Class Warfare Blog

January 2, 2017

Agriculture, Smagriculture

We were taught in school that roughly 8000-10,000 years ago an agricultural revolution occurred. Around that time modern humans, the only Homo species left, developed agriculture and the world became a better place.

Instead of wandering around a rather large patch of ground, hunting and gathering as we went, we settled down, first into small villages, then later into larger villages and then cities. Wow, the march of progress has begun!

But, this story glosses over a few facts, facts like human beings became shorter and less heavy because of this change, that human life expectancy decreased because of this change, that human well-being decreased because of this change. As a matter of fact, there was very little that was positive about this transition. And, once it was started by any tribe and made successful, all of that tribe’s neighbors had to conform or be pushed out. Agriculture allowed for a small population expansion, giving its proponents the ability to dominate their region by pure numbers. But, everyone became more miserable because of it. Farmers work longer hours than do hunter-gatherers. They are confined to the land and see the same land, day after day instead of being able to enjoy a wide variety of lands. Farmer’s diets were quite narrow compare to hunter-gatherers and because so much human waste accumulated, disease was more prevalent.

Once farmers began to domesticate workable and edible animals (by breeding them to docility by the simple expedient of “harvesting” all of those which seemed too aggressive or who tried to escape) their health got even worse. Many diseases of domestic animals were communicable to their “owners.”

We also became worriers. As hunter-gatherers we had to worry about the approximate now and slightly into the future. Once we started planting crops, we had to worry about protecting the crop from animals that would eat it; we had to worry about the harvest and the next harvest and, if we expand our fields, will there be enough water, and … etc.

So, why did we deliberately adopt a mode of existence that actually made our lives worse? The answer is simple, we were unable to see the future well enough to avoid that path. Our “suppositions/predictions” were based upon fictions which we could make as rosy as we wished. In other words, we couldn’t see the consequences of our actions well enough to make a different decision.

Fast forward 8000-10,000 years to … now. We now have a specialized cadre of humans trained to create and examine “suppositions/predictions” and those specialists have told us that there are unpredictable and dire consequences attached to our preference for the use of combustion (burning things) to provide the energy to support our current lives. Combustion requires combustible materials which are all carbon-based (only carbon-based living things can accumulate enough energy from the sun that their carcasses can return to us heat and light when they are burned). This combustion results in increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in excess of what forests and other plant bases can remove. This has the unintended consequence of causing more of the Sun’s energy to be retained in the atmosphere where it is shared with the land and seas resulting in warmer conditions everywhere. (More evidence here if you need it.) Those warmer conditions affect the distribution of insects, fish, crop plants, and people all over the globe and because we have built such an extensive, anchored to the land infrastructure, we cannot just up and move things.

So, we now have learned to estimate the consequences of our physical actions to a much higher degree than when we launched the agricultural revolution. And, what have we done in this clear case of being on a very negative path? We have reveled in short-term thinking, partying like it was 8000 BCE. “What do those pointy headed scientists know?” “If the globe is warming, why does it still snow in winter?” “It is all due to natural cycles (not).” An honest response would be “Hey, there are massive amounts of money to be made here, so we are going to hold the course, so fuck off!”

So, what have we learned in the last 10,000 years? Not so much.

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23 Comments »

  1. Love to read your post. If climate change doesn’t wipe us out, GREED surely will! Or are they the same cause?

    Comment by Sylvia — January 2, 2017 @ 9:14 am | Reply

    • The climate change is, I think, a happenstance. (We didn’t know it would happen until it happened) The greed, well that is bred to the bone.

      The “meek” will inherit the Earth, but not until the “non-meek” have had their way with it.

      On Mon, Jan 2, 2017 at 9:14 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 2, 2017 @ 9:18 am | Reply

  2. I’m not sure where you’re getting the information that human life expectancy decreased because of the switch from the hunter and gatherers to agriculture. We still have some hunter-gatherer tribes in the remote corners of the planet, and their life expectancy is nothing to brag about: such societies normally have relatively high infant mortality (and life expectancy is an average age at death of everyone so high infant and child mortality brings it down a lot). Also, there is a sizable risk of your potential dinner attacking and killing you instead, which is rarely a risk in agriculture.
    Even now, jobs that are most similar to hunter or gatherers, like commercial fishing and lumberjacks, are among the most dangerous.
    It’s possible there has been some initial decline, but while agricultural societies have been able to improve, hunter-gatherers couldn’t.

