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The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

this article appeared in Discover Magazine in 1987

was the shift to agricultural farming the worst mistake in the history of the human race?

after reading the article i think there’s a lot of interesting points that support raw foodism! what do you think?



  • Daniel Quinn brings this up in a lot of his books also. He calls it “totalitarian agriculture”. Where that type of farming is so sweeping that its almost impossible to stop it, because the more food you need, the more land you need, and you thus try to take over the earth just for food.

    This goes hand in hand with putting food under lock and key. Where we have to work jobs that are meaningless just to get money to get food.

    Agricultural farming may be the worst mistake, but making us pay for food that was free in the first place is whats keeping it in place.

  • wow- really good point jkd!!! I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately. I believe that most land should be public land, so that folks can forage, garden, etc. and aren’t homeless outcasts if they can’t/don’t buy into the stupid commercial system today. I wish with every fiber in me – that I lived in any point in history before now. This is not the right world for me to live in – folks killing the environment. It is crushing me.

  • Was the shift to agricultural farming the worst mistake in the history of the human race? It’s up there.

    And amen, Winona.

  • As hopeless as it may seem Winona, perhaps this is the exact right world for you to be in. Minds like yours, and most everyones on this board are needed now more than ever. People who see that things are wrong and are wanting to make a change are needed now more than anytime in history!

    I also agree that most land should be open to the public, and sadly it wont. Once people have personal control over their food supply, they have control over their lives. A freedom that most have never felt before. That freedom is something the government who practice totalitarian agriculture will never give us because the thrive on their control over us. Why else do you think in most cities apple and orange trees are illegal to be picked by the general public? Even if the land owners never care to pick or care for the tree and let all that food go to waste? Why is it illegal to dumpster good and ripe food from trash cans? Sure most law enforcement usually look away, but it can be penalized. Governments control us because they control food, essential to our life here on this planet.

    :) Keep changing minds!

  • I agree jkd_soccer. Giving up the power to get our own food is like giving up our autonomy, and letting someone else control. Diamond also mentions in the article that this is why the switch to agriculture was how social class divisions began. In a foraging society, everyone had to cooperate and share their gatherings. With agriculture making it possible to not be so co-dependent, families were able to form independent units and some could gain more power, control and wealth than others. This is also where ancestry and the orientation on family line became so important.

    But how do we deal with this in the modern world? If we went back to an all-foraging society, the planet would only be able to support a human population of 30 million according to some sources. We really did choose quantity over quality i guess.

  • I think this problem stems from the delusion that everyone is separate. Folks today, even more than in the past, use selfishness and ego to restrict their compassion to a select few.

    “A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. … We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.” (Albert Einstein, 1954)

  • kundal – The more I read on this subject the more confused I am on actually how to deal with the problem in the modern world. Here are my thoughts…

    First and foremost, it is so ingrained in our culture that we have to pay for food that it isnt even a second thought to the majority of the population. We need to waken people up, “change their minds” so to speak, to show them there is another way.

    It doesnt mean (as much as some of us would like) that we should all give up this way of living and be foragers / hunters again. But we must incorporate their ways into our ways. As was said above, there is so much public land that could be used for farming.

    Ive always wanted to talk to someone about this and brainstorm ideas, but every one thinks Im cooky.

    Im at work right now so I dont want to write a novel, because I have so much things to say on this topic that Im probably not making myself very clear.

    Im glad you brought up population also! Increase food supply = increase population. That is how it goes. Now that we can process foods from almost anything, there is really no stopping us from outgrowing the earth and causing irrepable damage.

    If things were somehow ever to go back to what they were, the world would balance itself out again with human population. But not many people are willing to realize that believing in this idea, a sustainable earth, goes hand in hand with population balance. I was once called an immoral man because the person I was talking to about this told me it sounded like I wanted genocide of the human race.

    Which is untrue. I want the earth to be able to balance us as a population, and the only way we can do that is to try to live within Nature’s laws again as much as possible.

  • Winona. Too true!

    Albert Einstein is genius!

    So many people nowadays are so worried about how “change” could affect them personally, when really they need to worry about how “change” can affect their communities here and around the world. How it will affect the Earth they need for support and the people they need for the same reason.

  • Boy, I could think of several “worst mistakes of the human race”. Food system is right up there though.

    For me, I think what the world needs a good HUGE diaster that will totally throw off our current modern system that has ensalved everyone – this way we will have no choice but to totally change it to something else. To get the earth back to a better balance, we really need LESS humans on this planet. I am sure I will be debated on this by the people who think there is “enough for everyone” but I honestly think it is true. If there was enough for everyone, people wouldn’t be starving to death in other countries. If there was enough for everyone, there would be no unemployment at all.

