There is no doubt that some societies are more fragile than others. The subjective observation of a societies ability to succeed or fail can sometimes be misleading when not all possible factors leading toward a societies outcome, are considered. When an observer does not scrutinize a societies success or lack there of, chances are, the observer will endlessly grapple over whether the outcome of a society was a result of fate, or human choice.
Needless to say, through resources such as, Jared Diamonds book Collapse, and his movie Guns, Germs, and Steel as well as, Jeffery Sachs’ book The End of Poverty, it is inevitable that both authors are confident in their revolutionary theories on a society’s ability to succeed or fail. There is no question that the environment is the foundation for a societies future; however, it is the human choices of how and what should be built on that foundation, which determine whether it will be stable and succeed or not. Jeffrey Sachs and Jared Diamond have contrasting ideas on the significance of the environment and how it affects societies.
While Jeffery Sachs seems to underestimate its significance, Diamond gives it too much credit. Jeffery Sachs gives six reasons in his book, The End of Poverty as to why societies “takeoff” and develop, or, lag on and remain in their poorly developed state. Some of the reasons mentioned by Sachs include: social mobility, political factors and fertility rates. Sachs did include physical geography as one of the factors as well; although, wouldn’t one say that geography is at the root of all six of those revelations? At least, Diamond might agree.
When faced with harsh environmental conditions solely based on where you live in globe, poses a question. Does ones survival purely depend on where they are born in the world? Sachs does address geography as an important factor in a societies success; however, he states that you can still have societal changes even if the geography does not allow for it. This is evident in chapter three of Sachs book as he discusses eight points that determine whether a society will thrive or not, and the role that humans are playing in failing societies. Some of these points include technology, trade, natural resource decline and population growth.
When people die from extreme poverty, it is because they literally had nothing. They don’t need a lot to survive, but they do need a lot to start a process of economic development; and that’s where Sachs and I would differ. There’s a reason societies who are under extreme poverty, have not been able to rise and be successful; environmental barriers. The environment can easily wipe out humans basic needs, which is the first step to survival in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is evident that environmental determinism does play an important role in a societies ability to thrive or not based on where you are on the globe?
However, does is it location and the environment that comes with it purely determine whether a society will last? Easter Island is a society that virtually collapsed in isolation due to environmental damage. A perfect example of whether the success of a society depends on lack of human choices or environmental barriers. Jared captures his insight of the phenomenon in his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed with concrete evidence. Jared mostly recognizes the geographical and environmental barriers that support the analogy that Easter was doomed from the beginning.
From his reading, it seems that even if the people of Easter Island had made the most suitable and sensible human choices as far as working with the environment to obtain their basic needs, they soon would have been doomed to failure. Jared gives an example of how something so vital for survival such as water, would immediately seep into the island when their only water resource, rainfall, would come. Although I strongly believe that the environment plays a large role in a societies ability to thrive or not, Jared overlooked and underestimated the severity of human choices, (culture) and its impact on Easter Islands failure.
Deforestation was unfortunately one of the main contributing factors in Easter Islands failure. Jared states that Easter Island is covered with an abundance of substantial statues due to an aggressive competition between chiefs of the island that were built to honor them. This way of culture proved to work against its society because many trees were deforested in order to transport the massive statues. The history of Easter Island helps to reconfirm my opinion that a society is destined to failure or success through mostly geographical and environmental state and a pinch of a societies ability to make wise decisions.
Jared Diamond believes that there are three things that determine the outcome of a society: Guns, Germs and Steel. The main conclusion I gathered from watching this film was that societies developed in different parts of the world because of differences in environments. Jared struggles to answer a provocative question to a Papua New Guinean, “why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own? Jared sets geography as the dominant factor, emphasizing, that, it is not the biological aspect of people that determine human history but rather the environmental context, which we have no control over. Diamond discusses his opinion on whether he believes in the old presumption that the reason European civilizations were able develop and come up with advanced economies so fast, was because of their innate superiority. Jared believes we all moderately have the same intelligence in every society, and that it is not based on genes or race. He was unable to accept the possibility that New Guineans are inferior intellectually to Europeans.
I agree with Jared. I believe that the reason European society became more technologically and politically advanced was the fertile environment that these people were born into to. This environment would allow them to have food production, tamed animals, and all other advantages that the New Guinea people did not have. Once basic needs are met in a society, it is easier for a society to climb up the ladder of success. It is therefore evident that the survival of a person is pure luck, based on whether you were born in an area where the environment works for you, and some human choices that are made to work with tte environment effectively.
In conclusion, I wonder if developing counties in the world are doomed to failure and whether it is hopeless trying to make a sustainable society in those regions, and whether they should just be abandoned. The only advantage of having a co-operative environment is that it allows you to have all your basic needs, but will not necessarily help a society to advance further. Once the foundation of a good environment is laid out, only then can human choice help a society climb up the ladder towards success.
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