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  • Hello learned and astonishingly attractive pupils; my name is John Green, and I want

  • to to welcome you to Crash Course: World History. Over the next 40 weeks, together we will learn

  • how in a mere 15,000 years, humans went

  • MR. GREEN, MR GREEN! WILL THIS BE ON THE TEST?

  • Sigh.

  • Right, about the test. Listen closely: The test will measure whether you are an informed,

  • engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will be administered in bars and offices

  • and dorm rooms and places of worship and hospitals and yes, even schools. You will be tested

  • on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football, while scrolling through your twitter

  • feed. The test will judge your ability to think

  • about things other than celebrity marriages, whether youll be easily persuaded by empty

  • rhetoric, and whether youll be able to place your life and your community in a broader

  • context. The test will last your entire life, and it

  • will be comprised of millions of decisions which, taken together, will make your life

  • yours. And everythingeverythingwill be on it.

  • Oh. Crap.

  • I know, right? So listen up: In just 15,000 years, humans went from hunting and gathering

  • to create such improbabilities as the airplane, the Internet, and the 99 cent double cheeseburger.

  • It’s an extraordinary journey, one that I will now symbolize by embarking upon a journey

  • of my ownover to camera 2.

  • Hi, there Camera 2. It’s me, John Green. Let’s start with that double cheeseburger,

  • which contains 490 calories.

  • To get that cheeseburger, you have to feed raise and slaughter cows, then grind their

  • meat, then freeze it and ship it to its destination.

  • You also have to grow some wheat and then process the living hell out of it until it

  • tastes like unsweetened marshmallow,

  • milk some cows and turn their milk into cheese,

  • which isn’t even to mention the growing and pickling of cucumbers or the sweeting

  • of tomatoes or grinding of mustard seeds, etc.

  • How in the sweet name of everything holy did we ever come to live in a world where such

  • a thing can even be created? And how is it possible that those 490 calories can be served

  • to me forassuming I make the federal minimum wage here in the United States

  • And most importantly, should I be delighted or alarmed to live in this strange world of

  • relative abundance? Well, this may not strictly be history, since we don’t have much of

  • a written record, but thanks to archaeology and paleobiology, we do have some idea of

  • the prehistoric world. let’s go to the thought bubble.

  • 15,000 years ago, humans were foragers and hunters. Foraging meant gathering fruits,

  • nuts, and also wild grains and grasses. Hunting allowed for a protein-rich diet, so long as

  • you could find something with meat to kill. By far the best hunting gig in the prehistoric

  • world was fishing, which is one of the reasons that, if you look at the history of people

  • populating the planet, we tended to run for the coasts and stay there.

  • Marine life was A. abundant, and B. relatively unlikely to eat you. While we tend to think

  • that the lives of foragers (hunter/gatherers) was pretty bad, fossil evidence suggests that

  • they actually had it pretty good. Their bones and teeth are healthier than those of agriculturalists,

  • and anthropologists who have studied the remaining forager peoples have noted that they actually

  • work a lot fewer hours than the rest of us, and spend more time on art, music, storytellingand

  • if you believe the classic of anthropology Nisa, they also have more time for skoodilypooping.

  • What? I call it skoodilypooping. Is that so wrong?

  • It’s important to note that cultivation of crops seems to have arisen independently

  • over the course of millennia in a number of places, from Africa to China to the Americas.

  • Using crops that naturally grew nearbyrice in Southeast Asia, maize in Mexico, potatoes

  • in the Andes, wheat in the fertile crescent, yams in West Africapeople around the world

  • began to abandon their foraging for agriculture. Since so many communities made this choice

  • independently, it must have been a good choice, right, even though it meant less music and

  • skoodilypooping?

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble. Okay, to answer that question, let’s first take a look at the

  • advantages and disadvantages of agrictulture.

  • Advantage: Controllable food supply. You might have droughts or floods but if youre growing

  • the crops and breeding them to be healthier and heartier, you get a bit more say in whether

  • you starve.

  • Disadvantage: In order to keep feeding people as population grows, you have to radically

  • change the landscape of the planet.

  • Advantage: You can create a food surplus, especially if you grow grain, which makes

  • cities possible. As long as youre hunting and gathering

  • food that will quickly become inedible, it’s impossible to create large population centers.

  • But if you have a surplus, agriculture can support people not directly involved in the

  • production of food, like, say, tradesmen who can devote their lives to creating better

  • farming equipment, which in turns makes it possible for you to produce more food more

  • efficiently, which in turn eventually makes it possible for a corporation to turn a profit

  • on a 99 cent double cheeseburger.

  • Disadvantage: Some would argue the whole complexity of large and complex agricultural communities

  • that can support cities and eventually inexpensive meat sandwiches is not actually beneficial

  • to the planet or even necessarily its human inhabitants, although that is a tough argument

  • to make coming to you, as I am, as a series of 1s and 0s.

  • Advantage: Agriculture can be practiced in many places all over the world, although in

  • lots of places it requires extensive manipulation of the environment; e.g., irrigation or controlled

  • flooding or terracing.

  • Disadvantage: Farming is hard workso hard that one is tempted to for instance claim

  • ownership over other humans and then force them to till the land on your behalfwhich

  • is the kind of non-ideal social order that has tended to emerge again and again in agriculturalist

  • communities.

