12,000 years ago a crisis ended millions of years of Hunter Gatherer society. We did not happily chose a new way of life. A crisis forced it upon us and our brilliance at using our minds to solve problems lead to us inventing new technology that took us down a path that created the modern world as we know it.
I can see that such a crisis is upon us again and that once more we will have to use our ingenuity to find a new way. This series will be my sketch book as to what that might entail.
Let's start with what happened to us the last time and then I will go on to look at why we face a crisis of similar scale today and then what we might to to get us out of it.
The Crisis that Ended Hunter Gathering
Who better than James Burke to show us what happend
The crisis was a change in climate in the middle east that destroyed the wild habitat that the large population of Hunter Gatherers needed to sustain themselves.
The big new idea was domestication of plants and and animals. The core tool would be the plow. The core new food would be grain. A food that you could store. And so a food that you could control. A process of control that lead top the idea of property, of kings and their great tool for control - the written word.
It meant nothing that this food was a poor substitute for what we had eaten before. We lost a foot in mean height. We developed the diseases of modern civilization. It was eat this or starve.
This was a food that could also expand the population exponentially. Farmer/herder societies could field armies and then take over lands of Hunter Gatherers who had no defence. The grain produced the population, the king, the army and then the conquest.
Our world view is shaped by this history. The normal of centralized control. Of power concentration and the use of the word to control us. Of cheap and easy food.
By 100 AD and the rise of Rome, the end of the Hunter Gatherer world was certain.
Our modern crisis
So what's the crisis? It had better be a big one for our current system is so well entrenched!
I think that these are the elements of the crisis that will force us to change as our Hunter Gatherer ancestors were forced to change.
Our food system today depends utterly on the availability of cheap oil. This is what has made available the expansion of world population from 2 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today. This expansion coincides with the oil age. Some time soon this will no longer be available.
Our focus on grains and the plow and inputs to feed and to defend a concentrated row crop ALWAYS destroys the land.
The clock is ticking for the prairies and California.
Making corn and sugar the centre of the modern diet and the agribusiness, we are also driving a health problem that is overwhelming us. Not just a health crisis but a financial crisis. The costs of dealing with this are too much for any of us to bear or any society.
We are starting to understand now that the very core crop, grains, that saved us all that time back will now destroy us.
We have reached the limits of what the agricultural revolution can offer.
In the middle east back in the day, you could not hunt harder either.
And, I nearly forgot. Nature is also doing her thing. Weather instability is making crop growing a very hard thing to do and it is getting worse. With 7 billion people to feed, we cannot miss a beat but we are.
So in my next post I want to explore how a new diet may drive a new food system. A new food system as radically different as the one that the plow created and with all the ramification for human society and power that a real revolution implies.