I read Genes, Climate, and Consumption Culture: Connecting the Dots at the perfect time, which was after reading Homo Deus and Guns, Germs, and Steel. It was an excellent complement to those two books and I’m glad I read them before reading this one.
In Genes, Climate, and Consumption Culture, Dr. Jagdish Sheth covers how culture is a function of climate. The differences in climate between North and South led to what is best summed up in this quote:
“the relatively more arduous struggle to survive in Northern Europe (as opposed to, for instance, climates with your-round growing seasons) gave rise to a bundle of cultural values: efficient use of time, control of the environment, mastery of technique, achievement, competition which in turn fostered the West’s culture of individualism.”
These differences had an impact on industrialism and the individualistic/collectivist divide:
“That colder climates and the concomitant need to control one’s environment constitute an essential impetus behind the rise of industrialism in the West is one of the core ideas we are advancing here.”
However, looking into the recent past and potential future, Dr. Sheth notes that standardization in products, food, clothing, shelter, and even conditioned inside air temperatures could be driving us away from what we should be consuming at a local level.
This led to the main question I had while reading this book. Should I try to adapt to my current climate or where I’m from? If I’m considering my genes, then it would be where I’m from. In my case, I grew up in Minnesota and now live in Nashville. I lived in Atlanta for many years as well. Should my diet be more of a traditional Minnesota diet? And what is a traditional Minnesota diet in the age of food standardization? Also, my family heritage is Norwegian. Should I adapt a Norwegian diet or a Nashville diet? It’s more obvious with climate – I should adapt to where I am. But what about food if my genes are geared more towards Norway?
I loved this book. It was utterly fascinating. It was one of those books where you smack your head a few times with your hand and say, Duh! Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that? The book was also a pleasure to read. You could tell that Dr. Sheth loved the topic. At times he would write – “isn’t that fascinating?” as he discussed an issue.
I recommend this book to a few audiences:
- Anyone who has read Guns, Germs, and Steel and wants to learn more
- Anyone who works with other cultures for their work either with personnel or with product launches in different areas
Note: this book took me two weeks to read only because I was traveling with my wife and daughters in another country. I didn’t have much time to read during those two weeks. However, the book is relatively short and can be read rather quickly.
I actually posed my question above to Dr. Sheth, and this was his response (for context, my heritage is Norwegian, I grew up in Minnesota, but currently live in Nashville):
Genes and diet go together. Therefore, follow the Norway and NOT Nashville.