What is ‘normal’ anyway?

What we can learn from our hunter-gatherer past

Forget any notions you have about cave men and their primitive ways. Forget any notions you have about civilisation making life so easy and comfortable for modern man. I’m here to show you how we modern humans can benefit from understanding more about our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

I used to think about human history as a time before antibiotics, before the Clean Air Act and before workers rights. A time when people died of minor infections, a time of working in the pits, of long hours in factory jobs, and the great London smog. A time before birth control when women had back-to-back pregnancies and lived in fear of complications in childbirth. This recent history shows us that the ‘good old days’ were pretty horrific and paints modern life as a luxury – for us lucky few at least. But if we look back a little further, we can see that pre-industrial societies had ways of treating infections, spent very little time ‘working’, lived in clean, healthy environments and even used contraceptives. We can also look to the lives of hunter-gatherers to answer a lot of modern problems about the state of our physical health, mental health and environment.

We spent over 99% of our evolutionary history as hunter-gatherers [1]. Then the agricultural revolution made its way around the world, forever changing how we live. Now, most people in the Western world can barely identify any edible plants in their local green spaces, never mind made a poisoned arrow to take down a wildebeest! [2]. Although we have come a long way, evolution is not that quick to catch up and we have been left ill-equipped for certain aspects of modern life.

I’m not saying we should go and camp in the woods and forage our own food (although that is a fun thing to do for a weekend!). But I do think that if we know what life was like throughout most of human history, we can understand ourselves better. And maybe some of us would make a few different decisions as a result.

Mental health is in a terrible state globally [3]. Diet-related problems and illnesses are rife [4]. We are less fit and healthy than we were before the agricultural revolution [5]. We are disconnected from many essential aspects of life such as our food supply, we are tired [6] and we are exposed to an alarming diversity of toxins on a daily basis [7]. The environment is in tatters [8]. But I don’t think it has to be this way.

From other people’s recorded scientific and casual observations of hunter-gatherer societies in recent times, I have built up a picture of a hunter-gatherer life. There are obviously as many different ways to live as there have been groups of people, but in spite of their differences, the social structures, values and ways of raising children among hunter-gatherers have allowed researchers to refer to a collective ‘hunter-gatherer culture’ [9], which I have referenced with specific examples along the way.

So I’m here to take you on a journey through your life as a hunter-gatherer, so that you can compare it with your real life, for better or worse…

You are born into a family within an extended group of about 40 people, all of whom are equal members – there is no hierarchy [10]. Your mother breastfeeds you for around four years [11]. You sleep with her every night. She carries you around a lot, and when she’s not carrying you, you’re being held or carried by someone else in the group. All these caregivers shower you with kisses and keep you almost constantly entertained [12]. When you need to pee or poo, this need is noticed and you are held out to do your business somewhere convenient [13]. You are never alone and your cries and needs are generally met within seconds [14]. You learn to walk and talk. You go through a phase of thinking it’s funny to hit people with sticks, but this is accepted as a normal and you grow out of it [15].

From around age four, it is thought that you no longer need much adult supervision. You spend your time with the other children – a merry band of mixed ages [16]. You never have to do chores [17]. You spend your days learning in the spirit of play everything that is going to be important to you. You play at being active, navigating, identifying plants, finding water, gathering food, preparing medicines, fighting, hunting, giving birth, making tools, having discussions, making shelter, having sex, caring for others, making fire, coping with pain, dealing with hardship, getting along with others [18]. You laugh a lot [19]. The group spends time together talking, dancing, playing music, making jewellery. You sleep when you are tired, eat when you are hungry and play when you feel like it. You have many role models and can learn what you want, when it takes your fancy. Of course in spite of these freedoms, paradoxically you are still a slave to the group. You can’t survive without them and it’s less fun playing on your own, so it is wise to adopt the social norms. You get really good at discussing, convincing and compromising [20].

