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While agriculture is an important aspect in the lives of many people, some argue that agriculture is a curse and a means of reverting progress in human development. For instance, Scientist Jared Diamond considers agriculture "the worst mistake in the history of the human race. The argument is that agriculture is not just a means of getting food; rather, it affects a whole spectrum of human life from cultural changes to adaption of new social and economical standards. While history has been on the forefront that humans have been on a consistent path of progress, some scholars argue that agriculture was nothing but a step backwards. These scholars argue that agriculture brought along social inequalities that never existed in the past. In spite of these negative impacts of agriculture, sedentary form of settlement led to the ultimate adoption of agriculture.
Early Man and Agriculture
For a long time, man has been known to be a hunter and gatherer relying on hunting wild animals and gathering wild berries. To survive, man was able to adapt to any new environment without regard to the climate or terrain. To hunt, man developed several weapons and tools that they could be used to facilitate the process of hunting. With regard to climate, man was able to find shelter that could beat any weather be it winter or hot desert. The early man who dwelled in the cold deserts relied heavily on hunting, while those in the tropics could either gather berries or hunt as well.
There is general agreement that agriculture was a good thing. Currently, many people enjoy food security; thus, they have time to concentrate on other things that improve their lives. Improvement in agriculture and mechanization has meant that the human race has constantly improved in lifestyle. This new kind of social security allows the argument that agriculture was perhaps the best leap forward for man.
Thus, it is quite easy to understand why man quickly adopted agriculture. The basic explanation is that man is an intelligent being and that any uncertainty does not rest well with man. Hence, to avoid these uncertainties, the early man adopted agriculture in order to beat changes in weather and hunting ‘luck’. Progressivisms in agriculture argue that once man realized the returns associated with agriculture, it was enough to consider the move to agriculture the only thing to do.
However, recent evidence proves that agriculture may have just worsened the lives of early man. According to archeologists, communities that did not adopt agriculture enjoyed much of their lives as compared to their counterpart who had adopted the new way of life. For instance, Eberhart argues that hunters and gatherers had plenty of leisure time and worked much less to get food. This implies that the time taken by hunters and gather to get one week’s food was less than half the time to get the same of food from agriculture. The Bushmen of Kalahari and nomads of Tanzania enjoyed somewhat a free lifestyle with abundant food within their reach.
Other evidences suggest that food from hunting and gathering was more nutritious than food from agriculture. The hunting game provided rich protein content while roots and berries provided minerals and other nutrient required in the diet. As a result, it was extremely rare for hunters and gatherers to suffer from malnutrition and possible starvation as opposed to early Irish farmers.
Other evidences point to the fact that human health drastically deteriorated with the introduction of agriculture. Researchers have found evidence of diseases such as leprosy, Tuberculosis and anemia in mummified bodies in of Paleolithic man. Other researchers have also found that the average height of man during the agrarian revolution reduced from an average of 5’9” to an average of 5’3”. This was due to the intensive maize planting that led to lacking other key nutrients in the food resulting in poor health.
Agriculture also had the biggest social impact on man. Hunters and gatherers had no structured means of living and did not have food reserves or cattle. For this reason, there was no need to own land or other forms of property. These Bushmen hunted together as clans or villages and shared the hunt according to families. On the other hand, agriculture created the need to own land to plant, which led to property and eventually to social classes, such as the wealthy and the poor. It also brought about rulers such as kings and empires to rule over lands and its people. What resulted was a social definition of man into classes. This is said to be the biggest undoing that agriculture brought to man.
However, even as agriculture may have brought several disadvantages, it was unavoidable. Farming was able to support a much larger population as compared to hunting and gathering. The size of land that hunters and gatherers needed in order to sustain consistent supply of food was quite large. In contrast, farming provides a means by which many communities can be sustained by a relatively smaller piece of land. As population increased, there was a consistent shift from hunting and gathering to agricultures to feed the growing population. Improvement in farming methods allowed man to practice agriculture all the food that could meet their nutritional requirements.
Even though agriculture may have brought several disadvantages, it was inevitable. According to archeologists, evolution in Neolithic time was accompanied by changes in lifestyle. There was a shift from nomadic lifestyle to sedentary societies in towns and villages. Such sedentary settlement presented challenges on how to get food. Thus, man started specialized crop cultivation. Improvement in agriculture and storage mechanism of food such as grains provided these settlements with food supply and a form of social security. This new kind of social security supports the argument that agriculture was perhaps the best leap forward for man.
In conclusion, farming was able to support a much larger population as more communities started settling in to villages and towns. The limited size of land meant that these groups had to develop new methods of providing food; thus, leading to the improvement in agriculture. Improvement in farming methods allowed man to plant all the food that could meet their nutritional requirements despite of the setbacks associated with agriculture. As a result, agriculture was inevitable in human history.