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All through human history we have benefited greatly from the positive effects of the agricultural revolution. We, the human race, would not be where we are today if not for the food surplus brought by this revolution that gave us free time to do other activities. The agricultural revolution positively impacted human society economically because it brought specialization and trade. While some people believe that the agricultural revolution negatively impacted humans economically and socially because it brought inequality, actually the agricultural revolution brought social benefits in the form of the rise of society that cannot be ignored.
Agriculture had a positive economic impact on humans because it lifted our society up from survival level to a higher level which consisted of specialization and trade. As stated in the article “How Farming Changed The World”, “They (natufians) began selecting and cultivating the certain grains such as oats, wheat and barley, which provides nourishment to larger groups of people”. This is significant because it provided the factor that led to the natufians success: food surplus. The food surplus enabled those once hunter gatherer societies to expand, evolve and innovate. This is important to notice because it impacted humans positively by setting off a chain reaction that resulted in the technological progress that we still benefit from today. According to the article “How Farming Changed the World”, “Another effect of the food surplus was that not everybody needed to be involved solely in the activity of finding and preparing food. New skilled professions were born. Thus the Neolithic revolution gave rise to rapid technological progress that continues unabated to this day”. This changed the way people worked because they could now be dedicated to other pursuits, and not solely focused on farming. Some of these new pursuits included, but were not limited to, pottery, weaving and carpentry. This was important because it changed how humans lived. It gave us time to build such architectural wonders such as the Great Pyramids and the Sistine Chapel. This shows that the agricultural revolution was a good innovation because it started a tidal wave of jobs, new innovations and wealth. Yet another positive effect of the food surplus was the beginning of trade. The article “How Farming Changed The World” states: “With excess food and newly created specialist crafts available, societies now had a greater capacity to produce goods of greater value to others.” Economically, agriculture influenced people by changing the way humans exchanged goods and money, as well as ownership of wealth and property of individual people. Over the last 8,000 years agriculture as an innovation has helped us develop our economy.
Even though the agricultural revolution positively benefited us in economic ways, there are economic and social costs that cannot be ignored. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) “Some 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to live healthy and active lives. In some countries one in three children are underweight and suffer from serious health problems as a result of skyrocketing food prices”. The hikes in food prices result in the poorest families having to make tough decisions about health and education for their kids. This unintended consequence of the agricultural revolution is significant because it has changed the way we spend our money and live our lives. These social and economic costs have negatively impacted a significant percentage of the world’s population. According to the same source (WFP), “Of those 805 million people only 15 million are in developed countries such as the United States, West Europe, Australia. The other 790 million live in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific”. Economically and socially, agriculture influenced people by changing the way we have to prioritize our economic and social needs. This unintended consequence of agriculture is important because it affects the quality of life that some people have to live with.
This effect of inequality was an unintended side effect of the agricultural revolution that changed humankind, but overall agriculture was an amazing innovation because it brought the rise of society. According to Khan Academy, “With more people, societies needed to change in unprecedented ways and become more sophisticated with how they organized human life”. This shows that agriculture was a good innovation socially because it positively impacted us bringing an era of sophisticated social interactions and more organized social systems. It also helped the natufians work together towards common goals. The agricultural revolution brought a change in the way we create communities and bonds with other human beings. Khan Academy says, “In various parts of the world, including the valleys of the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, Indus, and Huang rivers, larger and denser settlements began to emerge. These large concentrations of people are referred to as complex societies or civilizations, which share many features, including having a dense population, a social hierarchy, a division of labor and specialization, a centralized government, monuments, record-keeping and writing, and complex systems of belief. All of this is due to their agriculture based economy”. Those complex societies emerged as a result of the free time, need for organization, food surplus and specialization that agriculture brought. This was important because it changed humans socially by them being able to anticipate changes in their environments and develop new things such as water storage and food reserves. It also brought the rights of some to certain jobs, positions in society and the further development of those complex societies. As stated by Khan Academy, “To facilitate the organization and administration of these large, dense communities, people began to create social infrastructures: economic, political, and religious institutions that created new social hierarchies”. This rise of society brought complicated social classes filled with people of different trades performing duties vital to the growth of the early city states. The surplus food production generated by a small amount of farmers allowed for some residents not to participate in food production, which led to the development of distinct social roles and associated jobs. This has changed our social habits even today.
We as individual people and as a society would not be where we are today if not for the massive positive impacts of the agricultural revolution such as trade and specialization. There are some unintended consequences, however, we can change, just like the natufians did several millennia ago. The social changes that it provided brought an age of development that continues to this day. If not for all of the benefits that the agricultural revolution provided back thousands of years ago today we wouldn’t be able to cure infectious diseases or send people to the moon. We would still be living in stick huts, on the brink of starvation and dying unnecessarily for reasons that now can be easily solved. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory put forward by Abraham Maslow in his paper about human curiosity, A Theory Of Human Motivation. It is portrayed as a pyramid with the most basic psychological needs at the bottom, and the more complicated ones at the top. Maslow proposed that if the bottom level of physiological needs was not satisfied, you can never move up to the next level of the pyramid, which is safety, let alone achieve love, esteem or self actualization. Had it not been for the agricultural revolution we would be operating at the most basic levels of this hierarchy, always trying to get food and water and keeping ourselves safe, with only brief periods of time actually spent thinking about love and esteem. Luckily for us the agricultural revolution gave us the time and resources to move up Maslow’s pyramid and try to be the best we can be.
Boulding, Elise. ‘Women In The Agricultural Revolution.’ Westview Press.
‘Definitions Of Food Security.’ USDA ERS, 5 Sept. 2018, www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security.aspx. Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York, Norton, 2005.
‘Did Agriculture Doom Humanity?’ mentalfloss.com, mentalfloss.com.
Food Inc. Directed by Robert Kenner, performance by Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and Richard Lobb, screenplay by Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein, 2008.
‘The Food Price Rollercoaster.’ World Food Programme, 10 Oct. 2011, www.wfp.org/stories/rising-food-prices-infographic. Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
R, Anita. ‘A Step Forward In Solving World Hunger.’ Youngzine, 5 Nov. 2014, youngzine.org/news/societyarts/step-forward-solving-world-hunger. Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
‘Social, political, and environmental characteristics of early civilizations.’ Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/world-history-beginnings/birth-agriculture-neolithic-revolution/a/why-did-human-societies-get-more-complex. Accessed 5 Feb. 2019.
“Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs
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