Sunday, May 2, 2010

Thanks Agriculture! (Mac)

I just finished watching a fantastic show on the Discovery Civilization channel called Out of Egypt and it was about our (human beings) journey from millennia of hunting and gathering to living in cities less than ten thousand years ago and all the modern ills that followed.  The program pretty much summed up my beliefs in the destruction of human health and longevity, sustainable and responsible living, human suffering, concentration of wealth and power, and disease all caused by the advent of agriculture and urbanization.

What really struck me was the fact that most ancient cities collapsed.  From Africa to South America, most great cities crumbled under their own weight.  The technology at the time allowed cities to grow unchecked and eventually the massive growth outstripped its ability to supply, sustain, and protect the people.  The striking feature for me was that if many of these once grand cities ceased to exist from the massive, unsustainable growth (among other factors) what makes us think we are any different?

What happens when our current technology fails to provide and sustain as it did in ancient times?  There are signs of failure everywhere.  The gap between rich and poor widens, infectious disease, violence, and competition for dwindling resources is on the rise.  More than half the world lives in urban areas as small towns, villages, and rural communities  continue to decline along with the skills and knowledge to live off the land - if those abilities aren't already completely gone.

Why do we think our modern lives and cities are any different than the ancient ones?  Why do we think we can avoid the fate of so many ancient cities?  Why do we never learn from history?  I can say for sure, as I said in my first post on Wake Up & Smell The Damn Coffee, that we are headed for a disaster. It may not be in our lifetime, but it is coming.  The unprecedented growth of the human population since the Industrial Revolution, a mere two hundred-ish years ago, will not go unchecked and much like the massive, never-seen-before cities of the past we will follow on the path to destruction, displacement, and an uncertain future.  Continued growth cannot be the answer.

Pessimistic, I know, but it is the reality.  We can continue to think we are more advanced than our ancestors, that we are separate and above the laws of nature, and that we can never suffer the fates of those before us, but I can guarantee the inhabitants of those failed, ancient cities felt exactly the same way about the preceding generations of hunter gathers.  The modern citizens of the day thought they were more advanced and knew it all - just like we do today.  But it will be different this go around.  Right.

Economies are collapsing (Greece and many to follow) and global recession is still in full swing.  I blame these things, fundamentally, on the inability of individuals to provide for themselves.  Government social programs cannot sustain massive populations on the backs of a few - the writing is on the wall.  Any population in nature that outstrips its environment's ability to sustain said population will collapse and as much as we humans like to think we are immune to such happenings we are in for a rough ride down the road when the proverbial pavement runs out - and it will.

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