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Take a stand.

What were the effects, positive and negative, of


the development of farming? Agree or disagree with Jared
Diamond in your evaluation of these effects.
Will Ezell
9/8/13
Period 3
World History #1
All that Glitters Is Not Gold
Humans are an innovative species always looking for new ways to improve
the quality of life. As a society we tend to believe that new and improved is better
and that innovations that produce fast results make life easier. However, shiny
innovations can be both helpful and harmful. For example, the invention of the
automobile improved life by making it easier to get places while also increasing the
amount of pollution in the air. Texting and email have made it easier to
communicate but have decreased face-to-face personal interaction. Plastics have
extended the shelf life of foods but have also been linked to cancer. Agriculture is
example of another modern innovation that has proven to be helpful yet damaging.
Despite being an efficient way to produce a variety of foods for less work in a more
concentrated area, agriculture has plagued our world with malnutrition, starvation,
epidemic disease, and social and sexual inequalities.
In many ways, life is easier today than it was many years ago. The
advancements in technology and science have had positive effects on the way we
live. With the invention of agriculture, humans found an easier and faster way to
acquire food (Diamond 1). Agriculture products feed more people than berries and
animal carcass gathered by hunters and gatherers (Diamond 1). In addition,
agriculture allows people to grow more food per acre in a shorter amount of time
(Diamond 1). Agriculture farmers have free time to enjoy personal interests and
raise large families to help on the farm (Diamond 1). Farming provides a safe
alternative to the dangers that hunters and gathers face from predators (Diamond
1). Moreover, one of the biggest benefits to agriculture is that it helps with the
advancement of technology (Diamond 1). Many of the technological advancements
we have today, like the combine, are a direct result from finding ways for better
farming.
Although agriculture appears to be a better alternative to hunting and
gathering, all that glitters is not always gold. Many of the problems that plague our
world today are products of the discovery of agriculture. After the innovation of
agriculture, social and sexual inequalities grew (Diamond 2). Farmers would store
large quantities of food, and others would steal the food to achieve higher status
(Diamond 2). Additionally, with agriculture, women became beasts of burden
(Diamond 2) in the fields by carrying heaving loads of food while the men walked
empty-handed (Diamond 2). Another problem that occurred when agriculture
became a way of life was population crowding. Since fertile land was needed for
farming, populations would gather where there was fertile land (Diamond 2).
Crowding also occurred because farmers wives had more children as compared to
hunters and gatherers (Diamond 2). As populations grouped together, diseases and
parasites followed (Diamond 3). Ancient farmers as compared to the huntergatherers had a 50% increase in enamel defects, higher iron-deficiencies, and more
bone lesions from disease (Diamond 3). Finally, studies and evidence have shown
that malnutrition was a product of agriculture. While farmers concentrate[d] on

high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in
the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provide[d] more protein and a better balance
of other nutrients (Diamond 3). Although the rise of agriculture improved the
efficiency of life in many ways, the negative side effects were far more damaging.
In Jared Diamonds article, The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human
Race, he points out that the innovation of agriculture has been a catastrophe (1).
Despite modern advancements in technologies, agriculture has not proven to be a
step toward a better life. The modern hunter-gatherers live a better life than the
agriculturally dominated life we live today. Despite being hunters and gatherers, the
Kalahari bushman continue to enjoy leisure time, rest, and do not work as hard as
their farming neighbors (Diamond 1). The modern hunter-gatherers still have time
to relax and enjoy a variety of crops producing balanced diets (Diamond 1). When
[f]orced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food
production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare and tyranny
(Diamond 3). People chose agriculture not because it was a step toward a better life
but out of necessity.
Hunting and gathering has proven to be a successful way of life for many
years. People are concerned that agriculture is not a successful means of producing
food. Agriculture requires a steady climate and a fertile environment in order to
thrive (Diamond 1). With current drought issues, a fertile field is a concern (Morgan).
Many farmers today have to produce more food on fewer acres while minimizing
environmental problems (Morgan). Studying the successes and failures of early and
modern hunter-gatherers can provide valuable insight for modern farming to
succeed and become a step toward a better life.

Works Cited
Diamond, Jared. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. Discover
Magazine. May 1987. University of California at Los Angeles Medical School.
Morgan, Tyne. Hot and Dry Weather Takes Toll on Illinois Crops. 3 Sept. 2013. Farm
Journal.
29
Sept.
2013.
http://www.agweb.com/article/hot_and_dry_weather_takes_toll_on_illinois_cro
ps/.