  • So why did agriculture happen when itwait, I haven’t talked about herders. HERDERS,

  • man, always getting the short end of the stick.

  • Herding is a very good and interesting alternative to foraging: Domesticate some animals, and

  • then take them on the road with you. The upsides of herding are obvious: You get

  • to be a cowboy, and animals are not only steady sources of meat and milk, they also help out

  • with shelter by providing wool and leather. On the downside, you have to move around a

  • lot because your herds always need new grass to eat, and it’s hard to build cities when

  • youre constantly moving, unless you are the Mongols.

  • By the way, over the next 40 weeks, you will frequently hear generalizations followed by

  • the caveatUnless you are the Mongols.”

  • But one of the main reasons herding only caught on in certain parts of the world is that there

  • aren’t that many animals that really lend themselves to domestication:

  • Like, you have sheep goats cattle pigs horses camels donkeys reindeer water buffalo yaks

  • all of which have something in common: They aren’t native to the Americas.

  • Llamas are the only halfway useful herding animals native to the Americas, and lots of

  • animals just don’t work for domestication.

  • Hippos are large and provide lots of meat, and they mostly eat plants, but they also

  • like to kill us, which makes them bad for herding. Zebras are too ornery; grizzlies’s

  • wild hearts can’t be broken; elephants are too slow to breed. Which reminds meit’s

  • time for the open letter.

  • An Open Letter to Elephants:

  • Hey, Elephants. Youre so cute and smart and awesome; why you gotta be pregnant for

  • 22 months? That’s crazy! And then you only have one kid! If you were more like cows,

  • you might have taken us over by now.

  • Like, here is the graph of cow population and here is the graph of cow population.

  • Elephants, if you’d just inserted yourself into human life the way cows did, you could

  • have used your intelligence and power to form secret societies conspiring against the humans

  • and then you could have risen up and destroyed us and made an awesome elephant world with

  • elephant cars and elephant planes, but nooooo youve gotta have 22-month pregnancies with

  • one offspring and tusks that people want to kill you for. It’s so depressing.

  • Best wishes, John

  • Right so but back to why the Agricultural Revolution occurred. We don’t have records,

  • but historians love to make guesses: Maybe population pressure necessitated agriculture

  • even though it was more work, or abundance gave people leisure time to experiment with

  • domestication or planting originated as a fertility right oras some historians have

  • arguedpeople needed to domesticate grains in order to produce more alcohol. Darwin,

  • like most 19th century scientists, believed agriculture was an accident, saying:

  • “a wild and unusually good variety of native plant might attract the attention of some

  • wise old savage.”

  • Off-topic, but you will come to note that the definition ofsavagetends to be

  • not me.’

  • Maybe the best theory is that there wasn’t really an agricultural revolution at all but

  • that it was part of an evolutionary desire to produce more to eat. After all, hunter

  • gatherers know that seeds germinate when planted and some groups will plant crops if the weather

  • and climate permit, while otherwise preferring to forage (since it’s less work, after all).

  • When you find something that’s edible, you try to get more of it. So early farmers would

  • take the most easily accessible seeds of einkorn and emmer wheat plants and plant those, hoping

  • that the results would become strains wheat that were easier to eat.

  • Like, for instance: We have evidence that as early as 13000 years ago humans in southern

  • Greece were domesticating snails for food. In a cave at Frankthi is a huge pile of snail

  • shells. Most of them are larger than current snails, suggesting that the people who ate

  • them were selectively breeding them to be bigger and more nutritious. Snails, btw, make

  • excellent domesticated food sources because A. they are nutritious, and

  • B. theyre easy to carry, since they come with their own suitcases, and

  • C. you can imprison them just be scratching a small ditch around their living quarters.

  • That’s not exactly a revolution. That’s just people wanting to increase the number

  • of their available calories.

  • But one non-revolution needs to another, and pretty soon you have this as far as the eye

  • can see. No doubt that the impact of the discovery and adoption of agriculture is probably the

  • most momentouseventin human and the planet’s history.

  • I’m cold; let’s go inside. Without agriculture we couldn’t have large

  • groups of people in the same place (they’d starve) and therefore no complex societies,

  • cities, religions, writing, metalworking, all that good stuff.

  • It’s also true that without agriculture we wouldn’t have all the bad things that

  • come with complex civilizations, like inequality, patriarchy, war, and unfortunately, famine.

  • And as far as the planet is concerned, agriculture has been a big loserwithout it humans

  • would never have changed the environment so much, clearing forests, moving rivers, building

  • dams to create and prevent floods, drilling wells for agriculture, and in the 20th and

  • 21st century drilling for oil to process into fertilizer. Many people made these choices

  • independently from each other, but does that mean it was the right choice? Maybe so, but

  • it’s impossible to unmake that choice today, which is one of the reasons I think history

  • is worth our attention: It reminds us that revolutions are not events so much as processes,

  • that for tens of thousands of years people have been making decisions that irrevocably

  • shaped our world, just as today were making subtle, irrevocable decisions that the people

  • of the future will remember

  • as revolutions.

Hello learned and astonishingly attractive pupils; my name is John Green, and I want

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B1 CrashCourse agriculture wheat cheeseburger people meat

The Agricultural Revolution: Crash Course World History #1

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    Fu Jung Lai posted on 2012/12/20
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