can never gather enough food to sustain a large society, limiting their growth. Jared Diamond then begins to observe evidence from surrounding areas in the middle east which leads to a partial conclusion on why these other cultures were more productive and stable.
In the Middle East, hunters and gatherers were very similar to the people of New Guinea, but the plants they were collecting were more abundant and more nutritious. This meant that the gatherers had a higher calorie intake and needed to work less to provide the same amount of food than the natives of New Guinea. Eventually they also realized that they could harvest these different plants, mostly wheat and barley, and plant them close to their living area. The fact that these natives from the Middle East had easy access to the food meant they could start to put effort into different specializations in their community. This eventually lead to what the video refers to as a grainery. This grainery was made to dry out the plants and keep them in a humidity controlled environment which came in handy because these gatherers could now stock surplus??™s of food to support bigger groups of workers. In turn the more workers there were, the larger the fields could be planted thus creating more and more growth. In contrast people from New Guinea did not have the means to store food for lengths of time, thus their population was limited in growth. The plants in New Guinea also required much more work, they needed to be planted one by one, instead of say wheat that could be planted just by scattering seeds while walking. This combination of plants that lacked nutrition and weren??™t easily farmed has kept New Guinea in a low production state, but this was not their only disadvantage.
Many surrounding countries, mainly Europe and Asia, had access to animals that they began to domesticate in order to provide easier living for their owners. The domestication of animals led to a massive growth in farming and in populations a cross Eurasia. These people now had easy access to meat, and milk which are both very high in protein. As before people were now having to work less to produce the same amount of food which then led to more and more specialization. These specialists lived off the surplus of the gatherers food supplies, and since they did not need to put any effort into working the fields they began creating new technologies to help their food production process even more. People began to invent plows that were pulled by the large domesticated animals, thus being able to plant vast amounts of crops, this was a revolution in farming. They would also lead the domesticated goats, cows etc. into the fields to graze on the leftover crops, the animals droppings would then be used as a fertilizer and then the process would repeat. New Guinea did not have access to any large labor animals of this kind and were forced to do all of the labor themselves, making it much harder to provide for any kind of large community. Jared Diamond came to the conclusion that the reason New Guinean??™s had not developed as much as say Americans had wasn??™t due to intelligence level or work ethic, it was strictly from their lack of raw materials to work with.
America, Europe and Asia are naturally abundant with nutritious resources such as barley and wheat, which again were ten times easier to plant, farm and harvest, not to mention had more nutrition. It??™s really no wonder the people of New Guinea cannot advance as quickly, they lack the tools in which to do so. Without the amount of food surplus to provide for specialists, it would be impossible for these natives to have the time or energy to spend on creating advancements in food storage or farming. I admire the New Guineans way of living, they stick to what they know and what they are good at and that is enough for them to survive, and in a way I think our culture could learn a lot from that seeing as most of us would starve if it wasn??™t for genetically altered crops and machines to harvest them. In the end of it all though I think Jared Diamond did come up with the best possible answer and that is without means or ???geographical luck??? as he puts it, there is not much room for advancement.