    Comment by List of X — January 2, 2017 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

    • Do you remember the American “Indians”, 90+% of whom were killed by European carried diseases before we decided more direct measures were appropriate. Even though they had settled quite a bit, they still migrated and followed herds and crops (South in winter, etc.). This was even true in American colonial times.

      There is a cost of settling down and that cost is disease. Being a farmer does not necessarily lower the infant mortality rate. Archeologist have confirmed the losses in stature and body mass and decreases in longevity from skeletal remains from before and after agriculture took hold. I suspect that H-Gers, having a more diverse diet, had better immune systems.

      Commercial fishermen and lumberjacks are more susceptible to injury from mechanized tools. And, it was the animals which were to fear humans, not the other way around. If you trace the arrival of modern humans around the globe, extinctions of large meat animal, often very large fractions of all meat animals increased dramatically.

      On Mon, Jan 2, 2017 at 2:49 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 2, 2017 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  3. Actually a lot of what you say here is contrary to what I recently viewed in the documentary Food Choices

    Plant-based societies were actually healthier over time. View the documentary and let me know what you think my friend.

    Comment by lbwoodgate — January 2, 2017 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

    • It’s on Netflix by the way

      Comment by lbwoodgate — January 2, 2017 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

    • Did you think the documentary constructed its arguments well? I think there were some rather substantial flaws. Regarding the criticism of chicken eggs, for example, they embarked on an explanation on industrial farming. That’s a bait and switch. Similar techniques were used throughout which made the whole thing dubious in my eyes.
      My point isn’t in relation to the point above- just a side note 🙂

      Comment by The Pink Agendist, née Mr. Merveilleux — January 2, 2017 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

      • “Regarding the criticism of chicken eggs, for example, they embarked on an explanation on industrial farming. That’s a bait and switch.”

        How so? And what about the notion that milk is essentially liquid meat?

        Comment by lbwoodgate — January 2, 2017 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

        • Lb,
          Eggs don’t have to come from industrial farming. If the problem is farming practices then that’s what needs to be addressed. If the problem is the eggs themselves then they need to show evidence that relates to non-industrial eggs.
          I found the way they constructed many of the arguments highly flawed. For their position to hold water in any substantial way I would have liked to have seen significant differences in illness/longevity rates to people, say, on the Mediterranean diet (as compared to Vegetarians/Vegans.)

          I’d also like to know how they factor in other lifestyle practices. The Mediterranean lifestyle, for example, is by no means just a matter of diet. There’s the quality of products we consume, there’s a the hours we keep, there’s how much we walk, there’s the social and familial dynamics, sunlight etc.

          Comment by The Pink Agendist, née Mr. Merveilleux — January 3, 2017 @ 4:26 am | Reply

          • PA, let me recommend T. Colin Campbell’s twenty year “China Study”. It researched Asian people before and after they adopted western diets heavy with meat and found that cancers and heart disease began to leap off the charts. Campbell himself was raised on a dairy farm and consumed the products at one time that he now says are more dangerous for humans.

            Comment by lbwoodgate — January 3, 2017 @ 4:36 am | Reply

            • I read it. I saw the same problem in it as with the WHO’s processed meat pronouncement- especially in the context of last year’s Cambridge (maybe Oxford?) study that demonstrated an almost 10 year longevity gap based on financial affluence in the UK. That’s why I specifically mentioned lifestyle aspects in my last comment. The consumer of most processed meats is also the most likely to be obese, poor, smoke, not seek medical attention and so forth.

              Comment by The Pink Agendist, née Mr. Merveilleux — January 3, 2017 @ 6:19 am | Reply

              • One of the things that these studies do not take into account well is volume of food eaten. Historically, many Japanese and Chinese had so little to eat that their body mass indexes were barely high enough to support their lives. They had one dietary problem and that was getting enough to eat to live. Many didn’t live long enough to acquire disease of age. For example, cancer has been known for thousands of years. When did cancer become a major problem? When a significant fraction of the population lived to an old age. Plus, by eliminating most diseases that killed adults, then people lived long enough to get cancer. (Yes, I do know that cancer does affect children, etc. but it is basically a disease of old age.)

