Type of paper:Coursework
Discipline:Humanities : Anthropology
Format or citation style:MLA
Human beings have lived for most of their existence on the planet as foragers or hunter-gatherers, until the origins of agriculture. Following the domestication of plants and animals (“agriculture”), around 10,000 years ago, agriculture rapidly began to replace foraging as the dominant way of life. The impacts of this transition from foraging to agriculture have been tremendous: Everything from the way people interacted with their environment to their relations with each other changed. Research has demonstrated an increase in environmental degradation, social inequality, violence, as well as, worsening of health, in the aftermath of the transition to food production. Foragers, on the other hand, enjoyed a more harmonious relationship with the environment, substantial leisure time, low levels of violence, and relative social equality. For all these reasons, scholars have termed foraging societies as the “Original Affluent Society.” The flip side of the characterization is that agriculture, in many senses, can be considered the “Original Sin,” in the sense of being a turning point in human evolution– to an overall deterioration in the quality of life of humans (See Jared Diamond’s article on agriculture as the biggest mistake of human history) and our increasing separation from nature. Do you agree with this characterization of foraging and agricultural societies? Explain your position with the help of evidence drawn from Chapter 6 of the Ember book and the Diamond article.
Please note that this discussion is NOT about returning to a foraging way of life, which is clearly not a viable option for over 7 billion people that inhabit the world now; nor is it about why we need agriculture to feed the planet today or that without agriculture we would all starve. This discussion is about critically re-evaluating the role of agriculture in the development of civilization, which until recently was taken to be a wholly positive step. The Diamond article challenged that characterization of agriculture by linking its emergence to problems like societal violence and environmental degradation. Could we have avoided the many social, political and environmental (especially existential problems like climate change) if humans had avoided taking to agriculture? Are there lessons we can still learn and adopt from foraging societies?