Of mud and geophysical determinism

allotment winter diggingHard at it again. Weeds got a bit out of control over the summer, so I’ll be trying to wrest my allotment back from Nature over the next few months.

Have been enjoying Guns, germs and steel, a book about the rise of civilisation. The stuff about early agriculture and human settlement is particularly fascinating. If you were ever under the impression that there is something innately ‘superior’ about Europeans, you badly need to read this book to understand that pretty much everything that’s happened in human affairs since about 9000BC has come about solely thanks to geophysical determinism.

And, er, that’s my contribution for today.

7 Responses to “Of mud and geophysical determinism”

  1. Jaette Says:

    I would argue that “Guns, Germs, and Steel” is as much propaganda as the viewpoint that there is something innately superior about one group vs. another. The difference being that in the politically correct culture we currently find ourselves in where “every group is equal” and simultaneously diversity is important because “every group brings something different to the table”, the agenda espoused in Jarrad Diamond’s book finds an accepting audience.

    There are an number of reasons groups advance to take over others. True some are geographic. However, others are cultural. Ask yourself after reading this book if the author ever explains why Europeans came to New Guinea with more “cargo” and not the Chinese? His assertion that all domesticable species have been utilized is baseless, as new species can and have been utilized since the beginning of the neolithic. And, as you well know Soilman, the number of species that serve as the basis of agriculture does not speak to the success of a culture. This is well illustrated by the steady decline in the number of species and variety of types that made up the bulk of the agricultural base in the western world since the industrial revolution (though I too would argue this is not a benefit). This argument nullifies the use of number of species used as a predictor of a cultures success. It is far more likely that the stability of the food supply is far more important, which is much harder to quantify.

    Additionally, the rapid advancements and expansionism during and just after the Renaissance can not be explained by Diamond’s premise, as the information which drove Europe forward was also available to other cultures. The fact is Europe was special at this period (and perhaps only during this period) – They developed science. Was that something only the Europeans could have done? We have no way of knowing. Personally, I suspect not as in its infancy, science was a philosophical revolution. And philosophy is not predicted by geography.

  2. ronnie Says:

    Really envious of that dry friable soil — here in N Ireland, my beds are waterlogged and even grass paths suffer from walking on. But there’s always a bright side — the storms we’ve had over the past couple of weeks have washed up tons of seaweed — a reasonable amount of which I have liberated from the beach onto what will be next year’s potato bed.

  3. Soilman Says:

    Don’t be too envious Ronnie. My soil’s great until the sun comes out… when it becomes as dry as the Sahara in minutes. Watering EVERY DAY in summer is not an option but a necessity. These are the months when I envy folks with clay and heavier soils…

  4. ronnie Says:

    Meant to enquire how you found Golden Wonder spuds this year. When peeling mine it feels like peeling a stone! Really firm -hard even. Boiling — they go to mush. Chips — brilliant — as are roasted. But won’t do them next year. My brother grew Dunbar Standard — what a spud! Huge yield and beautiful flavour. I’m definitely on Kestrel(2nd early) and Dunbars next year. Sorry to be a potato bore — coming from Ireland spuds are in the genes.

  5. Tanya Walton Says:

    Good luck with those weeds.

  6. Soilman Says:

    Re Golden Wonder: pretty much the same as you, Ronnie. Yield not brilliant, but very tasty spuds that made excellent chips. Shit for everything else, though!

  7. ronnie Says:

    enough said my friend!