Jared Diamond argues that the Australian continent was incapable of progressing humanity to agrarianism or the iron age because it lacked three things; a domesticatable animal, domesticatable plants; and finally, because of its isolation as a landmass there was little to no osmosis of technology between societies and cultures.
Jared Diamond is the author of Guns, Germs and Steel
, as well as Collapse
. Both of which focus on why societies succeed, and, or fail. There is a transcript of a speech he made in 1997
which discusses the geographical differences in why Eurasia came to dominate the globe, while Africa, the Americas and Australia did not. In particular he describes why the Aboriginal people did not develop agriculture and were unable to advance as a society beyond the stone age.
The most obvious answers are that Australian animals and plants have proved impossible to domesticate. Even with 21stC technology we have not managed to domesticate and farm Kangaroos in the same way we do beef or sheep cattle.
Though there is 'the cull' each year in which a million or so Kangaroos are hunted and sent to local abattoirs. But that method of farming Kangaroos is exactly the same as how the Aboriginal people did it, though with the increased productivity of rifles and spotlights, rather than spears.
Diamond notes that the only Australian plant which has proved suitable for domestication is the macadamia nut. Some of our trees are grown overseas, but to get from stone age to iron age there needs to be a food surplus so labor specialisation can occur in towns and cities. Hunter-gatherer societies just don't have that dynamic.
The Aboriginal people did practice land management, and there were also attempts to modify the environment in order to increase the yield of local food; such as placing logs in creeks and rivers so grubs could be harvested each year - but that wasn't sufficient food density to enable the Eurasian agricultural growth in productivity.
The Aboriginal people also managed to domesticate dingos in certain instances, but the dingo isn't suitable for growing as cattle, and the dingoes were used as aids in hunting.
Diamond also argues that Australia's continental isolation was brutally dominant in ensuring that no cultural and technological osmosis happened between the Aboriginals and other cultures or societies - even amongst each other. He uses the Tasmanian Aboriginals as an example:
Astonishingly, the archaeological record demonstrates something further: Tasmanians actually abandoned some technologies that they brought with them from Australia and that persisted on the Australian mainland.
For example, bone tools and the practice of fishing were both present in Tasmania at the time that the land bridge was severed, and both disappeared from Tasmania by around 1500 B.C.
That represents the loss of valuable technologies: fish could have been smoked to provide a winter food supply, and bone needles could have been used to sew warm clothes.
By comparison, Eurasia was connected by one landmass which shared a similar climate. So when sheep were domesticated in the middle east, they quickly ended up in European and Asian flocks. When horses were domesticated on the Russian steppes they quickly spread to China, and when citrus fruits were domesticated in Asia, these soon ended up in European agriculture.
It is interesting to note that when the English and Eora met at Sydney Cove the stealing that went on between them was usually over a prized technology. For instance the Eora quickly realised the productivity enhancements that iron tools offered, while the English valued the Eoran fizgigs (fishing nets) for the same reasons. So immediately upon contact there was technological osmosis.
All other things being equal, the rate of human invention is faster, and the rate of cultural loss is slower, in areas occupied by many competing societies with many individuals and in contact with societies elsewhere.
If this interpretation is correct, then it's likely to be of much broader significance. It probably provides part of the explanation why native Australians, on the world's smallest and most isolated continent, remained Stone Age hunter/ gatherers, while people of other continents were adopting agriculture and metal.
I think there is value in that interpretation. We see constantly in other areas of technology and endeavour that the edges are the most dynamic part of a system and that monocultures approximate stagnancy.
It is interesting to note that Bill Mollison designed his Permaculture system around maximising edge effects rather than sterile industrial agricultural practices of thousand upon thousands of acres of monoculture.
Peter Turchin's analysis of political empires, or cliodynamics, identifies the edges as the area of the greatest dynamicism and the nucleation points for future empires.
Modern economics argues the same thing. Protectionism or central planning makes a big national economy with minimal edges. It is sterile, inefficient and unable to progress. The edges in such a system where transfer does occur - unfortunately - is usually through the black market. Witness North Korea.
Free trade effectively makes the edge effects occur everywhere and the borders become self-determining through comparative advantage which stops the sterility that occurs in the mono-economic centre of a protected economy.
To summarise; this pattern of edge effects being absolutely important for innovation and progress is not a new one. I think it, along with the restrictions of the animals and plants on the Australian continent, makes a reasonable explanation why the Aboriginal people did not advance to an agrarian or iron age society.
Phoenix Eats Out
is the restaurant review site for Phoenix
and Old Town Scottsdale
which lists the modernist and contemporary restaurants, taverns and bars in the greater Phoenix area.
This is the list of the most popular restaurants pages from phoenixeatsout.com that have been viewed the most;
My personal favourite restaurants in Phoenix are AZ88
, Humble Pie
, Orange Table
, The Vig
and others coming close behind. View the complete list with the photo-journalistic style images on phoenixeatsout.com
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback
and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak
or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb
and Bell Pass
. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak
is a long and difficult hike.
Between 2004 and 2009 this site, southsearepublic.org
, was a constitutional blog based on scoop which focused on Australian and global constitutional issues.
One of the strongest aspects of it was the development of constitutions by those involved in the blog. These constitutions are the outcome:
The constitutions were built using principles from Montesquieu's separation of powers, the enlightnment's universal political rights and the ancient Athenian technology of sortition and choice by lot.
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.