Jared Diamond is a noted polymath, is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles and an international bestselling author. Among his many awards are the U.S. National Medal of Science, Japan’s Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.View the profile
About the talk
Pulitzer Prize winning author Jared Diamond speaks about why geography is still relevant in a connected world: how geography impacts global wealth and why wealth inequality is a global concern (including health, security, and immigration); how geography and climate change are interlinked; and how geographic disunity aids in innovation and leadership.
Note: background noise in this video due to high winds outside the theater where this was filmed.
Good morning. The title of my talk today is one that digs a yes answer which I'll show you is wrong is geography increasingly Irrelevant in a globalized world and you may be inclined to say, of course it is don't the internet cell phones and jet plane travel now connect everybody to everybody else and make a graffiti irrelevant. So it makes no difference whether you live in Silicon Valley or in the Central African Republic and the real answer is no cost. Not that's nonsense. You need
money in order to be able to afford a computer or a cell phone or a jet plane trip ticket, but money is distributed unevenly around the world a partially far more people in Silicon Valley than in the Central African Republic can't afford a computer or a cell phone or Jeff playing pick up. First World countries are on the average 32 times richer than poor countries. And the richest countries like booksin Bulldog or 200 times Richard per capita than is the Central African Republic. Why what are the reasons for these big differences in Nashville? Well, a big part of the answer
is geography a homework assignment for you or something that you can easily do to convince yourself just pull up on your computer on a map of Africa and write down on the map of Africa the per capita the wealth of each country either GDP per capita for income per capita corrected or not record for differences in purchasing power any measure you want of per capita wealth You will see that Africa is like a Big Mac in the distribution of well, there's a thin slice on
top the five countries in the north temperate zone. There's a thin slice on the bottom the five countries in the South temperate zone those and countries are relatively rich and all the countries in the middle the center of the Big Mac all the tropical countries in Africa are relatively poor those 10 tempered countries eat the North and South most of them are richer than almost any of the tropical countries in the center. What reason for all those big differences in wealth around Africa? What's what's the matter with being in the tropics? Will the tropics
bring three big disadvantage of one disadvantage of this tropical agriculture one has the fantasy that in the tropics. It's easy to get food bananas for a walk the trees know that's not true tropical agriculture is on the average about half as productive as temperate zone Agriculture, and that's because tropical soils are thin and infer tile in the tropics. There are lots of pets year-round pest insects and worms that destroy much of the clocks tropical a disadvantage
tropical diseases are not only sad for all the people dying of those tropical diseases, but they're also bad for the economy tropical diseases mean for short lifespan. Anna in the tropics many African tropical countries have a lifespan of 50 years instead of 80 years. But if you're a trained engineer trained at the age of 30 is going to die at age 50 is only 20 years to contribute to the workforce instead of 40-50 years. Another disadvantage of those tropical diseases is that when you're alive you still out sick much of the time and not working women
are pregnant or lactating much of the time and can't join the workforce because they're constantly turning out babies to make up for the baby. She was going to die. India Vogue ratio of productive adults two non-working children and then the third reason for the break down of Machinery at high temperatures in the tropics that disadvantage of being at warm temperatures one can see within countries that span a lot of latitude in Brazil is too cool temperate zone in the South that's richer than the tropics in the
Norwalk used to be the case in the United States as well. So that's one thing that you can see from your nap of Africa when you can easily convinced yourself, but there's another thing that you see from your nap Earth Africa up 48 African countries. There are 33 that are on the Seacoast and one Amazing and one that's on a on a navigable river but they were 15 landlocked tropical countries 15 countries that do not have access to the sea in the knot on a navigable river being
landlocked is a big disadvantage for those 15 countries like Zambia in Central African Republic in the middle of Africa because transport by sea Burton and per mile is 7 times cheaper than transport by land sopine landlocked is a big disadvantage. Well, if you make this more homework for you something that will convince you even more quickly take a nap of South America South America simple because they're only 12 countries in South America and lo and behold the three countries in the temperate zones Argentina Uruguay. En Chile are richer
