Humans lived as hunter-gatherers for millions of years, and overall these were fulfilling happy lives, but humans are insatiable. We always want more, and in that sense we can be somewhat short sighted. More food, means more to eat. And, therefore, more children. It’s an attractive idea that we would always have enough to feed our children. The idea of never having to go hungry is an intoxicating one. Unfortunately, the backlash of this humble desire would be severe. Humans discovered wheat by accident, but when we discovered that we could grow food, instead of hunting or finding it, it changed our world forever.
We were once a nomadic people, who would never stay in the same place for long. But, farming wheat, required that we remain stationary, so began to live near the wheat. We made tools to better farm it, and therefore grow more. We were successful. We were growing more food than we could have ever gained from our previous lifestyle. So surely human quality of life must have improved by leaps and bounds? Except, it wasn’t just the amount of food that increased, but the amount of people as well. More food meant more people could survive and have children of their own. The rate at which we grew food, couldn’t keep up with the rate at which our population was growing. Because of this, child mortality rate was shockingly high. We were also working much longer hours, and more days than before. Humans hadn’t evolved to plough fields, and the strain on our bodies was immense. But, injury wasn’t an excuse to stop working, we simply had to power through it. Disease and illness spread far more easily through large populations than through smaller ones.
Human life at this stage would have been miserable. We had achieved our goal of making more food, but had failed to predict the consequences that would follow it. It might have made sense at this point for humans to abandon this endeavor, and go back to our previous lives as hunter-gatherers. But, so many generations had come and gone by now, that there were none who still remembered our previous way of life. The skills and techniques we built up in order to survive were forgotten. All we had were our backbreaking, miserable, disease ridden lives as farmers.
Although this lifestyle would last for a long time, it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, our choice would pay off, and the modern world would seen an abundance of food. However, this would come with its own problems, as well as large-scale hypocrisy.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari