By Brian Bethune - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
In conversation with Brian Bethune
The eminent American geographer Jared Diamond, 75, has spent two decades exploring the question of how human societies have interacted with their environments and resources. His Pulitzer prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel (1997) discussed the natural advantages available to the cultures that arose on the Eurasian land mass, while Collapse examined how various societies—which may yet include our own—made bad decisions in response to the environmental hands they were dealt. Now, in his newly published The World Until Yesterday, Diamond considers whether the practices derived from the way all humans once lived still provide valuable lessons for the modern world.
Q: Are you arguing that humans have not yet adjusted to the way we now live, emotionally, psychologically and physically?
A: Physically, it’s clear: we have not. Differences to which we have not adjusted include the fact our bodies still have a metabolism appropriate to a binge-and-bust diet, where often you don’t get enough food and then when you get a feast you release lots of insulin and you store the calories as fat. That was fine for the spartan living styles of our past, but now we end up with diabetes. That’s the clearest example of our not being adjusted physically to our current circumstances. As for emotional and psychological lags, there is speculation, but it’s chronically difficult to separate genetic from cultural factors in human attitudes and behaviours. So I personally would not assert anything in those areas. I wouldn’t deny the possibility, I would just say that it’s not established. Continue…
By Peter Shawn Taylor - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:55 AM - 2 Comments
A lot of thought went into this list
There are rankings for universities, safest cities, college sports teams, healthiest countries and nicest places to visit. Now, policy thinkers have their own rankings. And like almost all of the other lists, it’s proving to be controversial.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Society Program recently released a ranking of the leading policy organizations from among the 6,500 think tanks worldwide. While U.S. think tanks dominate the list—the Washington-based Brookings Institution tops the rankings—it has some significant Canadian representation. Ranked 25th in the world and first among Canadian think tanks is the free-market-oriented Fraser Institute. A notable showing was also earned by the Centre for International Governance Innovation, based in Waterloo, Ont., and backed by Research in Motion’s Jim Balsillie, which came 32nd on a separate list that excluded U.S. think tanks.
But there are some equally significant Canadian omissions. Toronto’s C.D. Howe Institute is generally recognized as the preferred outlet for research by Canada’s top academics and boasts an impressive record, particularly in monetary policy, taxation and free trade. And yet, it isn’t anywhere on the lists. “We weren’t aware of this survey,” says William Robson, C.D. Howe’s president and CEO. “But I think we can make a pretty good case for being influential.” Also missing is the Conference Board of Canada, the country’s largest think tank, and the widely cited, left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. James McGann, director of the ranking project, admits that the list—which is determined by a panel of experts who sift through nominations—is still a work in progress, and is planning to tweak it next year in ways that could result in greater Canadian representation.