[on the prevalence of war in tribal societies] Lots of anthropologists want to deny that because they love their traditional people and don't want to see them doing things that we consider bad. Denial of reality is still vigorous in anthropology.
Some of my New Guinea friends have told me about being involved in the last tribal wars, and today - there they are - with their T-shirts and boom boxes. When those who grew up with stone tools and fire drills see steel axes and matches, they want steel axes and matches. So their society changes, but there's still a lot traditional they retain.
Some anthropologists and historians bristle at environmental explanations of any sort, because they seem to diminish human agency. That seems to me a poor formulation. There can be no doubt that the environment has some big effects on human societies, even though there are things other than the environment in play. The cultural differences between Canadian and U.S. society today can't be interpreted in the terms of the lower temperatures in Canada. But at the same time, I'm sure Canadians in Nunavut don't go around naked. Is it environmental determinism to say that people have to wear clothes in cold climates, or make hard decisions about who gets what in resource-poor areas, or is the claim just a refusal to engage with the complexity of the situation?