than any of the nine other countries in South America, which are in the tropics in the temperate zones, even Argentina famous for his bad government. If you are in Argentina, which has half of the sea area as the Pampas 213 fertile campus so productive for grain and for cattle if you were in Argentina with the Pampas even a inefficient government can prevent your country from becoming rich, but there's one other thing that you can see from your Napa South America. I told you about the disadvantages of being
landlocked in Africa in South America. There's only one land. What country does Bolivia and lo and behold. Surprisingly Bolivia was the poorest country in South America has of being in the being in the tropics and of being landlocked their consequences of geography. Naturally. There are other factors that also affect National Geography is one of the big factors. One can one. Does that mean that the situation for tropical countries is hopeless and that they should give up on ever achieving well know it's just
as with human illness. If you are ill you go to the doctor if you get a diagnosis the doctor once you are ill that doesn't mean that you have found two. I the diagnosis tells you what medicine to cure you can take and simile being in the tropics. You can get a diagnosis. There are things that you can do in the things you should not do in order to get rich in the tropics. Don't they see our economy on agriculture? The tropical countries have had become rich most spectacularly Singapore Malaysian Costa Rica have learned to get there money in ways other than from
agriculture. If you in the tropics do invest in public health, Singapore Thailand in Botswana did it go spectacularly Singapore the lemonade and malaria and is now by far the richest tropical country in the world if you are in Tropics leave the exportation of agricultural products to temperate zone countries like the US Canada Netherlands and Argentina. Well one might say so what if those tropical countries are poor that's very sad and saw their own fault anyway, but start a problem for us earring temperate zone countries 60 years ago. Having poor countries out there without a
problem for which countries because the world wasn't globalized. But today the world is globalize and it is a problem having poor countries out there for what countries were at least three reasons. One reason is the spread of tropical diseases from poor tropical countries with low Public Health budgets to Rich temperate zone countries on jet planes a famous example was one Alton one error. When is Argentina's flight that stopped in through picked up food in Peru. The food was contaminated with cholera. The plane went on to Los
Angeles and passengers from La connected on to San Francisco Seattle theater times and Tokyo and that one airplane flight left a string of Cholera cases from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle to Fairbanks the Tokyo greater tropical diseases on jet planes nowadays other Apical diseases that are spread on jet plane include most notably AIDS and Ebola Marlboro Yankee Chikungunya fever but climate change nowadays. Means that these tropical diseases risk getting established thanks to a jet plane fly in temperate zone countries
and is happening now with coronavirus on from China. A second reason why those poor tropical countries are problems with temperate zone countries today is support for international terrorism by desperately poor populations in in tropical countries know that there is not a reasonable chance. India lifetime was a lifetime of their children that they are going to get rich and Sten then the third problem the tropical countries Pollo Tropical countries posed for temperate zone countries is Unstoppable immigration by people who going to
leave And that's especially the problem in Europe, which is face-to-face with Africa with 1 billion people almost all of them would be better off if they were in Europe and they know it. Sowell fairies with geography. What else is it that varies with geography. He saw its wealth. Another thing is climate change. Well, you know, the climate change means that the world is getting hotter dryer and low agricultural productivity that's true on the average but there were differences with geography. There are some parts of the world that paradoxical
getting Like the southeastern United States While most of the world including us are in California or getting warmer agricultural production in general is declining with climate change. And that's happening here in California agricultural production is rising in Sweden and Britain thanks to climb a chain Sweden Britain and now producing why that was not the case when I lived in Britain 60 years ago and I can tell you that this new British wine. It's not bad thanks to climb a chain fire hazards on the
average increasing round-the-world thanks to climate change. We know it now in California or any of you from Australia know it even more in Australia, but I have since I'm not a consideration in Alabama to climate-change theories around the world. Another thing the berries around the world is resource problems. Resource problems beard with geography some countries are resource-poor and other countries are resource-rich for Geographic reasons the Japanese off and say our country is poor in resources and relatively speaking that
screw on the other hand Zambia and Iceland are rich in resources, especially rich in hydroelectric power Zambian Iceland produce so much electricity from hydroelectric power that they make money by their electricity. They don't need it all exports and sells electricity to South Africa and Iceland have so much hydroelectric power and geothermal power that wants to do something to get money with all that excess Excess power and the Iceland is lit on the solution of aluminum. There isn't aluminum the nice ones, but they import aluminum and they use all
