politics | March 14, 2013

Jared Diamond: Foreign Aid Isn't Generosity—It's Survival [VIDEO]

The World Until Yesterday, the latest book from environmental historian and Jared Diamond, is centered around the lessons we can learn from studying traditional societies around the world. In a recent interview at Westfield State University, Diamond argued that there is a great deal we can learn from analyzing people who live in different circumstances from our own. Where some societies have succeeded, others have failed—but they all have something to teach us today about how to interact with others.

In the interview, he shares a particularly hard-hitting lesson that the United States needs to learn. "The oceans no longer protect the United States," he says, "and ensuring that people elsewhere in the world are satisfied has become a matter of national survival." Other countries and societies now have the means to vent their frustrations, he explains, in the forms of economic action and, worse yet, terrorism and violence. It is no longer acceptable—or wise—to be self-interested. Foreign aid and foreign policy are no longer issues of generosity, he says. Instead, these things have become a matter of survival.

In his sweeping books and eye-opening talks, Diamond draws on extensive field research on the way society has changed over time—and how we can learn from non-modern societies that exist today. He seamlessly blends anthropology, sociology, and evolutionary biology to present a unique perspective on human and societal evolution. He teaches us how we got to where we are today—and how we can use our past to forge a better path for the future.

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