Jared Diamond


American Scientist, Civilization Scholar, Geographer and Author

Author Quotes

After half a million years ago, the human populations of Africa and western Eurasia proceeded to diverge from each other and from East Asian populations in skeletal details. The population of Europe and western Asia between 130 000 and 40 000 years ago is represented by especially many skeletons, known as Neanderthals. Despite being depicted in innumerable cartoons as apelike brutes living in caves, Neanderthals had brains slightly bigger than our own, were the first humans to leave behind strong evidence for burying their dead and caring for the sick. Their stone tools though were still crude and not yet made in standardized diverse shapes, each with a clearly recognizable function.

Eurasia's main axis is east/west, whereas the main axis of the Americas is north/south. Eurasia's east/west axis meant that species domesticated in one part of Eurasia could easily spread thousands of miles at the same latitude, encountering the same day-length and climate to which they were already adapted.

I decided that now is the time to start doing the things that really interest me and I find important. It was in the 10 years of the MacArthur grant that I began working on my first book... and I began putting more work into environmental history.

It's striking that Native Americans evolved no devastating epidemic diseases to give to Europeans, in return for the many devastating epidemic diseases that Indians received from the Old World.

Our closest living relatives are the three surviving species of great ape: the gorilla, the common chimpanzee and the pygmy chimpanzee (bonobo). Their confinement to Africa, along with abundant fossil evidence, indicates that the earliest stages of human evolution were also played out in Africa. Around seven million years ago, a population of African apes broke up into several populations, of which one evolved into modern gorillas, second into the two modern chimps and the third into humans. Fossils indicate that the evolutionary line leading to us had achieved a substantially upright posture by around four million years ago, then began to increase in body size and in relative brain size around 2.5 million years ago. These proto-humans are generally known as Australopithecus Africanus, Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus, which apparently evolved into each other in that sequence. Although Homo erectus, the stage reached around 1.7 million years ago, was close to us modern humans in body size, its brain size was still barely half of ours.

Technology has to be invented or adopted.

The rather modern looking human skulls from Africa around 100 000 years ago have been taken to support the former view, with the leap occurring specifically in Africa. On the other hand, skulls of humans living in China and Indonesia hundreds of thousands of years ago are considered by some physical anthropologists to exhibit features still found in modern Chinese and in Aboriginal Australians respectively. If true, that finding would suggest parallel evolution and multiregional origins of modern humans, rather than origins in a single garden of eden. The issue remains unresolved.

AIDS and malaria and TB are national security issues. A worldwide program to get a start on dealing with these issues would cost about $25 billion... It's, what, a few months in Iraq.

Even to this day, no native Australian animal species and only one plant species - the macadamia nut - have proved suitable for domestication. There still are no domestic kangaroos.

I read that a false alarm of a tsunami in Hawaii would cost about $68 million.

I've always been interested in a lot of things, and a lot of things at the same time, and I always tried to explain them to myself. I ask a lot of questions.

People are not helpless in the face of big business. It's up to the public to say what it wants. Only when the public bans single-hulled oil tankers from American waters, only when the public says no more selling wood logged from old-growth forests, will companies... come up with other solutions.

Thanks to this availability of suitable wild mammals and plants, early peoples of the Fertile Crescent could quickly assemble a potent and balanced biological package for intensive food production. That package comprised three cereals, as the main carbohydrate sources; four pulses, with 20?25 percent protein, and four domestic animals, as the main protein sources, supplemented by the generous protein content of wheat; and flax as a source of fiber and oil (termed linseed oil: flax seeds are about 40 percent oil). Eventually, thousands of years after the beginnings of animal domestication and food production, the animals also began to be used for milk, wool, plowing, and transport. Thus, the crops and animals of the Fertile Crescent's first farmers came to meet humanity's basic economic needs: carbohydrate, protein, fat, clothing, traction, and transport.

The southward advance of native African farmers with Central African crops halted in Natal, beyond which Central African crops couldn't grow - with enormous consequences for the recent history of South Africa.

All human societies go through fads in which they temporarily either adopt practices of little use or else abandon practices of considerable use.

Far more Native Americans and other non-European peoples were killed by Eurasian germs than by Eurasian guns and steel weapons.

I'd rather spend my leisure time doing what some people call my work and I call my fun.

I've worked very hard in this book to keep the lines of communication open. I don't want to turn someone away from this information for partisan political reasons.

People are responding so well to the book - it's really an upper.

The Anasazi did manage to construct in stone the largest and tallest buildings erected in North America until the Chicago steel girder skyscrapers of the 1880s.

The United States has long thought of itself as the land of infinite plenty, and historically we did have abundant resources. But now we are gradually exhausting our fisheries, our topsoil, our water. On top of that, we're coming to the end of world resources.

All of Africa's mammalian domesticates - cattle, sheep, goats, horses, even dogs - entered sub-Saharan Africa from the north, from Eurasia or North Africa.

Federal elections happen every two years in this country. Presidential elections every four years. And four years just isn't long enough to dismantle all the environmental laws we've got in this country.

If one of those friendly societies itself runs into environmental problems and collapses for environmental reasons, that collapse may then drag down their trade partners.

Lest those islands still seem to you too remote in space and time to be relevant to our modern societies, just think about the risks... of our increasing globalization and increasing worldwide economic interdependence.

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American Scientist, Civilization Scholar, Geographer and Author