Son of Grok

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Reader, web-buddy, primal aficionado and crazy Black Hills cyclist of the Dakotas Tim provided me with the following link to a very interesting read.

“The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race”

This was written by a UCLA Med School Professor in the 80′s so nothing new here but has obviously been passed over many a time by CW. Go read the article then return here…. now discuss. Lol j/k… but I highly recommend reading it then returning.

A couple of my favorite excerpts: Hunter gatherers spend only around 20 hours or less per week obtaining food! The bushmen when asked why he did not plant crops like his neighbors responds “Why bother when food is so abundant”. Agriculture far from protects us from famine. The article uses the example of the great potato famine in Ireland. Our great agricultural revolution really has done little to solve the problem of world hunger.

I offer you 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1:
You wake up, shower, iron your clothes, make breakfast, pack your lunch. You then go to work for 8 hours (yeah right more like 10 right?!?!), get off work, run errands, workout, cook, run the kids all over town, and whatever else comes up. I call that a busy jam packed day!

Scenario 2:
You wake up naturally (no alarm clock here) have a casual breakfast, head out and meet you buddies or gal pals, hunt or gather food for a couple hours with your friends, workout in the process, return home, relax or get some errands and housework done, meet again with your buds or galpals in the evening to socialize, eat and “tribe” together.

You tell me which scenario sounds healthier and less stressful. I am not saying… I am just saying… I mean, this is the type of stuff we have to take vacations to do now! The hunting trips etc.

Now I respect the fact that our world population is out of control. For everyone to go primal, hunter gatherer sustainably at this point is pretty unrealistic. The reverting to a tribal village life is just my fantasizing utopial (is that word?) ramblings.

Maybe their is a way to get a little of the best of both worlds though? The idea of growing food or keeping livestock really dose make a certain amount of sense. The problem I think is that we are going about it the wrong way.

I see great benefit to keeping livestock. Having chickens, eggs, meat at the ready is awesome! But lets raise and keep the livestock healthily and sustainably.

I also see the benefit of growing crops. The problem is in the crops we grow. Subsidies, big agra, and other forces have decried that our agra consists of grains and corn. Let subsidize the right crops (vegetable, fruits and nuts). Imagine if there where subsidies for growing nuts! Then we would have an abundance of nutrient rich food as opposed to the grain calorie dense but nutrient devoid “food” to provide to the world. Prices would drop and we would see almond flour almost as inexpensive as wheat flour. Lets subsidize the right crops.

Just my ramblings here but am I really too far off base? What are your thoughts?

21 Responses to “Agricultural Revolution or Complication?”

  1. Matthew

    Hey SoG, congrats on the promotion!

    Just stoppin by to say that i enjoy the stuff you put out here, i wish more could hear it

    I just planted some crops last weekend (squash, eggplant, peppers)
    i never thought about how un-primal that might be. oh well, the backyard is a more natural place to “forage” than the grocery store shelves, for sure

    Now go and get some rest, you deserve it!

  2. lm

    Great idea to subsidize nuts/vegs/fruits. It is all about lobbying groups though.

  3. gcb

    It would be interesting if there were any update on this article to account for advances in archaeology in the past quarter-century or so.

  4. Cameron

    Actually, you can do quite a lot even on smaller properties. I’ve been following the Urban Homestead blog over at and it’s been pretty amazing to see how much food 1/10th of an acre can produce (6,000 lb of vegetables in 2008!)… and it’s even in the middle of the city – just outside downtown Pasadena. I find it interesting because this homestead proves that so much can be done with so little – it doesn’t require acres and acres to feed a family. In fact, there is so much abundance that they require the help of volunteers. So maybe a goal of an urban utopial tribe isn’t so far off!

  5. mike

    Oh my God! It could be bad if they subsidized nuts….My favorite food to eat period is Macadamia nuts…if they weren’t so ridiculously expensive there would be nothing stopping me;)

  6. Jo

    The adjective you were looking for is ‘utopian’. Also, I read on Seth Roberts’ blog that being raised alongside “chickens, eggs, meat” leads to a reduction in the incidence of allergies/asthma:

  7. Nina (Nina on Everything)

    I gotta say I have fantasies of living the gatherer life, I don’t think I would be much of a hunter, but my own little farm sounds like heaven!

    I think you are totally right on about that kind of life being not just more healthy, but much more enjoyable.

  8. Jefferson

    Hey SoG, I really enjoy your blog. I read it almost daily. You’re very inspiring. I haven’t posted before but I’ve finally got something that might be worth saying.

    That article is awesome. I wanted to point out that the author, Jared Diamond, is the same fella who wrote the recently very popular book Guns, Germs and Steel. While it isn’t exactly paleo related, it’s definitely worth a read.

