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Today's quote:

Monday, April 11, 2022

The World Until Yesterday


If you were a frequent air traveller in the late 90s, you would have encountered Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" which festooned the shelves of every airport bookshop. I got my copy at Sydney airport and read it non-stop on a non-stop QANTAS flight to Shanghai in 1998.

In his most personal book to date, "The World Until Yesterday", Jared Diamond writes about his experiences over nearly five decades working and living in New Guinea, an island that is home to one thousand of the world's 7,000 languages and one of the most culturally diverse places.

Drawing on his fieldwork in New Guinea, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians and other cultures, Diamond explores how tribal peoples approach essential human problems, from child-rearing to old age to conflict resolution to health, and discovers that we have much to learn from traditional ways of life.

He unearthes remarkable findings - from the reasons why modern afflictions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension are largely non-existent in tribal societies, to the surprising cognitive benefits of multilingualism. As Diamond reminds us, the West achieved global dominance due to specific environmental and technological advantages, but Westerners do not necessarily have superior ideas about how to raise children, care for the elderly, or simply live well.

In keeping with my current more earth-bound lifestyle, I found my copy of "The World Until Yesterday" only today in Vinnies' op-shop in Moruya where I'd gone for an x-ray of my teeth on instructions from my dentist. I hope to finish its nearly 500 pages before my next dental appointment.

Googlemap Riverbend


Other books by Jared Diamond:
Guns, Germs, and Steel : The fates of human societies
The Third Chimpanzee : The evolution and future of the human animal
Collapse : How societies choose to fail or succeed
Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution of Human Sexuality