1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann is a discussion about the forgotten civilizations of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus. Mann refutes the notion that the Amazon is fragile and virgin, but that perhaps as many as 100 million indigenous peoples lived throughout the Amazon basin at any time within the last several thousand years. He shows evidence of the aggressive land management techniques used to tame these now wild places and how the civilizations were quickly laid waste by disease as Europeans engaged in trade with these civilizations. Mann also notes that the lack of available domesticable animals led to culture that had little resistance to disease since the great pandemics have typically been the result of disease mutations where the sicknesses have jumped from an animal species to human.
Mann also describes the diversity of cultures within the Americas, the Incas were very centralized and rigid – whereas tribes in the North East of North America were libertarian in nature
It’s about the Indians before Columbus came by and farked everything up. It’s the same type of book as 1421, in that “Holy shit, I had no idea” way. I’ve never been an American history fan, but this was really good. And researched like a mofo.
Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America — Climate Change, the Rise of China, and Global Terrorism by Harm de Blij is a powerful discussion of the impact of geography upon human fate. He tries to show us that despite all of the debate today we are living in a golden age.
Harm de Blij warns us of the coming global cooling and that he has great faith in the ability of the Earth to recover from most types of events whether human induced or through some externality such as an asteroid. He states simply that climate change has been part of the planet’s life for 460 million years and that we are in the middle of a 35 million year ice age, which in the last 450,000 years features 4 periods of global warming (called interglacials) lasting each around 10,000 years separated by glaciations (cooling periods) of around 100,000 years each. The current warming period has lasted 13,000 years so we are due for a sudden and prolonged cooling period.
But Harm de Blij is also brilliant as he discusses topics such as the spread of global terrorism, which he states is fostered by failed nation-states and inaccessible terrain (such as the Pakistani mountain ranges). Just like Tom Barnett, he warns of the spread of terrorism into sub Saharan Africa due to these conditions.
Better stock up on blankets.
tdaxp Commentator Catholicgauze is currently writing a series on this same talk