Jared Diamond's: A Natural Experiment in History Essay

Whether or not you are a good farmer has not as much to do with your skills as it has to do with your location. If your community will flourish or die also depends on geographical luck. And the development of your society, how much you can advance your tools also has to do with where you happen to be located on the map.

“Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” (film: A Natural Experiment in History) This was a question asked by a New Guinean by the name of Yali directed at Jared Diamond. Jared Diamond realized that in order to get to the root of the global inequality and find the answer to Yali’s question, you would have to turn back the clock to a time when we were all equal beings, living equally and had not yet exploited or explored all our resources. Why are we the ones with so much cargo and not the New Guineans? Jared Diamond knew from experience that the people of New Guinea were more knowledgeable of the outside world than us cargo bearers and were very smart as well. I agree with Jared Diamond when he says that the evolution of a country does not solely depend on one’s skill or talent. I believe it has as much to do with your abilities as it has to do with your geographic situation.

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A time at which we lived as the same people was a little before the Fertile Crescent. Being in a country that’s very desolate or very lush can severely affect your development as a society. For example, if you were born in a place similar to New Guinea, with few domestic worthy animals and crops that cannot be stored or eaten long after harvesting, you will find the majority of your community’s time occupied with farming. As we witnessed, New Guinea has pigs and taro roots. These plants are low in protein, each stalk has to be planted individually, and they rot a few days after ripening.

In a geological situation such as this one, free time is harder to come by than it is in an environment where you can store food for extended periods of time. When there is less time, there is less advancement. One of the sole animals that were able to be domesticated in New Guinea was the pig. In the film we saw in class, the pigs were helping the farmers dig, thereby lowering the taro planting time. Jared Diamond concluded that it was in the Fertile Crescent where the turning point of global inequality occurred. Farming surpluses only came about when you learned how to harvest and store crops in a way that could permit you more free time to develop things such as weapon making, and even writing and creating a language.

When there is less time, there is less advancement. The opposite can be applied to North America where there are more animals that can be domesticated which leads to plows and therefore faster farming. The furs of animals can also increase the survival rates in winter and having cows that can provide milk for your community is something that the New Guineans were forced to live without. As the film A Natural Experiment in History showed us, many New Guineans suffered from protein deficiency because they lacked the proper animals and crops to support themselves healthily. Another example of geographic luck, or unluckiness in this case, is how the situation between the Maori and Moriori people acted toward one another.

The outcome of these two tribes which diverged from the same ancestors is what makes this such an interesting natural experiment of history. For a group that once acted as one, to try to enslave and murder the other is almost inhuman. I am still not fully capable of deducing why the Maori wanted so badly to slaughter their own brothers, not that they were aware of that of course, and believe that it was natural, customary even. One of the Maori members said: “Some ran away from us, these we killed, and others we killed, but what of that? It was in accordance with out custom.” (Diamond 54) To kill someone is one thing, but to attempt to wipe out an entire group of people for no real reason, except for maybe feeling threatened by them being on the same island as you, strikes me as impractical. New Guinea is simply one of the many isolated islands that were left in the dust of those with all the cargo.

I think that the reason for having such diverse countries that, when compared to poorer countries, basically live in an entirely different era, just because of their location, and the sparse raw materials given to them at the start of their society.