                On Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 6:19 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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                Comment by Steve Ruis — January 3, 2017 @ 7:57 am | Reply

          • You are oh, so right about flawed research. Much of the research in the field of diet is either paid for by the food producers themselves or is paid to not exist. The classic case is the discovery links between sugar and disease that the sugar industry buried for decades and covered it up with mountains of industry-paid “research.” I find myself, as a scientist, deeply offended by the behaviors of some of the people involved in these events (they really are scandals, but that word gets overused and has lost its impact).

            The Greek ideal of moderation in all things is probably still the best life advice: moderate diet (fresh food, cooked daily), moderate exercise, moderate social contacts (minimum of drama/aggravation) all lead to the best health our genes provide … probably. The evidence in the field of diet has been polluted for years because there is so much money being made. Consider how long the tobacco industry buried the link between smoking and lung cancer, even to the point of getting doctors to recommend smoking as a good way to clear the lungs(!), and you have a good idea of the current state of human diet research.

            On Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 4:26 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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            Comment by Steve Ruis — January 3, 2017 @ 7:45 am | Reply

      • As I mentioned in another response, most of those documentaries have an axe to grind. One that had a basis that seems factual is “Cooked” by Michael Polan.

        I also note that most “nutritionists say “a varied diet is a good diet.” We were designed by evolution to eat a wide variety of foods. We were not designed with evolution to cope with the excessive quantities that we are now trying to cope with. When I was a child a “large” Coca Cola” was 8 oz, and ordinary “Coke” was six ounces. You can now get 32 oz and 64 ox beverage containers at some fast food restaurants. The mopunt of sugar we eat is flat out toxic.

        The French, by the way, eat an amazing variety of foods, but sensibly eat much smaller portions than Americans. Americans display greed in our economics and our diets.

        On Mon, Jan 2, 2017 at 5:34 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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        Comment by Steve Ruis — January 2, 2017 @ 8:55 pm | Reply

        • “The French, by the way, eat an amazing variety of foods, but sensibly eat much smaller portions than Americans. Americans display greed in our economics and our diets.”

          That’s true and this was pointed out in the Food Choices documentary. Eating greater portions of whole plants and small portions of meat will help change many of the diseases we now have. But eating purely who food plants alone will achieve this faster in most people. Diseases that didn’t exist a little over a century ago when most people couldn’t afford meats and sustained themselves primarily from plants have now become common place, like diabetes, cancers and heart diseases. T. Colin Campbell’s twenty year “China Study” showed as much with Asian people who lived off grains and legumes most of their lives until their diets became westernized with meath following periods of economic growth. Once meat was introduced into their culture their rates of cancer and heart disease started jumping off the charts

          The documentary pointed out that our need for protein of any kind is greatly exaggerated where most humans eat 5-10 times more the 3% our body requires on a daily basis. This is usually accomplished through large daily consumptions of meat. Plant-based protein also has the necessary fiber our bodies need but which most Americans eat a deficiency of.

          Comment by lbwoodgate — January 3, 2017 @ 4:25 am | Reply

          • As I suspected, there is a mix of established and speculative “knowledge.” The Seven Countries study is famous for its assumptions. Thats the one that “proved” the connection between dietary fat and heart disease. They ignored the fact, though, that Japan showed no such signs, even though its diet was rapidly increasing the amount of meat/fat taken in. They “concluded” that since dietary fat is linked to cholesterol, the link hadn’t shown up yet in Japan!

            The problem is that dietary fat isn’t a cause of heart disease, but excess carbohydrate, especially sugars, is. But the sugar industry wanted a smoke screen and got it. So, we have been running a “low fat” experiment on the entire American culture, but “low fat” means “high carb” esp. high sugar because when you remove the fat from food, you remove much of the flavor, so food processors added sugar and salt, large quantities of it, to make those processed foods tastier.

            If one undertakes a diet of wide variety with smaller portions that we are now used to, emphasizing fresh foods, recently cooked, optimum health is the result, I suspect. The problem is that in the U.S. we keep getting farther and farther from this.

