Humanity's worst invention: Agriculture
22nd September, 2006
By radically changing the way we acquire our food, the development of agriculture has condemned us to live worse than ever before. Not only that, agriculture has led to the first significant instances of large-scale war, inequality, poverty, crime, famine and human induced climate change and mass extinction.
By Clive W. Dennis (winner of the Ecologist/Coady International Institute 2006 Essay Competition)
Whether despairing or merely philosophising, we humans often find ourselves trying to trace things back to a certain point in the past where the rot really set in, where it all started, where some innovation sent us spiralling into the noise and confusion of the present. Mobile phones, television, genetic engineering and supermarkets all draw a bit of flak, but those who really have problems with the world – the genuine connoisseurs of failure – prefer the grander scale of human history.
Some will say the nuclear bomb or the industrial revolution. Others will say capitalism, or money, or gunpowder. Still others will say that it is not inventions that cause problems, but the people using them; technology is neutral and it is up to us to ensure that it is used for good. Others counter that inventions really can be good or bad – some are designed with good intentions: others, not so.
But what matters here is not the intended consequences – what matters is real ones.
Nobel was convinced that his invention would make war too violent and horrific to be contemplated. Unsurprisingly, dynamite was actually used to kill lots more people in much less time. Our attempts at...
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