Agriculture is... Evil?
Agriculture is… Evil?
Agriculture is the Pandora's box of the world. Had it not been for this process the world would be a better place for all who dwell on it. At least, such is the opinion of Jared Diamond.
According to Diamond, agriculture has brought upon the world “gross social and sexual inequality,” “disease and despotism,” and countless other hardships. Contrary to popular belief, people from hunter gatherer societies tend to get more food then their farming neighbors. Similarly, they also tend to have far more time off to sleep and create various forms of art. Another key point to note that is since food cannot be kept for long, it is impossible for one person to amass a wealth of food and have power over those around them.
Diamond also mentions historical information that shows the atrocities that agriculture has performed upon humanity. Due to agriculture an abrupt drop in average height of men and women, as well as a drop in life span has occurred. As well, while certain agricultural societies in the past would be destroyed if a certain crop failed, the hunter-gatherer would not have the same problem.
To finish his point, Diamond shows how women are transformed to “beasts of burden” within most societies due to their obligations. They are made to work excessively at carrying heavy objects for the sake of their village's farming necessities.
Due to all of these reasons, it would appear that agriculture has, in fact, led to greed, war, famine, and tyranny throughout the world. Furthermore, the only reason people ever turned to agriculture was a need to sustain a larger population. All of this is a logical conclusion given the information presented, however, several key points are missed.
The first major problem with Diamond's argument lies in the nutritional information he omits. He states that hunter-gatherers attain more calories from meat and various shrubs. However, what he fails to mention is that there is a lot more energy stored in grains then in meat. This is due to food losing 90% of its energy as it works up each level of the food pyramid. Hunter-gatherers must eat a lot more food to attain the same amount of energy that someone in an agricultural society would attain from grain.
The second point of conflict comes from Diamond's belief that food managed to create the social barriers of society. He proposes that without the ability to keep food, there would be no way for certain people to attain more food/power than other people. It is his belief that food distribution creates a class structure. Without wealth of food, no one would idolize or hate anyone else. With this being the case, one must wonder what would happen if there were no agricultural societies. In this proposed world, isn't it fairly possible that conflict would arise between people fighting for the same hunting grounds? This would become especially evident as populations grew and tribes would be forced to expand. As such, that lack of food wealth for any particular person would end up leading to conflicts between tribes rather than individuals within the society.
Following in line with this, the problem of a major crop shortage due to drought would be as likely to affect people in an agricultural society as a hunter-gatherer one. The food which hunter-gatherers eat is equally as effected by drought as any agricultural society would be. The simple matter is that if there is a lack of water, it affects all forms of food, from vegetables to animals. Both societies would be at an equal disadvantage, a fact that Diamond seems to wish to ignore.
Returning to the argument that inequality in food distribution leads to war once must take into account other factors. In all honesty, food can create conflict between the have and have nots. However, it is far more common in a contained society that people will fight amongst themselves over material possessions. Diamond states himself that the hunter-gatherer societies have an abundance of time to create art, and as such, would have the means to create inequality in society. As is shown by the large amounts of police forces across the world, it is not merely food that people steal from each other.
By doing a little research into some of Diamond's arguments, one can quickly come to the conclusion that they are simply based upon opinion and have little depth beyond that. The fact that he claims gorilla's could possibly build the pantheon since they have free time is a perfect example of this. In summarization, it is not that people were forced into the evil that is agriculture; rather, it was a conscious choice that has paid off, and continues to pay off as noted by the advancement of society and the ability to hoard resources for long time difficulties.