            The best argument against meat in the diet I can think of are the abuses of animals in factory farms. If the animals are raised free range, I have very few objections to meat.

            Gary Taubes has written some very good books about the downright criminal scientific behavior of the dietary science “industry.” (As a scientist I am offended by the anti-scientific, political behaviors of many in this crowd.) I recommend “Good Calories, Bad Calories” to you and have just started reading “The Case Against Sugar” which, I suspect, I will also be able to recommend.

            On Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 4:25 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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            Comment by Steve Ruis — January 3, 2017 @ 7:39 am | Reply

          • “Diseases that didn’t exist a little over a century ago when most people couldn’t afford meats and sustained themselves primarily from plants”
            Technically that’s a very difficult point to prove (or even address.) 100 years ago life expectancy was 45.5 years. As I mentioned previously, that number is much higher for the affluent. That’s the one and only pattern that seems to be somewhat universal. The wealthy, with access to the best products and healthcare, live the longest.
            The reason the documentary and the book weren’t able to point to specific communities of vegetarians or vegans where general life expectancy is substantially higher than the Mediterranean (where diets are high in seafood, but also include quite a lot of charcuterie) is because those communities don’t exist. There’s no smoking gun. No commune in Arizona where cancer doesn’t exist and people live to 140.

            Comment by The Pink Agendist, née Mr. Merveilleux — January 3, 2017 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

    • Most of such documentaries have an axe to grind. If humans were intended to digest plants alone, they wouldn’t be able to digest meat. Our cousins, the gorilla, cannot digest meat, so they have larger molars, a very long intestinal tract, and any number of other differences that make them capable of an all-plant diet, but Chimpanzees and humans are omnivores, that is we can digest both meat and plant foods and our physiologies support this contention. I suggest that an all-meat diet and all-plant diets are probably not in our future (as a choice, possibly as a consequence). Of the two, the all-meat diet is probably safer. All-plant diets have to be managed carefully to avoid dietary deficiencies that can severely affect health. In the early 1930s, I think it was, two Scandinavian explorers lived a whole year (actually one of them had to drop out) on pemmican (about 60% fat, 40% protein) under doctor supervision. His cholesterol and other indicators of health actually improved over the time spent.

      On Mon, Jan 2, 2017 at 3:14 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 2, 2017 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

      • “If humans were intended to digest plants alone, they wouldn’t be able to digest meat.”

        And from what I have found Steve they don’t do that well. Real carnivores like big cats can easily digest raw meat. Humans can’t They have to cook it. And once it get’s in the stomach fat from meat sits there breaking down slower that can create a variety of problems associated with obesity.

        And then there’s this argument:

        “Human “canine” teeths are shared with horses, not with carnivores. There is no carnivore that has teeth like our canines. Horses have them. Whatever their function, it is not to eat meat. ”

        http://scaruffi.com/politics/vegetari.html

        Comment by lbwoodgate — January 3, 2017 @ 4:32 am | Reply

        • Woody, we need to cook vegetables, too. If you try to live on raw vegetables, you will find yourself in deep trouble. We are not designed to extract the nutrition we need from that source, so the quantity we need to eat is very, very large. In addition, cooking say, of a yam, releases a great deal of nutrition as well as makes the yam easier to eat. The same is true for meat. Oh, and cooking vegetables detoxifies them, too. Vegetables have generated through evolution many chemical protections against predation by insects. The “insecticide” on celery is so potent that harvesters must wear long sleeve shirts no matter the external temperature, otherwise their arms will be ravenged by that insecticide.

          On Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 4:32 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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          Comment by Steve Ruis — January 3, 2017 @ 7:50 am | Reply

        • That’s what horses want you to think.

          Comment by List of X — January 3, 2017 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

  4. BTW, I just noticed the pen icon at the top of your page. I like it. Quite an advance for someone who has disdained images on his blog for some time. 😉

    Comment by lbwoodgate — January 3, 2017 @ 4:39 am | Reply

    • Woody, the pen has been there all of the time (original design). And it is true I emphasize words, probably to the detriment of my messages. But finding graphics that are not just “eye candy” is not easy for political screeds. ;o)

      On Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 4:39 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 3, 2017 @ 7:52 am | Reply


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