The geography of The Silk Road
After reading The Silk Roads, questions about causes on the unfolding of history remain. For this, I would recommend the excellent Guns, Germs and Steel, The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. What makes his work so reliable, is that the author lived with for example native New Guineans and went to the most remote places like the Polynesian Islands. Further, he connects a broad range of expertises among others ecology, geography and linguistics into a trustworthy explanation of historical events.
The Silk Road or Eurasia continent is the greatest landmass at the globe on the same latitude, where more than 60% of the world population lives. As day and seasons vary modestly on the same latitude, humans could spread food production techniques along The Silk Road easily. Along with farming of plants and domestication of animals, religion and technology were exchanged.
The differences in climate (and as a consequence also in people) from north to south are much larger than from west to east. Compare nowadays for example the differences between the United States and Mexico or between northern and southern Europe. Along the Silk Road from the Mediterranean to Middle East, however, we will find many similarities.
Further, if we compare the coast lines of Europe with the one of China, we understand why Europe is so fragmented, while China has been unified for more than two thousand years. Europe consist of different peninsulas with a large Island, the United Kingdom. Therefore, China can influence this increasingly globalized world more than Europe can. China’s initiative One Belt One Road to rebuild infrastructure along the ancient Silk Roads is one of the examples.
In his sequel Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, the author argues the power shifted from Eastern Asia to Northwestern Europe gradually, mainly because the East destructed its environment by for example deforestation and soil erosion. At the same time, its population grew tremedously. This ‘ecological suicide’ let to lower food production, which weakened the military power and caused political turmoil.
Today, countries like Irak, Afganistan and Pakistan are still unstable. However, this is at least partly due to the Western world. The Western lifestyle is unsustainable. Its high consumption leads to pollution and excessive use of the natural resources. While resources like oil are imported, the West exports their pollution to poorer countries.
This imballance will be ‘resolved’ sooner or later. In our globalized world, the West cannot close its eyes for this. The poor circumstances in the Third World countries lead to refugees and yield the environment for terrorists. The rebirth of the Silk Roads is essential for the future of humans.