May 29th, 2007
In May of 1987, Jarad Diamond wrote an article called "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race" explaining how when man adopted an agricultural based lifestyle instead of sticking with hunting and gathering, we made a huge mistake. Much of content of this article has become more prophetic in recent years and months. Jarad who has written two best selling books "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" and "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" has some interesting stuff to say about how much easier we had it as hunters and gatherers (no seriously, it’s for real). Although this is not vegetarian related, it is probably the most natural diet that has ever existed. If you find it or catch it, go ahead and eat it. Here are some interesting excerpts from the article.
Agriculture’s effect on leisure time
"Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers? Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn’t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"
Agriculture’s influence on class systems
"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, non-producing élite set itself above the disease-ridden masses. Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. 1500 B. C. suggest that royals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were two or three inches taller and had better teeth (on the average, one instead of six cavities or missing teeth). Among Chilean mummies from c. A. D. 1000, the élite were distinguished not only by ornaments and gold hair clips but also by a fourfold lower rate of bone lesions caused by disease."
Inequality between sexes
"Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes, as well. Freed from the need to transport their babies during a nomadic existence, and under pressure to produce more hands to till the fields, farming women tended to have more frequent pregnancies than their hunter-gatherer counterparts–with consequent drains on their health. Among the Chilean mummies for example, more women than men had bone lesions from infectious disease."
Diamond highlights some interesting phenomenon that has occurred as a result of agriculture. Arguably, these occurrences may be directly or indirectly related to agriculture, but much of what he says holds some truth to it.
The rest of the article can be found here.
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