Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Shifting from foraging to farming, beginning ~12,000 years ago, changed everything.

A special Feature section in the Jan. 17 issue of PNAS offers a series of perspectives on the past 12,000 years of human behavior, adaptation, and evolution that shaped who we are today. An introduction to the special section by Larsen does an overview and brief summary of each of perspectives presented. I pass on the last paragraph (Conclusions) of that summary:
In evolutionary terms, the transition at the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary was extraordinary, especially in consideration of the beginning of a fundamental shift in dietary focus and the downstream effects of diets based on domesticated plants and animals. The transition provided the context for a remarkable increase in population. However, the costs for that success—elevated levels infectious diseases, undernutrition, and conflict—are still with us today. Our species will continue to adapt, to develop strategies for success, and to mitigate challenges. That is what we do. Once we began the shift to and intensification of farming, the remarkable changes seen in humans became critically important developments in recent human evolution. In view of conditions today, including climate change, overpopulation, and the rise in prevalence of infectious diseases, both old and newly emerging, it should come as no surprise that dependence on a few staple crops and shift to sedentary behavior will be with us for the foreseeable future. They are, after all, a legacy of our past, and forming and sharing of the dietary framework, behavioral patterns, and outcomes in health and well-being for all eight billion of us that occupy the world today.

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