their electricity to smelt aluminum and aluminum is the biggest money are the bigger. foreign exchange rate of Iceland what resource problems are going to increase around the world as the number of people around the world increases and as average consumption rates per person increase around the world. That rise in resource consumption in a world of finite resources means that we are going to see more and more resources scrambles fights or competition for resources. A resource scramble was the background reason
with the background cause for Japan's entering World War. I just came back from two trips to Japan where I went to the Japanese Imperial War Museum and it's very explicitly the cause of World War II being Japan's search for over a physician Scramble for overseas resources resource scrambles today on especially significant for seafood and believe it or not freshwater. You might have why on Earth is the earth restore Scramble for fresh water when we can just make freshwater from saltwater. Yes in theory and the fact that you can make freshwater from
saltwater, but that requires fuel which reduce releases carbon into the atmosphere. So you don't want to make my freshwater from saltwater because that requires few. On utilise freshwater today something like 85% of the world's freshwater is already been utilized the unusual eyes freshwater. It's on utilize because it's in remote places notably Northwest Australia and Siberia and there are good reasons. Why reasons of access if you're not using that little freshwater left, A Scramble for freshwater. This growing crops.
Most serious impending Scramble for freshwater is with a melting of the Himalayan ice cap. But the Himalayan glaciers they provide the water for the big rivers of Southeast Asia the Mekong on the brahmaputra in the Ganges and so on mcley dams Upstream for example dams in China already cutting off the water supply to dancing countries. Those are the most productive fishery in the world freshwater fishing in the world the tonle sap fishery of Cambodia. It's already lost 85% of its production thanks to decreasing water flow in the dams Upstream
all the countries where there is already a Scramble for freshwater and which come close to conflict over it include turkey and Hungary versus Czechoslovakia. And then Egypt Nile facing problems must mean dams. So here's another case with geography makes a difference. The last example that I want to give you a geography making a difference is a subtle one and that has to do with the differences between China and Europe. Why is it that the Spy China's leader in
technology in the middle ages seven hundred years ago by China having the world's largest population and deposit despite trying to having to see me a dare to draw the political Unity for a long time. Why is it that China has not led the world in is not is not going to leave the world a curse of Chinese history is what I called were trying. China precisely because that's Unity workers back and forth between success and failure China got unified and you'll see if this is connected to geography China was unified for the first time in the 221
BC and trying has been unified on and off the most of the time since to 21 BC in the still unified today in contrast. Europe has never been unified Europe has always been split into today 50 countries into the path hundreds of different principalities military Geniuses and political Geniuses from Augustus to Charmaine to Napoleon. Nobody has ever managed to unify Europe. Well, you might think that Unity is an advantage vagina and disunity a disadvantage for your know. It works the opposite way unit e means With one person at the top when the one person
makes a good decision that's good for the old country. But that one person at the top when that one person makes a bad decision. It's a disaster for the country and that's why China lost a technologically China in the Middle Ages lead the world in technology that had the world's biggest ships that have the world best ocean-going ships a large Fleet of them and in the from 1405 to 1432 Triana sent out a fleet of its Fleet of treasure ships with 20,000 sales on them shift 500 feet long to walk Columbus's ships. China's treasure Fleet sailed
out 752 Indian down the coast of Africa and looked as if China was on the verge of round in the tip of Africa showing up at conquering Europe, but it never happened. Why was unified in 1432. China's one Impala one Emperor said we don't need that please. What's at 3000 Springhouse tack giraffes and ivory and we don't need that trying to has everything going for 3:30 to the Emperor of China said no more ocean-going sleep. That's what happens with China's Unity contrast that with this Unified District knighted Europe. They was this crazy
Italian call Christopher Columbus who had the weird idea that you can sail across the Atlantic Ocean when everybody knows that the end of the Atlantic Ocean there's a trench and chips will fall into the trench. So Christopher Columbus asked for support from one another third floor prince in Italy. Everybody said you're crazy and then went to France the king of France said you're crazy went to Spain the king of things that just lost your knots went to Portugal the king of Portugal said ridiculous went back to Spain prior to do care by Franz and finally on the 7th. Try Christopher
