Something that has been formulating in my mind for several months and has been elaborated on recently, specifically after reading this article, the book Ishmael, essays from Ran Prieur, and hearing conversation amongst permaculturists, survivalists, historians, pagans, and those working for sustainability.

Agriculture has ruined humanity. For a long time we were hunter-gatherers. We foraged. For Ten Thousand years this worked well. Most of 'civilized' history will point out that this lifestyle was nasty, brutish, and short (thanks Hobbes), but that's false. Foraging cultures were deeply connected to their region, their food supply was sufficient, their populations small and stable (compared to ours). They worked three to four hours a day building their homes, gathering food, and creating the tools they needed to live. They depended upon the lush diversity of nature, and it provided.

Eventually, somehow, agriculture came into play. For a long time our basic source of protein had been meat from animals or fish, supplemented by nuts, seeds, and tubers. Our bodies processed this into our body structure, and it took a good amount of work. It kept our bodies active and healthy. Once humans started planting grains, the main source of our calories shifted. Grains open the opiate receptors in our brain, so that they are pleasurable to eat. They offer many calories but few nutrients, and our bodies mistakenly take this overload of calories as a sign that we are in a state of surplus, of plenty. Birth rates rise.

(With all animals, an active lifestyle will only allow for reproduction when there is sufficient Extra food to support a healthy pregnancy. This can be seen affecting young female athletes, who may get their period later and become fertile later because they are active, using their calories and nutrients to keep moving, to 'survive.')

With the increase in population, more food must be planted. To do this, we must till the soil. This disturbs millions of soil microbes, bacteria, and small insect life that processes the nutrients of diverse plants into a rich humus and healthy soil tilth. By plowing and planting large areas we disturb these minuscule ecosystems that nourish plants. We allow for erosion, and give ourselves exponentially more work to feed life back into the soil. We also necessarily destroy larger ecosystems by clearing land for our crops, pushing out the complex dance of nature that knew what to do long before us.

Rises in population. Larger crops. The opportunity for surplus, and because of that a rising need for people to stay put, for more places to house larger people, and for storage of extra food. This inevitably gives rise to people competing for land space and the opening for power-over when a small number of people end up with a large amount of stashed food. Hierarchies develop and fear rules, but we keep going because bread is Delicious and makes us feel good.

In the meantime, the hunter gatherers are trying to get by in their own neck of the woods (if it hasn't been plowed). The farmers are living shorter lives and are physically shrinking from a lack of meat protein that provides nutrients into our body structure for growth. They suffer more disease from a lack of diversity in diet, their teeth start to decay from carbohydrates that break down into sugars in their mouth. But they keep going.

With a few people growing all this surplus and bigger populations, more complex tools develop to reap the benefits of the harvest and before you know it, bulk raw materials are making factories and industry possible. Technology evolves, and here we are. We're ruining the land, supporting corporations and massive agricultural operations that are raping the land, land WE live on, along with the rest of the community of life.

The answer? There are many, of course. Foraging is good - knowing what you can eat in your region - dandelion leaves are incredibly nutritious. Getting to know your surroundings, growing food the way nature grows food - with trees and shrubs and herbs and undergrowth, with plants that put nutrients back into the soil, plants that feed wildlife, plants that invite beneficial insects, complex cycles of birth, death, decay, predation and protection that keep any one loss from ruining the entire system. If we can look at nature and realize that it has millions of years of practice where we have thousands, we can go back to a life of ceremony, of reverence, of abundance and diversity, health. We aren't meant to work long hours. We aren't meant to be in a box. And we aren't meant to grow our food in a line and gorge ourselves on what won't sustain us.

The story isn't over yet.