Friday, January 19, 2007

Let's Talk About Population

I just finished reading The Story of B by Daniel Quinn and I’m filled with a hundred existential questions right now. This book changed the way I view human history in a fundamental way, particularly in regards to the way I’ve thought about the evolution of agriculture.

I am an agrarian by nature. I love dirt. Deriving nutrients and sustentation from soil and seed brings a real sense of self-satisfaction for me. When I think about the history of Homo Sapiens on this earth, I assume that our species has not always been of the agrarian sort, but I never really though about the time-line leading up to the development of farming. Archaeologists have surmised that human beings evolved in the Pleistocene Epoch, about 1.8 million years ago, yet the advent of totalitarian agriculture began only 12,000 years ago. Totalitarian agriculture is farming that singularly focuses on the production of human food on a mass scale.

For millions of years before the birth of totalitarian agriculture, human beings were living and reproducing in various tribes and cultures across the globe. Populations were checked by the availability of food that could be hunted and gathered and gardened. As soon as mass scale farming caught on, a surplus of food was available. This lead to a boom in population. Any species will reproduce as much as it can to be sustained by its food source. When the food source plateaus, the population plateaus. With an unchecked food surplus, there’s an unchecked population boom.

You might ask, well if there’s such a food surplus in the world currently, then why are there so many starving people in Indian and Africa? B argues that agriculture made it possible for the people of Africa to farm their land to exhaustion, the land is now stripped of it’s natural resources and the population has exploded. B cautions that the rest of world is headed straight for the same predicament.

I’m barely scratching the surface here and am certainly not paying due justice to the archaeological research surrounding this subject. There are so many questions on my mind right now surrounding the current population explosion and this new-to-me theory behind it. There are quite a few of you out there who have read this book before me and while I agree that Daniel Quinn is not the most eloquent or artistic of writers, I do think he brings forth some very interesting and astute ideas about the current state and future of the world. I’d love to hear your own opinions about the world’s population explosion in relation to our farming practices.


Anonymous said...

HOLY CRAP! You finished it already??? Damn! I think it just upsets me enough that I have to put it down for a few days. Ha! But yeah, it really makes you think. It's incredible what we're doing to ourselves. I'll have to look through my notes, but we should discuss on the 'hood.


brinki dink said...

Agreed, Tin Roof. There are so many things I want to talk about surrounding this book. Especially the last portion where he discusses the leavers vs takers' religious beliefs.

gods vs. God, place vs. Man

You've gotta finish it so we can talk, I'm interested to hear your thoughts.