Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Has civilization improved humanity? H01
When considering this question, I was reminded of a video shared in my Human Geography class last year. Humans used to live nomadically as hunter-gatherers (few groups still exist today), but as population increased, agriculture and domestication began to take root, leading to civilization.
Guns, Germs, and Steel, a non-fiction book written by Jared Diamond that later became a documentary broadcasted on PBS, delves into the question about why Eurasian civilizations have survived and conquered others. Diamond argues against the idea that Eurasian dominance is due to any form of intellectual, moral, or genetic superiority and suggests that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate because of geographical and environmental differences.
Throughout the documentary, Diamond asserts that agriculture is “the worst mistake in human history.” Adopting agriculture also meant embracing social inequality, the idea of power, and disease. Farming is considered a more efficient way of getting a greater amount food and since these crops can be stored, people had the time to contribute to things other than just surviving. However, when studying hunter-gatherer groups today, like the Kalahari bushmen, they have plenty of leisure time, get the right amount of sleep, and work less than farmers; farming also concentrate on less diverse, high carbohydrate foods while hunting and gathering provides more variety and a better balance of nutrients.The notion that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is “nasty and brutish” is unjustifiable. Farming helped bring malnutrition, starvation- the Irish potato famine-, disease, and complex class divisions. Hunter-gatherers live off the food they obtain each day and therefore live a closely, if not completely, egalitarian lifestyle.