History of Agriculture
Human Evolution: Diet, Sedentary Lifestyles & Family Structure. Sustainable Farming, Technology, Crops, Soil Nutrition, Nature


'The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race' by Jared Diamond. On Evolution, Diet & Agriculture.

'Recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism,that curse our existence.

Crops and Nutrition

.. While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a better balance of other nutrients. In one study, the Bushmen's average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and ninety-three grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size.

Agriculture Bad for Health

.. There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health.
First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early farmers obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops. The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition.
Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed.
Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease.

Farming, Sedentary Lifestyle & Family

.. Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, nonproducing elite set itself above the disease-ridden masses.

.. Farming could support many more people than hunting, albeit with a poorer quality of life. (Population densities of hunter gatherers are rarely over one person per ten square miles, while farmers average 100 time that.) Partly, this is because a field planted entirely in edible crops lets one feed far more mouths than a forest with scattered edible plants. Partly, too, it's because nomadic hunter-gatherers have to keep their children spaced at four-year intervals by extended nursing and other means, since a mother must carry her toddler until it's old enough to keep up with the adults. Because farm women don't have that burden, they can and often do bear a child every two years.

.. Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest lasting lifestyle in human history. In contrast, we're still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us, and it's unclear whether we can solve it.'

"The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race"
by Jared Diamond, Prof. UCLA School of Medicine
Discover-May 1987, pp. 64-66


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History of Agriculture: Human Evolution & Diet, Nutrition, Crops, Sustainable Farming





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