  9. Tim

    Diamond’s book (and other articles) are indeed worth the read! He’s certainly not coming at it from a Paleo- Evo-fitness point of view, but it all applies, and has perhaps even more credibility for coming at it from paleo-historical perspective. I dig that paleo-history and paleo-archeology all dovetails nicely into this whole “thing”. I am always encouraged that I’m on the right path (and witness the results on my controlled study of one, me!) with regards to nutrition and exercise when I look at how humankind lived for the first “23 hours, 55 minutes” when you compress our 2 million years into a 24 hour clock.

    No need to be fatalistic about human kind making it to the second “24 hours”, but it is good to have this basis in my own evolutionary past to put into application for myself. Selfish me! And from the wide reach of this whole interwebnet thingy, it seems there is a rising tide of people who “get it”. I do my part to cajole and harangue my friends, acquaintances and family into the Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness model. A few get it, most don’t. But blogs like this are making a real difference in individual lives. It all adds up. Thanks SOG! Keep on keeping on!

    So, when you gonna get that new commuting bike?! Grok woulda used a bicycle……

  10. Shannon

    Sunday I spent an hour hand-tilling our backyard. The soil is thick with 1/4″ weeds and has never been tilled before. I only got through about 40 sq. ft. and it was brutal. My husband and I got out there again last night for about an hour and again I’m feeling it today. But it feels good to be sore. We are planning a massive garden this year – 1000 sq. ft. or so and I can’t wait for all of the great work outs I will be getting hand-tilling, weeding, harvesting, etc.

    Now if we can just get some chickens to chase around we’ll be all set.

  11. Primalism

    “Now I respect the fact that our world population is out of control. For everyone to go primal, hunter gatherer sustainably at this point is pretty unrealistic. The reverting to a tribal village life is just my fantasizing utopial (is that word?) ramblings.”

    This really is the crux of the issue. Agriculture and being settled in one location allowed for human populations to grow MUCH larger than they could ever be under hunting-gathering, where smallish tribes of humans were constantly on the move looking for resources and birth control/infanticide was normal to keep the population under control and low enough to be sustainable in the local environment they lived in (if they were a semi-settled group). If and when a hunting-gathering tribe grew too large to be sustainable/manageable (a sign of evolutionary success) it would often split or splinter to form a new group – this is how modern humans have so many different ethnic groups contained within the main racial groups.

    In a broad evolutionary sense settled agriculture allowed humans to become a more successful species overall because of larger numbers…however, as you and others well point out, INDIVIDUAL humans suffered from worsening health because of inadequate diets while at the same time the OVERALL human group or tribe (and worldwide humanity) was strengthened by sheer numbers, which slowly but surely caused the agricultural civilizations to eventually overcome the hunter-gatherer cultures. So it’s kind of a trade-off – as I said, most individual humans are generally a bit worse off under settled agriculture but the overall human group as a whole is larger and stronger (at least if you believe in the adage “strength in numbers”).

    Sadly, there is no way to go back to hunting-gathering unless at least 2/3 of the current human population died off or otherwise disappeared. But we humans are smart and conscious enough to ‘re-enact’ the hunter-gatherer lifestyle as you, me, and others are currently doing…and this is a very healthy thing that should be adopted by ALL people worldwide…we are advanced and aware enough to live and prosper in a settled agricultural civilization as we do yet still act like pseudo-hunter-gatherers often to derive the obvious health benefits from it.

    The following quote is very true: “The problem is in the crops we grow. Subsidies, big agra, and other forces have decried that our agra consists of grains and corn.”

    We should definitely seek to diversify our agricultural base, no doubt about that – with nutrient and fat-rich foods and meats being grown or raised as locally as is possible.

    The Jared Diamond article was decent (I’ve read it before), but be wary of him because I have read some of his books and have found him to be quite biased in many respects. He has written some good stuff and has decent insights from time to time, but he has also written a lot of bad junk too…so be vigilant that he too has natural biases that comes through in his work.

  12. questions

    A couple quick food related questions:

    1 – do you eat peanut butter?

    2 – do you drink/eat WHOLE high-fat dairy products like WHOLE milk (NOT skim milk), whole cheese, real cream, real butter, etc?

    3 – do you use a lot of olive oil?

  13. Son of Grok


    1 – No. Peanuts are a legume and are full of toxins. I make my own nutbutter at home from real nuts.

    2 – Occasionally I have organic cream cheese, sour cream or whole milk cheese. I also regularly eat real organic butter.

    3 – Depends on your definition of “a lot”. I do regularly use olive oil though yes.

  14. Justin from GymJunkies

    This is pretty interesting. Ive been a big fan of the primal approach from Vic and Mark Sisson, Im gonna look into this a bunch more…

    Good post man!

