“Agriculture is really the dominant system of 8,000 years, and it’s more than a way of growing food. It’s a way of domesticating humans and organising humans. It is ‘the’ system.” So says the environmental author and journalist Richard Manning in the latest podcast from The Eternities.
“And the system that brought us here and made us sick is not going to fix us.”
Manning is the author of Against the Grain: How Agriculture Hijacked Civilization, which argued that major world shaping forces, such as trade, imperialism and disease, were conditioned and driven by agriculture, both for good and ill. But, mostly ill.
Manning has now returned for another tilt at civilization with Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization, co-authored with John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of such titles as A User’s Guide to the Brain. Their new book attempts to show that our human physical evolution is lagging far behind civilization’s socio-cultural advances, significantly affecting health and well-being.
By drawing upon what we understand of our genetic heritage, the authors present strategies to tweak modern lifestyles, aping the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Paleolithic age, for which they argue we remain adapted.
In the podcast, Manning argues that his and Ratey’s work exists within the field of medical inquiry termed “diseases of civilization”.
“[This] began when the imperialists from Europe began looking at primitive cultures around the world. [T]hey found that the people that lived there didn’t suffer the diseases that were killing the Europeans. Things like cancer, heart disease, diabetes [were] virtually absent in those cultures. And it’s because of the way they ate.”
And little has changed since this disparity was noticed. He continues, “Inflammation is now becoming the marker of our diet [which is] excessive in carbohydrates. And we may not see the results of that today, but we will see them. We will see them in our brains. Our diet today will really come back to haunt us twenty years from now.
“We really need to assert ourselves and say we’re not going to live like this, we’re not going to be domesticated by this system to the point that it compromises our health.”
In terms of advice, Manning offers a place to begin. “Eliminate sugars and grain from your diet for a couple of months and see what happens to you. You’re going to lose weight and you’re going to feel a lot better.You’re going to find yourself feeling better in ways that you didn’t quiet imagine. And that’s the almost immediate pay-off to this. You don’t have to believe me, you can go ahead and try it, and you’re going to find out that your life improves dramatically .
The podcast also included discussion of such topics as the hunter-gatherer diet; the origins of agriculture; ways to improve modern agriculture; the rise of autism; and high fruit diets.