    Another on the worst mistakes in human history (in my opinion at least) is the money and concept of “jobs”. I think a human community would work much better and more peaceful if the concepts of money and jobs (esp the 40 hour work week which really doesn’t exist anymore because it is now the 80 hour work week!) were destoryed. People should go back to the living off the land and trade system. Unfortunatley you are always going to have someone greedy who wants more than others have and wants something for nothing which eventually throw off a possibly balanced system.

    Like kundalita was saying about the food system creating classes -I think money has done that too.

    Although we are so “deep” into modern society, a total deattachment from everything modern is not going to happen, I think better more modern system would be something like having certain communities create certain things and trade off with the others. All the trades would be equal no matter what the product was. IE – Community one would be the apple growing communtiy and community two would be the pineapple growing one. When community one wants pineapple, community two gives it to them and vise versa. All the communities are equal and all do their parts in keeping the system going and alive. Even if you are trading apples for TVs or apples for home repair, it shouldn’t matter what it is. This way the concept of “jobs” as we know them today could be gone and money – we wouldn’t need it anymore. No more competition for money and jobs – esp jobs that you have no control over getting (one of my big irks in todays economy)

    Ok, I am sure someone will find some holes in my little community setup – but if all people were cooperative and concept of greed was gone, I think it could work. Now that I look at it – it sort of sounds like an Amish community doesn’t it? They always band together to help each other out.

    I may just write a book on it one day.:) (hey with the competition for “jobs” I gotta make evil money some how.)

  • I agree with everything you said Queen! And as you said, the only hole is that your theory would work only in a perfect society. There will always try to be someone who wants more money(or stuff) than everyone else and others who are willing NOT to work while taking credit for others.

    In my opinion, a Tribal lifestyle is in order. As you said, this doesnt mean we seperate ourselves from technology, nor can we, but if we look in the past the only type of communities that lived within nature and by its laws and worked for MUCH longer than our “culture” has worked is the tribal lifestyle.

    I think what we have to remember when thinking about possibilities of outcomes for humanity, is that “There is no one right way for people to live.” Everyone will have their own ideas, and thats the way its supposed to be. Not following a government, but a tribe style government.

  • I’m intrigued by your ideology jkd. I have often thought about tribal communities and how well they work. However, there is often alot of warfare with tribes since they’re smaller than countries. With our populated world as big as it is can it be realistic?

  • One of my favorite professors (Archaeology) used to say that all the time. Before the neolithic (dawn of agriculture 10,000 y.a.) humans had never seen large scale warfare, famine, wealth and poverty, nutrition deficiencies, dental caries, just to name a few.

    A sad fact is that each year that goes by, humans must work longer than ever before in human history to have the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter)... the united states is the worst off, surpassing Japan some years ago. In general, we work over 8 hours per day to survive. The few hunter-gatherers left in the world on average work 4 to 8 hours A WEEK to secure what they need and the rest of their time is spent BEING HUMAN.

    anyone have a time machine?

  • Trouble: The warfare tribes used was hardly ever (and i mean almost never) the warfare you see going on today. Today we go to war to take over other peoples lands and resources, sometimes even to exterminate certain races. In these wars, we force these people to start living the way we live. We do this because we run out of resources and room. We run out of room and resources because we have too many people for the Earth to support us. My argument above, imbalance.

    Tribals had all the room they wanted, and never normally had to worry about a tribe rushing over and exterminating their people, forcing them into their way of life, and then using their land for gain. Not until totalitarian agriculture took effect that this ever really happened.

    Warfare was more of a “give as good as you get, but never go overboard.” It kept those inthe tribal societies a reason to stay active, to keep in fighting shape. This is how nature wants us to be.

    Every animal has their own way of doing this. You never hear of one animal wiping out another completely because of land or resources unless humans had something to do with it. Truly they compete for the same resources, but their DNA understands that without that competition there is no way they can evolve to survive.

    Tribal warfare is the same. They will protect their land, but not the point of taking over another tribe. If a tribe member dies because of an attack, they retaliate with their own attack, but never usually hurt more than one or two. This happens rarely, but enough so that they are always remaining healthy for combat.

    To me, this seems like a much better situation that what we have in the World today. We have become lazy, and no longer believe in our governments. Tribal life gives people something that works, AND makes them feel apart of something, and know they are apart of something that works. Giving people that gives them hope and possibilities, a dangerous and beautiful combination.

    That is why in many books and magazines that are government controlled they try to make the remaining (very very few) tribes look like beasts and idiots for not coming over to our way of agriculture. It makes people think that lifestyle doesnt work when it worked for thousands of years and still works to this day wherever you find them.

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