When walking into a supermarket, we can choose from a variety of foods and flavors to stimulate our taste buds. In fact, we are so spoiled that we can even decide which brand of a certain product we prefer. Unfortunately, humanity has not always been so lucky. Our population began small and grew very gradually for a long time. The advent of agriculture allowed for this growth in population. Around 10,000 years ago humanity switched from hunter gathering to farming. They began domesticating plants and animals to have a more stable food source. This change allowed for many significant changes in the way humanity existed on this planet. Most notably, agriculture has caused a rapid increase in the size of our population.
Around 10000 years ago, before the shift to agriculture, our population consisted of about only 2 or 3 million individuals. 2000 years ago, however, our population had grown staggeringly to 250 million. Today our population exceeds 6 billion. Technology and improvements in health care are partly responsible for this drastic change, but humanity’s switch to agriculture started this major change.
The effect of the agricultural revolution on human population growth is represented by the following graph:
The switch to agriculture was brought on by necessity and not chance. The human population had stagnated due to a lack of food. Domestication solved this problem. Farming and raising animals produced more food in a smaller space then did hunting and gathering. Wild animals roamed and edible plant life could never be guaranteed. When domestication began food sources stayed near the population. Rather than having to constantly relocate for food, groups could survive with a supply of food near at hand. Also, farming allowed for food to be stored and used at later times if alternative food sources ran short. These factors would allow for our population size to increase dramatically.
The stable supply of food allowed for early humans to have a greater chance of survival due to be more fully nourished. The roaming groups became more settled. This meant that a community could develop and such a society would eventually begin to protect one another from starvation and the wild. Being settled meant a group could learn one area and grow familiar with it rather than having to be constantly on alert. This comfort with the environment would allow people to live longer lives in less relative danger.
A growth in agriculture was necessary to allow the population to continue growing. Instead of random circumstances creating a single case in which agriculture appeared and then spread, evidence shows that agriculture began to pop up in many places around the world. Plant domestication, at least, started in around ten separate areas. This shows how it was a necessary adaptation by humanity to continue population growth.
It is clear that the development of agriculture has allowed for the human species to become what it is today. The attainment of a reliable and consistent food source allowed for the increased population growth of our ancestors. This increase in population allowed for the evolution of human beings to take an interesting turn; with a newfound element of stability, the sophistication of technology, health care, and culture became possible.
Our Origins, by Clark Spencer Larsen