  15. TrailGrrl

    I haven’t quite given up peanut butter. I may be hardwired for it or something. Maybe when this latest canister is empty I’ll try to wean myself. I do like other nut butters, but nothing as much as peanut butter. The schedule you propose is sort of like vacation… get up when you are ready, do some stuff, eat when you are hungry, play, then go to bed when you are ready. You notice that your appetite changes… you don’t get fixated on “oh I need to eat” although I rarely do that now that I am Primal and pretty much eat when I am hungry. People want to know what I am doing to lose weight and I say I eat a lot of meat and not much sugar or bread or cereal. Then they say that they like their treats too much so they’d rather exercise more. All I can say is that I’m fitter now than when I was a flabby marathon runner and triathlete, and I don’t have sugar fits with big highs and lows.


  16. Katherine

    I nearly thought you were sensible, Son of Grok, until you mentioned “toxins”. If there was really stuff in peanuts that was bad for you, you’d tell us what it is and tell us your sources. If you’re just trying to say they are bad for you, that isn’t the same.

    I actually came to ask if you think it would be a good idea for everyone to embrace this tribal lifestyle, rather than the division of labour lifestyle that we have now which involves medical advances, clean water to drink etc. If you are so enamoured of this lifestyle then how come you are blogging about it on the internet rather than going to live in a country where this hunter-gatherer lifestyle would be possible?

  17. Son of Grok

    The name of the bad stuff in peanuts IS “aflatoxins”.

    Peanuts are notorious for being high in aflatoxins.

    As for living a truly hunter gatherer lifestyle off in the country somewhere… we don’t really live in a situation that allows that. You can find some remote piece of land in some remote part of the U.S and no matter how self sustainable you manage to make it (which requires considerable skill that I don’t possess), Uncle Sam is still going to come knocking for property taxes. Believe me, if I really thought could get away with retiring to a quiet life in the country then i would.

    As for why am I blogging about it on the internet? I found this info on the internet from Marks blogs and it helped me to know end. If I can help anyone with the same info then I have certainly done a good deed.

    I think in your trolling you are focusing too much on the wrong part of the message. I do not say that everyone should instantly run off and live a hunter gatherer lifestyle. I say that we should take the lessons we can from this lifestyle and incorporate it where we can into our modern lives. In fact, I am pretty sure that right in this post I point out that the extremem view of things is probably a little unreasonable in modern practice.

  18. Katherine

    Damn, I was hoping that I was coming across as reasonable but I guess my anger at bad information shone through and I got labelled as a troll. Thank you for responding; I guess I did take it a bit far in asking why you hadn’t adopted this lifestyle already – I did actually read your whole post but your clarification certainly helped me understand your intent better. I guess I am a bit hyper-sensitive to apparent hypocrisy on the internet.

    In asking why you hadn’t adopted this lifestyle I certainly didn’t imagine doing that in the US. How about Africa, or a Pacific Island? The locals would certainly teach you enough to fit in. A friend of mine went to a Pacific Island as part of a program to help improve the lives of the people there – free food and lodging, no property taxes in exchange for a little technical expertise and practical skill.

    As for the part which most provoked me: “toxins” in peanuts. A lot of people on the internet use the word “toxin” without really understanding anything about it, which is the main reason I asked. Thanks for the link; however it seems that according to your link: “Crops which are frequently affected include cereals (maize, sorghum, pearl millet, rice, wheat), oilseeds (peanut, soybean, sunflower, cotton), spices (chile peppers, black pepper, coriander, turmeric, ginger), and tree nuts (almond, pistachio, walnut, coconut, brazil nut).” I’d be interested in finding out whether you avoid eating any of the rest of these crops that are prone to be contaminated with Alfatoxins, and exactly which nuts you use to make your nut butter (I hope it is not one in that list). Also in your comment above you seem to be implying that 1) all legumes are full of toxins and 2) that the toxins are an integral part of peanuts, rather than a contaminant.

    Finally, a well-proven fact in the medical profession is that the damage done by any toxic substance is proportional to the dose, hence maximum safe levels being set by various government-run food safety groups. The Wikipedia link you provided states that the level of Alfatoxins in peanut butter “is usually far below the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommended safe level.” So it bothers me that you are frightening people with misleading information about peanuts/peanut butter. If you wanted to be less misleading while still giving your views on peanut butter you could mention this but then state you don’t think the safe limit set by the FDA is low enough, rather than “peanuts are full of toxins” which is clearly untrue.

    I hope this comment comes across as more reasonable than my previous “trolling” post. I genuinely admire people who strive to be healthy (I am trying to find the motivation to exercise more myself), but the amount of misinformation on the internet is vast and if I can reduce it just slightly, then I have certainly doen a good deed ;)

  19. Katherine

    Oh no, typo ^ should be “done” not “doen” obviously. I just returned to add that if you think I’m derailing a bit, we can move this discussion wherever you think it is appropriate on your blog. I meant to say that above but I forgot, too many points to keep track of!

  20. DML

    How about eliminating subsidies completely?

  21. Tori

    I love Jared Diamond. I was an anthropology major in college, and he is the first anthropologist I ever really took note of, because I love is writing. It makes sense to me, it is clear, and has a lot more science in it then a lot of other anthropologists I could mention.

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