Cooperation is essential and you learn from a young age that helping others is just a normal part of life, not something to be praised or deserving of gratitude. You help others as a matter of course and are helped in return [21].

Nobody exerts their will over you and you don’t try to make others bend to your will, even if they are smaller and weaker than you. Anyone who starts to feel powerful is mocked or ignored until they get their act together or leave the group [22]. And since there are no closed doors, any problems that arise are out in the open where other members of the group can intervene if required [23].

You may compare yourself to others in your group; perhaps you are even aware that some of the other young women are more beautiful than you are. But you all look fairly similar, there are lots of bodies on show of all ages, there are no mirrors or fashion magazines and there are relatively few people your own age to compare yourself to [24]. Your body is primarily a tool for performing useful tasks, for enjoying yourself, experiencing pleasure and adorning with flowers and beads when it takes your fancy.

You come to know hundreds of different plant species and their edible and medicinal properties. You have a varied diet that changes with the seasons. You know how to treat a variety of ailments with what you can find nearby. You know how to make tools, shelter and fire. You are excellent at finding your way around. You are at ease in yourself because you can meet all your basic needs with nothing more than your body and mind, and you always have your group around for support [25].

At some point in your mid to late teens you start to take on adult responsibilities. You ‘work’ for less than six hours each day at times of your choosing [26]. The tasks involve collecting and hunting food, making and repairing tools, processing and cooking food, and caring for the young, elderly and sick. You do these things with other members of the group, often laughing and joking as you work [19].

You start to have romantic relationship(s), falling pregnant for the first time around 19 years old [27]. This might seem young to modern eyes, but you know far more than modern first-time mothers! You have already seen a dozen pregnancies, births and newborns. You have cared for many babies and children. So the thought of having your own baby does not fill you with fear, or require much of a lifestyle change. You don’t have to spend time away from your work, your friends or your family to be with your baby. And you know exactly what to expect.

You give birth without injury or complication [28], with help from people you love and trust [29]. In the month following the new arrival, you are cared for in order to allow you the time and energy to look after your baby [29]. You breastfeed and sleep a lot, never watching the clock or fretting about unnecessary things [30]. Then you gradually ease back into normal life with your baby on your back [31] – collecting and processing food, singing, dancing, cleaning, caring for others. You are almost never alone with your baby. You alone respond to his cries only 10% of the time – usually you respond with assistance from other members of the group, and half the time your baby’s cries are met by someone else [14].

You have a child roughly every four years, never having to be responsible for a new baby until the previous child is capable of spending most of his time away from you. You make and use contraception if your fertility returns before you are ready for another baby [27].

Around your late thirties, your last child leaves your close embrace and you have had enough life experience to perform at your lifetime best throughout your forties. This is the time of peak ability because you are still relatively physically fit and you have lots of knowledge and experience.

After that, your physical fitness decreases more significantly but you are still a much-valued member of the group. You ease into gradually lighter duties until your main offerings are knowledge, skills and stories. You are still part of the group and are cared for in turn as you have cared for others. You are almost never alone. And having seen almost everyone who was alive when you were born eventually die, you know that death is part of life and not to be feared. You die as you have lived your whole life – outdoors, surrounded by your tribe.

So there we have it – the life story of a hunter-gatherer. Of course there are many aspects of that life that we probably wouldn’t covet; from incurable ailments to the lack of internet and many others in between. But the modern world boasts plenty of un-covetable issues itself, from hunger to disease, war to bullying, poor mental health to crippling inequality.

This picture of prehistoric life has helped me understand a lot of things about myself and about Western society in general, in particular my own experience growing up in Northern Europe with a heavy sprinkling of American media culture. It makes total sense that children and adults suffer from a lack of freedom, insufficient time outdoors and precious little time with an age-mixed group. It makes total sense that looking at photo-shopped pictures of models who look nothing like us makes us feel inadequate. It makes total sense that most babies don’t want to sleep alone. It makes total sense that old people get grumpy, lonely and stuck in their ways when they are excluded from society. It makes total sense that going on parental leave to look after your baby alone all day can be totally overwhelming for the parent and sometimes dull for the baby!

