Monday, October 26, 2015



Food.   We need it to survive but it's about far more than survival.  Food has psychological overtones, cultural ramifications not to mention political messages.   At a basic level,  we think it shows love.  Most of us buy it at the supermarket or maybe farmers' market.   We expect a wide variety of  nutritious and even unblemished produce to await us.  A few talented individuals grow their own.

Ireland's infamous potato famine came from a crop that did not originate in Ireland.   Potatoes were imported to Ireland  from the New World, aka North America, yet  the humble potato became a symbol of Ireland.  Reliance on monocrop led to disaster when the potato blight struck.

Going back millions of years,  misconceptions about hunter and gatherers--the first human cultures--are entrenched in our belief system.  Their lives did not simply involve wandering around a verdant paradise picking nuts off trees and hunting woolly mammoths.   We assume that the women collected and the men hunted.   But the traditional male and female roles we assign to that era originate in our own belief systems.   But there's no proof of this.  This way of life continued for almost two million years,  perhaps, in part, because hunter/gatherers could pick up and leave for more abundant resources over the hill.  

But their lives were more complicated.   There were social connections among groups, including trade.  Although we think that there must have been a lot of hungry hunter/gatherers waiting for the next herd to pass by, in reality they had more security than the next phase of human evolution, the agriculturalists.  Agriculturalists stayed put and were at the mercy of crop failure, insects, weather, soil degradation, not to mention enemy incursions.  Famine happened to agricultural societies.  This way of life  only started about ten thousand years ago and slowly spread to other areas of the world.

Hunter/gatherers thrived because of their limited numbers.    Some people today fish and even hunt but it wouldn't be possible on a large scale today.      We need organized, mechanized food production to even attempt to feed seven billion plus people.   Some people aren't happy with factory farming methods, pesticide and herbicide use, irradiation and genetic modification.

Is there another solution in the wings?

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