Columbus ships. They were little ships. They were only three of them, but precisely because Europe was disunified. Christopher Columbus have lots of chances trying to do not have the chance Christopher Columbus cross the Atlantic did not fall into a trench and the result was then a dream of Europeans going around the world with a result that the world today is European on and it's not Chinese eyes. Is that something that was the case only in the fast no trying to even today velour trips back and forth between successes and failures under Chairman Mao of China
collectivized. It's Farms with the results of 30 million people died starve to death epidemic of diabetes. Today is a result in China. There was the Great Leap Forward. They was The Madness of the cultural revolution. There was the closing down of China's educational system sending China's teachers and professors out into the fields for 2 years to work next to Pesos in this unified Europe. Yes, dear been crazy leaders in disunified Europe, but you have his net. Had a crazy leader who is closed down the educational system and could collectivize the farms in
all of Europe that's been Europe's advantage of your rag muttation has been paradoxically a strength of Europe by meaning competition between different countries hunt dozens of different experiments hundreds of different experiments an experiment that works best of a conch country Stan copy the what is all the what is the Weather Channel trying to got to do with geography my last homework assignment for you just to look at a map of China and compared with a map of Europe. What's going to strike you you will notice that the coast of Europe is
mass of the indented your past the big Peninsula was the Greek Peninsula the Italian Peninsula Bay Area Peninsula, the Danish Scandinavian peninsula of peninsulas became a separate country of Cyprus language of Stanford experiment. Define with smooth fine is only permissible yout tongue. Peninsula is too small 11 to become an independent experiment look also at all Islands Europe has big all Islands Britain and Ireland Each of which has become an independent experiment and has only one small while to find on close to the mainland
Hainan never became significant look walls with the rivers of China has tried has two big Rivers the Yellow River and Yangtze River, but Ryan has two rivers that flow parallel and the land between them is low. So trying to screw Rivers were connected by Canal early over 2000 years ago Europe's Rivers again. Look at the map yours blowout radio, like the spokes of a wheel from the Alps in the center. So the same goes here in the room goes here in the volume goes here. Yoga goes here in the fiscal goes here and the Dan goes here in the pogos
here, but Europe's River Basin became a separate experiment became Italy became Germany became France became hungry. We was in fine of the the two rivers unified China finally the mountain in Europe. There are the Alps in the center of Europe and they are the Pyrenees separating France from Spain and they are the Carpathian Mountains and they were the Border mountains of Scandinavia. Europe is fragmented by Nautica on either side of staying here this Italy here and there's Germany here this meeting here in this Norway here.
So Europe has been fragmented by its peninsulas and buy us. All Islands In this River is in the mountain and the fragmentation of Europe has been the strength of your it mean dozens hundreds of competing experiments while China with a smooth Coastline and its lack of significant all islands and it's parallel quickly join rivers and slack of mountains in the central core of China. China was unified early 221. BC has been unified most of the time since then is still Flight today and that has been and Will Remain the curse of China China's Unity. It
means the China will continue to Lurch back and forth and we seen that right now the coronavirus good Heavens. It was over the saws epidemic in 2004 these diseases that come to us from animals. If you are a cruel person who wants to kill as many people in the world as possible. You would Foster the transmission of diseases from animals to us human. How would you best boss trip by having opening outdoor Walker? Will you bring Wild Kratts animals into the marker? You don't just have the wild animal eaten by the Hunter and just the hunter gets infected. You
bring all those wild animals and lots of people infected and that was the case in 2004. You would think that that would be enough of a lesson know. It wasn't do we have coronavirus today. We will see how trying to alert us to. What it should do is closed down for rapid oil wild animal markets in the country, but it didn't do that before that. We'll see what happens today a pincher of geography despite all being a globalized World Geography still makes a difference. It makes a difference to well. It makes a difference to resources. It makes a difference to the consequences of
location of to get makes different even in subtle ways like the smooth Coastline. So this evening if it looks those naps take a look at a map of Africa take a look of Napa South America and look at the coastline of trying to take a look at the coastline of Europe and you will see geography matters geography will always mad at the geography is the Bedrock of human society. Thank you.
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