I think there are decisions we can make as individuals and as a society that can vastly improve our lives. I want to share with you examples of pioneering people making positive changes in the world to show that there is hope.

There are people who have spent their lives’ work improving women’s birth experiences by bringing back the aspects of prehistoric birth that made it so successful. It was during the agricultural revolution that birth started to go wrong for us – we had poor diets and our undernourished, overworked bodies were having more babies than ever before. Modern medicine stepped in to help, but it remains the case that many birth complications are caused by the interventions themselves [32]. Some indigenous people retained their successful birth practices into modern times [33]. Pioneering midwives like Ina May Gaskin have combined centuries-old knowledge with modern medical findings to prove that at least 95% of regular Western women can give birth without injury or hospital intervention if they are given the right support [34][35].

Education is another aspect of life where we would do well to take some lessons from our ancestors. Daniel Greenberg has shown that school does not have to be coercive, frustrating or tiresome for teachers or pupils by co-founding the Sudbury School model, where children can learn what they want, when they want and how they want [36]. The children interact freely with all other children and adults in the school, and everyone has an equal say in setting and enforcing the rules [37]. In this way, children learn how to form relationships with people of all ages, how to manage their time, what interests them, and they see that they have the power to affect change. And yes, they learn to read and write, they learn maths and physics, they learn art, sports and science. They can go on to university. And because they learn these things at a time of their choosing, when it interests them and is relevant to their lives, they enjoy it and they remember what they have learned. The extra special bonus is that when you remove structured lessons and standardised tests, this school model costs about half as much per pupil compared to surrounding state schools [38].

There are charities that work to integrate the elderly more actively into society. It has been shown that when we are old, we are happier, healthier and live longer when we get to interact with an age mixed group on a regular basis [39]. Living alone to get set in your ways is clearly a path to becoming undesirable to be around, therefore becoming more lonely and set in your ways!

We can’t return to wild foraging as a means of feeding the world. But there is a type of farming called permaculture (from ‘permanent agriculture’), pioneered by Bill Mollison. It is a way of growing a huge amount of food per unit area with no manufactured chemical inputs and no pumped irrigation. Trees, shrubs, bushes, vines, roots, climbers and cover crops are grown together in the style of a young forest with clearings and well-spaced trees to allow light to the lower levels. Everything is multi-functional and the forest is maintained as an in-tact ecosystem, where the diversity of the plant, insect and other animal life is what keeps the system healthy [40]. If animals are farmed in the system, they are fed by the system and provide fertiliser for the system. The main criticism I hear of permaculture is that it can’t possibly feed the world. If you can’t harvest the produce with a tractor, it is simply too inefficient. My problem with that argument is that it doesn’t consider the costs and inefficiencies of mechanised agriculture. Hydrocarbons, metals and other materials have to be extracted and processed. The huge volumes of chemicals that are applied have to be manufactured, packaged, transported and sprayed. The human and environmental costs of their use are staggering [41]. Expensive hybrid seeds have to be grown on special farms, collected, packaged and transported. The machines used on the farm have to be manufactured, transported, maintained and fuelled. The produce grown has poorer nutritional content and poorer flavour compared to organic and home-grown produce because the primary concerns are uniformity, transportability and longevity [42]. The produce has to be transported a long way to reach the customers. I can’t find any satisfactory data on the topic, but I would be willing to bet that the calories in : calories out ratio doesn’t look that great for mechanised agriculture if you take all the associated costs into account. I also argue that moving to a less mechanised system of smaller farms with more farmers using the permaculture model would make more tasty, nutritious, varied, local, seasonal produce available to more people. The environment would benefit hugely. The workers would have a better quality of life. Maybe the system would even work out cheaper and farmers would be able to earn a living without relying on subsidies.

