Film & Discussion: Guns, Germs & Steel
Based on Jared Diamond’s book of the same name, this National Geographic film Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity’s journey over the last 13,000 years — from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century. This ambitious, ground-breaking film, following the book, portrays Jared Diamond’s discovery of an answer to the question: Why were Europeans the ones to conquer so much of our planet — why wasn’t it the Chinese or the Inca? And why are the tropics now the capital of global poverty?
To examine the reasons for European dominance, Jared Diamond realized he had to peel back the layers of history and begin his search at a time of equality — a time when all the peoples of the world lived in exactly the same way. At the end of the last Ice Age, around thirteen thousand years ago, people on all continents followed a Stone Age way of life — they survived by hunting and gathering the available wild animals and plants. When resources were plentiful, this was a productive way of life. But in times of scarcity, hunting and gathering was a precarious mode of survival. Populations remained relatively small, and the simple task of finding food occupied every waking moment. Around eleven and a half thousand years ago, the world’s climate suddenly changed. In an aftershock of the Ice Age, temperatures plummeted and global rainfall was reduced. It was at such a time of scarcity and stress that the agricultural revolution took hold. The impact of this catastrophe was keenly felt in the Middle Eastern area known as the “Fertile Crescent.” Agriculture was introduced here, including the domestication of certain animals. Plant and animal domestication — agriculture — was a precursor to the development of advanced civilizations. Along with the Fertile Crescent, independent domestication of wild plants is believed to have occurred in Ancient China, in Central and Southern America, in sub-Tropical Africa, and in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. With the introduction of agriculture, social equality became obsolete. The invention of agriculture, some 12,000 years ago, was the critical turning point in the origins of global inequality.
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