[Hassett] focuses on the evidence of bones, and so psychological sickness and social malaise are under-represented in her tally. But, on most calculations, there is no doubt that farming is bad for you. Populations that adopt it die earlier than hunter-gatherers, exhibiting more stunted and distorted bones, more tooth decay, more exposure to viruses and more evidence of malnutrition than their foraging predecessors. Concentrated populations are accident-prone niches for epidemics, where filth and pollution accumulate, while deprivation ensues from widening inequalities.
Yet farming and urbanization conquered most of the world, with rapidity that, as Ms. Hassett points out, seems astonishing by comparison with the rate of transmission of earlier technological innovations. A way of life that brought “debilitating, spine-crunching diseases” zoomed across the globe during the Neolithic revolution, whereas two-edged flints took perhaps half a millennium to reach Europe from Africa. Populations grow at the expense of individual health and happiness; resources increase, but so do risks of wipe-out.
If we judge a civilization’s success by its endurance over time, then the Bushmen are the most successful society in human history. Their experience of modernity offers insight into many aspects of our lives, and clues as to how we might address some big sustainability questions for the future.
In our "urban" and agriculture-based world, it is easy for humans to conclude that they are in charge of their own existence. Harking to my one year of theological education, my Old Testament professor, James Sanders, defined "sin" as the human refusal to acknowledge that we are "creatures," not the Creator; our "sin," in other words, is to attribute our existence to our own human creativity, instead of to the seminal and ultimate creativity of God, who brought everything that is into being.
City’s just a jungle; more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, tryin' to get away
I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down