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Jared Diamond talks about the natural world

8 March 2013
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond was awarded the Kew International Medal in 2013 for his contribution to science and conservation. During his visit to the Gardens Jared spoke to Kew about the importance of plants and what we can learn from traditional societies in building a sustainable future.

Jared Diamond on the natural world

On winning the Kew International Medal

On winning the Kew International Medal, Jared Diamond said, “I am honoured to receive this award from an institution as prestigious as Kew. Human history has many insights for us. As a global community we are at a crossroads in many ways, and we need to take action by drawing on the lessons of the past, as well as turning to institutions such as Kew, who have the expertise to help us navigate the future by providing practical solutions to the problems we are facing.” 

Professor Angela McFarlane, Director of Public Engagement and Learning at Kew, said, “We are absolutely delighted to honour Jared Diamond with the Kew International Medal. There is a clear message at the heart of his straightforward and, at times, unsettling view about the success – and failure – of societies, which goes hand in hand with Kew’s global efforts to conserve plant diversity through projects such as the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. At Kew, we know plants are absolutely vital to our ability to respond to some of the big environmental challenges that we are facing, as well as being the key to food security. We have the technology and the knowhow to respond and adapt, but we need people around the world to recognise the central role of plants in providing economic, health and environmental benefits."

The world until yesterday by Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond's latest book - The World Until Yesterday

The World Until Yesterday provides a mesmerising firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years - a past that has mostly vanished - and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.

Diamond draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people and others. Although he doesn’t romanticise traditional societies - and readers may be shocked by some of the practices he describes - Diamond suggests that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk and physical fitness have much to teach us.

The World Until Yesterday, by Jared Diamond

About the author

Jared Diamond's unique background covers the fields of evolutionary biology, anthropology, ecology and human history. He is a Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the influential bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, which won Britain’s 1998 Rhone-Poulenc Science Book Prize and was one of TIME’s 100 best non-fiction books of all time, selling over one million copies.


8 March 2013
Jared Diamond believes that today's tribal peoples have much to teach the industrial West. He also makes the bold (and false) claim that 'most' tribal peoples live in a state of 'constant warfare', and that they therefore welcome the imposition of the state. There is no evidence to prove this. See why:
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