So I'm behind the times. This book came out in 1997. I was 11 then. I'm mostly intersted in this stuff because I think that the best diet for people to eat is a paleolithic diet (wild meat,fish,vegetables,nuts,berries,fruit). Not that I like elk meat or venison or want to give up peanut butter, cookies, dairy and grains or anything - but I think that this is the diet our bodies are genetically programmed to eat. So I am interested in any information about the beginnings of agriculture or the diet people ate before they were "civilized." And I have always wondered why africans are so far behind the times when apparently that is where homo erectus and homo sapiens developed.
ANYWAYS - Main point of the book: environment determines how societies grow and develop. In the beginning of time - the people who lived in environments where food could be farmed and domesticated fared better than those who lived in places where food remained wild and untamed. The first farmer Joes (fertile cresentites and their european grandkids) were the ones to develop guns, germs and steel - which allowed them to conquer people in far away lands that were still hunting/gathering without guns/germs/steel (book of mormonites in south america).
From my dietitian perspective: People who ate more protein had more brain power/energy/time to build societies and such. food is important - what we eat determines who we are - also, food is linked to the environment - thus how we treat the environment is important.
Its interesting that once people started eating a grain based diet they started developing diseases. The author points out that influenza and such developed when people domesticated animals (swine flu/bird flu)- but I wonder if their change in diet was part of the problem. (and of course their seasonal changes in melatonin from living at higher latitudes)
The book isn't trying to make a point of which is better - hunting/gathering vs. "civilization" and I don't think there is an answer to that.
But it seems to me that we should have just stuck with hunting and gathering - hanging out all day in the garden of eden - picking flowers - eating berries - that's the life! Dying from attack of a cheetah - or from old age when you were 30 - no such thing as getting arthritis living the paleolithic way. If you're too lazy to find your food - - you die by your own accord -- no such thing as welfare. But then you'de end up living with your extended family you whole life. Nobody wants that.
From what I've seen/read/heard it seems that people are just about as happy as they make themselves to be - no matter where/how they live. In the end it doesn't really matter. It's just interesting to think about. That was a long post - anybody have similar/opposing thoughts?