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Pulitzer Prize winning author visiting Ventura County says food is the key to strength of nations


Jared Diamond spent decades studying why some nations have emerged as global powerhouses, while others struggle. He's set to speak in Thousand Oaks.

Why are some countries so much better off than others? A historian, geographer, ornithologist, and Pulitzer Prize winning author set to speak in Ventura County this weekend has studied that question for decades.

"It's the biggest, and most important, and probably the most contested question of history," said Dr. Jared Diamond. He's spent much of his career looking at the issue of global inequality.

"The human species evolved in had a head start. 500 years ago, the biggest city in the world was the Aztec capitol. 3000 years ago, there was civilization in the fertile crescent of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Jordan where writing, and state government, and metals were why on earth did Europe and America become the richest countries in the world?" said Diamond.

He says he’s taken a step back looking at global history: Instead of focusing on a specific country, he says you need to do comparisons.

"Most historians study one place, and one time slot. I compare this history of Europe, and China, and Mexico, and Africa...seeing the differences," he said.

He said seeing the differences forced him to ask what led to some places not being the modern, advanced countries that others were.

Diamond said it was never about genetics, or intelligence. He thinks the key is geography and environment, which allowed for an ample food supply, and population growth. That was the basis of his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, which became an international best seller. It won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.

Diamond said it took him decades to connect the dots with food production, and the role in societies around the world.

When the UCLA professor talked to KCLU News, he was busy working on his latest book.

"I'm chronically, always working on a book," joked Diamond. "I'm sitting here at my desk, looking at the first draft pages of my next book, which will be about leadership, and why leaders make the difference in some fields, but not in others."

Diamond will speak at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza at 7 p.m. Sunday. It’s part of a speaker series sponsored by Temple Etz Chaim, in Thousand Oaks. Diamond’s talk will look at the big picture of human development. It's called “Societal Development: The History of Everything for the Last 13,000 Years.”

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.