WITH OR AGAINST AGRICULTURE
WITH OR AGAINST AGRICULTURE
Jared Diamond in his article, “The worst mistake ever made by human race” supports agricultural practices of early people who practiced hunting and gathering as their livelihood. Agriculture was not practiced during the early periods and people lived better lives compared to the current ones. Jared argues that with the adoption of new means of getting foods, people have adopted unhealthy feeding practices that have led to development of diseases and poor nutrition. Diamond also argues the average time taken by hunters and gatherers in search for food was only twelve to nineteen hours. Today people work for almost fifty hours a week looking for jobs to sustain them. Jared was wrong about this. When one compares the early practices with the recent or adopted agricultural practices, things have changed from worse to better. We are better off than the hunters and gatherers, people of Middle Ages and the cave dwellers who were said to have been advanced than the ape.
Jared argues that “archeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress .In particular, in recent discoveries suggests that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our decisive step towards a better life… With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism that curse our existence” . His argument might have some mere truth in it, but then if we take a look at all the positive things agriculture has brought with it, we will forget the optimistic things about the hunters and gatherers. We are safe from predators and starvation than the early people; we have variety of foods, material goods that are abundant. Jared did not take into consideration the reasons why some of those hunters and gatherers had to adopt agriculture, it is simply because they found it as an efficient way to work less and get food faster. They saw it was better to store food for future instead of struggling to survive.
Agriculture was a better option for people as it paved way for civilization. There were major for people to adopt it .For example, the growing population in places like Europe could not have been fed with hunting and gathering only. They needed better ways to feed the growing population. People discovered draught animals, which provided power for cultivation in farm and were a source of food and milk. Oxen were harnessed to work in farms. Later wheeled wagon and ploughs were innovated in Europe. The wagons were used to carry food from distant farms. The main crops planted in Europe were wheat and rice. The country saw a better thriving economy in agriculture. All this led to a period known as the Neolithic period from 8000 BC. During this period, many people in Europe lived in small-scale and family based communities and depended more on domesticated plants and animal supplements for survival. People then started clearing forests for agriculture and used wood as a source of fuel.
In his article, diamond discusses the curses of agriculture. Agriculture brought epidemics, which were brought about by crowding. He also adds that, agriculture brought the idea of gender and race inequalities but the question is, why were majority of this hunter and gatherers transforming to agriculture. People were expanding, the hunting-gathering groups were also increasing in numbers and therefore more food was needed to feed the growing population. When agriculture developed, the idea of medicine also developed. Therefore, people found a remedy for those diseases. He also argues that, hunters needed a low population density of about ten square kilometer per person unlike the farmers who required a hundred times that of the hunters. It is clear that, with the rising population, people needed large living areas where they could practice farming.
Mesopotamia is another place where the history of agriculture can be traced. The country is said to be the cradle of civilization. Agriculture in Mesopotamia began in the 8000-2000 B.C.E. There was enough rainfall to enhance the cultivation of lands. During this period, many hunters and gatherers started the cultivation of wild plants. It was mainly made to hold the people from hunger especially when hunting was unsuccessful. The most famous Mesopotamia plant was maize. They saw maize as a plant that was storable for a long period and which could be ground into flour. It became a vital survival plant for all Mesopotamia people. The first wheel was invented in Mesopotamia. Archeologists in 1922 CE discovered the remains of a wagon (four-wheeled) which is among the oldest wheeled vehicles ever made. Other developments made in Mesopotamia were domestication of animals, discovery of common tools, and irrigation among others. For instance, domestication of animals in Mesopotamia changed people’s lives with the most significant change being the shift from nomadic live to settled villages. Mesopotamia is also named as the home for crops like barley, wheat and animals like sheep, goats, cattle and pigs.
A shift to
agriculture was a very important step towards the change of human lives from a
careless way of living, to a better and organized way. The shift is said to
have been a great period for it enhanced major discoveries in the field of
agriculture. In other words, it paved way for civilization, mechanization and industrialization,
which eventually led to the introduction of trade. It is evident that if people
had continued living like hunters and gathers, not all things happening today
would be there. The idea of civilization will not be present in history today.
The life of hunting and gathering sounds miserable. Agriculture was a major
step to modernization.
Diamond J. The Worst Mistake in the History of Human Race. LA: University of California, May 1987.
Malam, J.Ancient Mesopotamia. Milwaukee, Wis: Gareth Stevens Pub, 2005.
I. J. The origins of agriculture in Europe.
 Jared Diamond. The Worst Mistake in the History of Human Race. (LA: University of California, May 1987),64.
 I.J Thorpe. The origins of agriculture in Europe.( London: Routledge, 1996),36.
 Jared Diamond. The Worst Mistake in the History of Human Race. (LA: University of California, May 1987), 65.
 J. Malam..Ancient Mesopotamia. (Milwaukee, Wis: Gareth Stevens Pub, 2005), 54.
 Ibid, 59.