The Benefits and Costs of Agriculture

Without question, agriculture, as a food procurement strategy, allows us to derive far more calories from a given piece of land than does foraging or hunting. Is this benefit worth the costs though? In this episode of A Worldview Apart I explore some of the drawbacks of agriculture, focusing particularly on those that relate to human health. I talk about evidence of physical degeneration seen in relatively modern non-agricultural peoples when they transitioned to diets composed of agricultural food, and review some evidence from paleoarcheology that suggests ancient peoples in various parts of the world suffered from physical degeneration as they transitioned from non-agricultural to agricultural lifeways. I also talk about Dr. Weston A. Price, the dentist who coined the term physical degeneration, and about the benefits of a diverse, nutrient-dense diet.

Episode Outline

  • The plow as the invention that enabled agriculture and civilization
  • Why are some people hating on agriculture?
  • Agriculture’s many social and environmental impacts
  • Agriculture’s impacts on human dietary diversity, and the benefits of dietary diversity
  • Dietary diversity in non-agricultural peoples versus those who rely on agriculture
  • The rise of agriculture and the dawn of human physical degeneration
  • Dr. Weston A. Price and his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
  • Do the benefits of agriculture outweigh the costs? Quantity versus quality of Homo sapiens

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