A Distant Memory

Around 10,000 years ago, the world went through an agricultural revolution. Before then, farming was quite an impressive rarity. By and large, human beings all over the world lived in nomadic tribes as hunter-gatherers: 

  • Who depended on vast areas of land and wildlife for hunting and gathering all their food consisting of whatever they could safely consume like berries, fruits, nuts, seeds, wild vegetables, food was varied and necessitated traveling from one place to another after clearing out one area. (Fun fact: men would often fail at hunting so our major nutritional needs were fulfilled by the plant supplies gathered by women!) 
  • We were mostly relying on wild varieties of plants, raw animal meat, and natural sugars like honey we spent most of our waking life worrying about our next meal, we also spent a really long time just chewing our food because it was all so high in roughage, and a vast majority of all our efforts were dedicated to achieving food security.
  • Gradually we started using fire to cook, which broke down the food into more basic, easily digestible forms making sustenance more efficient, and started to develop more knowledge and understanding of what each ingredient was, how to process it better, and develop a great many ways to store it long term.
  • When a tribe began farming seasonally, they did it out of necessity for lack of another choice.
    Idealistic Illustration of Hunter-Gatherer tribe
    Do we all long for such a life on some psychological level

The Farming Fallacy

Surely the development of agriculture was a godsend that improved all aspects of our lives! Well, the truth is the agricultural revolution is considered to be by far the worst mistake in the history of our species by many scientists. There are multiple reasons for this: 

  • We started investing all our energy into growing the most profitable plants like rice, corn, potatoes, and wheat. These starchy carbohydrate-rich foods gave us fast dependable energy, as carbs are a basic form of sugar, at the expense of the varied nutritional benefits we were getting from wild environments full of natural biodiversity.
  • Other than diseases caused by lack of nutrition, overreliance on a single crop also made us more vulnerable to famine and starvation in case of crop failure. 
  • Speaking of diseases, farming necessitated large groups of people to stay close together, and large volumes of food to be stored in one place. These were perfect conditions for parasites and infectious diseases to flourish and spread to different communities that traded with each other. 
  • We had traded hard-earned quality for harmful convenient quantities. The global average life expectancy dropped from 26 to 19 years after the agricultural revolution! It stayed below 50 years even up until the 1950s! (it was less because children dying prematurely has always been very common in the past until recently.) 
    An eerie and unsettling depiction of a farm.
    Is agriculture all it’s made out to be

The Sobering Reality 

A typical supermarket insanely filled up with fast-moving consumable goods
Free market forces give cheap value to customers but at what expense

Today, we enjoy the luxury of super GMO foods with humongous yields, huge fruits and vegetables, short cooking times, and the instant gratification of fast food versus the tedious chore of slow food. With modern medicine coming into the picture, life expectancy has shot through the roof, the global average being 73 years. Yet Diabetes, tooth decay, high cholesterol, blood pressure issues, heart problems, Obesity, malnutrition, Bulimia, Cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and in other parts of the world, starvation have become common household realities. There is a certain economic context behind the food culture today, as well as our psychology that has allowed it to reach this stage. 

Many people accept the belief that human beings should live and thrive rather than just survive, maybe they feel that now that we outnumber any other species, we can relax and enjoy now. We want to live longer, do more, experience everything, travel the world, and celebrate every day. We might be more health-conscious than ever, but knowing is not the same as understanding. Half knowledge is worse than no knowledge and with a constant flood of new data, we start to believe what is most common instead of having to judge the validity of each information. While we grow complacent and overconfident, marketers develop highly advanced techniques that use our psychology against us by understanding us better than ourselves. In reality, we consume a lot more than we need to, poisoning ourselves with unnecessary carbs and energy that our body is forced to work overtime to turn into fat. We do not need to keep eating all throughout the day, and doing so puts terrible stress on ourselves. Sugar is basically a drug to the prehistoric man, and we are poisoning ourselves with it. 

An entire plain full of cattle as far as visible
Who pays the ultimate price of convenience

All for the increasing need to reinforce an illusory sense of freedom of choice. To have the choice of eating a different cuisine every day, to motivate ourselves to earn more, just to enjoy even more expensive luxuries. The economic context of capitalism is relevant because businesses will always care more about making money, than about your health and well-being. Big companies put sugar in everything, restaurants make their food taste better, and more convenient to keep you coming back, and marketing creates a culture that encourages all this using multimedia. This rampant consumer culture feeds itself in a neverending doom loop. While we wrestle between losing weight to look good, and ordering a burger to feel good, the low-income working-class labors away to provide for our luxuries. We essentially enslave the impoverished in order to fulfill unnecessary addictions by exploiting their need for survival. (Which is why education is so important to create more skilled workers.) 

Perhaps we share an aversion to work at the core of all our problems? As our society grew from tribe to village to city, state, kingdom, country, and now the globe, it was impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and no one knew what that was anyway. The once religious act of fighting for survival, of diligently collecting our own means of nourishment ourselves, of connecting with nature and our loved ones, of looking out for each other, had been abandoned for the sake of progress, convenience, and pure, cold efficiency. By outsourcing all our needs to people, who are strangers not only to us but also to themselves, people who believe that money maketh success, that their want for luxury is greater than the survival of others, it made us vulnerable. At its best food can be the medicine that nourishes our soul, and at its worst, it can be the poison that tarnishes it. Such is the way of quantity over quality. We did not choose the world that we were born into, in fact, no single person chose this to be as it is, but without awareness, context, and understanding, no future choice is possible. 

Passing The Buck

Food has always been a sacred activity for us at the core of our identity. Every religion has its own food culture, every stoic or spartan preferred plain food, and a liberal person preferred the delicious kind. The food you eat dictates your life in a big way, if you ate for pleasure you become hedonistic, if you ate minimally and with discipline, it made your will strong and sustained your spirit. Emotionally, we have special memories with a certain food that makes us feel warm on the inside while others, we find disgusting. Our diet has now become a political statement for some and subject to scientific inquiries to others, and rightfully so, because of the inevitable impact that our eating habits have on the entire world:

  • Half of all habitable land is used for agriculture. Farming practices utilize tons of water, cause deforestation, damage biodiversity by making hordes of the same species where once there were hundreds,  and create more supply than possible to consume.
  • Food production, transport, and packaging(burning) are responsible for 1/4th of the total greenhouse emissions. Unrecycled packaging waste ends up in the oceans by the tons.
  • The meat industry in developed countries is by far the biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect as beef causes methane gas to be released during digestion.
  • Overgrazing and deforestation are decreasing the planet’s health where forests are the last defense on land against disaster and the ocean marine life is polluted by non-biodegradable waste where oceans are the foundation of our entire global ecosystem

In our rage against the ancient injustices we suffered against callous mother nature, the struggle for survival, abrupt death, and meaninglessness, we have effectively waged an all-out war against it. Yet nature has existed billions of years before us and will continue to exist long after we are gone. There have been countless cataclysmic mass extinction events that occurred naturally, but perhaps we may witness the first one caused by a humble species in an angsty act of self-harm? For us, destroying nature simply means destroying the only environment that we are able to exist in, and in effect, destroying ourselves. Today we have all the technology and know-how to solve the problem of survival for each one of us, we are only facing a spiritual crisis that needs to be overcome. For us to evolve further we need to educate each other, know ourselves, and face our own realities. 

Anirudh Gitai



Tags: Life cycle, Life is Step by Step Change, lifestyle

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