It has been 100,000 years since members of the human species began to process information in a way that allowed them to recreate the world in their minds. What followed remodeled the face of our planet – but not until proto-farmers adopted a settled existence, a process that began only 12,000 years ago. The effects of this lifestyle change were profound.
Hunter-gatherers were integrated into their environments and, as far as we can tell, early groups behaved accordingly, their populations controlled by the availability of natural resources. For fledgling farmers, the calculation was entirely different. Clearing land for crops demanded labor, as did constructing and maintaining the irrigation systems necessary to compensate for irregular rainfall. In a world where resources were more abundant and more reliable, our ancestors’ more-or-less helpless offspring flourished, expanding the population.
Soon, people found themselves in a constant battle with the environment to maintain their fields, a struggle that was won only occasionally, by exhausting the capital nature herself provided. The bargain made by the early farmers was in many ways a Faustian one, but it was fundamental to creating the modern world.
After the retreat of the polar icecap at the end of the last ice age, Britain’s tundra was replaced by dense forest. The rise of forests wasn’t the only dramatic change at this time: sea levels rose to drown the former “Doggerland” that lay between Britain and the rest of Europe, cutting the archipelago off.
The hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic prepared the way for farmers by extensive burning to create clearings for browsing mammals (and even, Miles hints, for ritual purposes), and by creating a system of trails.
Our ancestors faced numerous difficulties and obstacles in their life including natural resources necessity like irregular rainfall and climate changes as the retreat of the polar icecap, to create the modern world and flourished life for them offspring.
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