The following is an excerpt from my new book, “The Failures of Farming and the Necessity of Wildtending,” available here.
The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. —John Lanchester
The “Agricultural Revolution” is lauded as one of the greatest achievements in the history of the human race, proof positive of “Progress” and of our own exalted status “a little lower than angels.” Doubtless, it is among the most momentous changes that our species has experienced, on par with the utilization of fire, the development of language and the splitting of the atom. However, a closer look, based on research and scholarship, reveals that the adoption of farming led to declines in human health, caused sharp social inequities, started a war on the environment, and put us on a road that’s headed towards extinction.
But wasn’t life before farming miserable? Notoriously “nasty, brutish and short?” Weren’t hunters and gatherers always on the edge of starvation, constantly focused on survival, and never able to enjoy free time? According to experts who study history: No.