Discovering the New World Columbus Created

2011, Charles Mann

see also 1491.

Another fascinating book, like 1491. The book is primarily about the Homogenecene, the spreading of people, plants, animals, and pathogens around the world, intentionally or by accident. The world was a lot more biologically diverse before Cristobal Colon connected Spain to the Americas, leading to ocean connections between all the continents.

Exploration permits crimes (slavery, theft, ecological destruction) that are not permitted back home. Much of this book is about the invasion of rural or poorly defended places to rape the land, enslave or exterminate the people, and steal everything portable.

Extraction requires resources (tied to land) and people to extract them. Europe assigned property rights to land, Africa assigned property rights to people. Many slaves (sold by Africans to Europeans) were prisoners of war, or merely surplus "property" exchanged for European weapons by African kings. African slavery was much gentler than European exploitation of Africans imported to the Americas. Much of that exploitation was "justified" because many captured Africans were muslim, and thus "heretics". Yet another lesson in the "differential perfidy" of world cultures, suggesting that a global service like Server Sky must adapt to the strengths and foibles of every culture it serves.

American Indians did not have axes and plows. They used slash-and-burn agriculture, large amounts of modified land per person. After old-world diseases wiped out the Indians, the land reverted to forest, CO2 dropped, and we got the Little Ice Age, cold weather enduring until the Europeans cleared the land again, not only with axes but with grass-eating cows and sheep. Nice pointer to Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum by William F. Ruddiman, who demonstrates that humans started modifying the climate with agriculture thousands of years ago, averting an ice age.

Near the end of the book, we learn of Maria do Rosario Costa Cabral (Dona Rosario) and her 25 acres on the banks of Igarape Espinel (Espinel Creek), near Mazagao Velho in Amapa province in N.E. Brazil. She purchased land damaged by the 1980s "heart of palm" craze, which raped Amazonian forests to gather little bits of the tree for salads in Los Angeles. Over decades, she paid off taxes owed by prior owners, restored the land to traditional Indian-style multicropped agriculture: timber, limes, coconut, and acai; shrimp and fish in the river. An electric wire along the river now powers her cell phone charger (and presumably cell towers) and a chest freezer. This allowed her to sell her acai crop for the best prices, and save money in the bank. In 2009, surveyors invaded her land to plant stakes and mark trees for sale. She used her cell phone to call the government, and her capital to connect to lawyers.

This is important for server sky - connectivity can protect property rights. With full internet bandwidth, Dona Rosario and her fellow villagers will be able to research the law, research the bandit surveyors and the companies they work for, and share their story with the global community, amplifying their power. They can also interact with the global market, learning consumption trends and connecting past middlemen directly to well-heeled consumers.

1493 (last edited 2015-03-21 17:24:47 by KeithLofstrom)