Finding solutions to such ‘big’ problems in society is going to take time and debate, trial and error, but I think there are a lot of ways to make improvements to our daily lives. Using models like the ones described could reduce unnecessary medical treatment, provide cheaper and more effective schools, healthier and more varied food, more space for nature, more access to wild spaces and a more equal society. And instead of working all day to earn money to pay other people to do our cleaning, cooking, childcare, and care for the elderly, we could work less and start to re-integrate those functions back into society.

When Dave and I debate these issues, he tells me that he wouldn’t want to live that way. That he values his own personal freedom too highly and doesn’t want the stress of having other people depending on him. But I think that is missing the point. We still live in a ‘group’, albeit a global one where our impacts on each other are often unseen by us. Many freedoms that any one person has in our society are dependent on infringing on another person’s freedom. For example, I can enjoy being out of work with the freedom to spend my time and the money I get from rental income how I wish. But my tenant is working hard to spend a significant proportion of his income on rent. I can be free from the time-consuming task of making my own clothes. But somewhere, there is a farmer spraying her cotton, killing off wildlife and risking her health. A factory worker sat at a sewing machine in a dusty warehouse all day. Another making toxic dyes, and delivery drivers stuck behind the wheel. I actually think that being forced into a lifetime of committing atrocities is one of the reasons that our collective mental health is in such a state. We try to zone out the global pain and suffering, but we know that it is there.

I don’t advocate opting out of the economy all together. There are more ethical and environmental ways of participating if we are more mindful about how we take part. But the point is that the freedom we have been told that we deserve to enjoy in the modern world comes at a price. We would do well to remember something that our hunter-gatherer ancestors knew so well – that until we all are free, we are none of us free [43].

-Anna


References

[1] “Based on current archeological evidence, anatomically modern humans have existed roughly 200,000-300,000 years. However, before roughly 15,000-20,000 years ago, we have no evidence that our ancestors had agriculture.” https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/world-history-beginnings/birth-agriculture-neolithic-revolution/a/where-did-agriculture-come-from

[2] This is a video of the lives of the Jul’hoansi (or !Kung) people, featuring the use of various tools including poison arrows for hunting animals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAJCtSKzN-E.

[3] “Each year, 25% of the population [In Europe] suffer from depression or anxiety.” http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/mental-health/news/news/2012/10/depression-in-europe/depression-in-europe-facts-and-figures

[4] “Physical inactivity is already a major global health risk and is prevalent in both industrialized and developing countries, particularly among the urban poor in crowded mega cities.” https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/summary/en/

[5] “Hunter‐gatherer populations are remarkable for their excellent metabolic and cardiovascular health and thus are often used as models in public health, in an effort to understand the root, evolutionary causes of non-communicable diseases.” From “Hunter‐gatherers as models in public health” by Ponzer el al. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/obr.12785

[6] “Fatigue is a pervasive influence on [modern] human life, experienced by everyone on a regular basis.” Page 1 “The Psychology of Fatigue: Work, Effort and Control” By Bob Hockey and Robert Hockey.

[7] “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began measuring human exposure to chemicals in 1976. These so-called “biomonitoring” studies found a range of toxics in subjects’ blood and urine – substances like DDT, BPA, air pollutants, pesticides, dioxins and phthalates. Phthalates, for example, are a class of chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors but widely used as softeners in plastics and as lubricants in personal-care products.” From “Toxic Exposure” by Molly Miller. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2017/06/407416/toxic-exposure-chemicals-are-our-water-food-air-and-furniture

[8] “The overall condition of the global environment has continued to deteriorate. Urgent action at an unprecedented scale is necessary to arrest and reverse this situation, thereby protecting human and environmental health and maintaining the current and future integrity of global ecosystems.” Global Environmental Outlook – GEO6. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/global-environment-outlook-geo6-summary-for-policymakers/what-is-the-global-environment-outlook/14472874E2AEFDA40C75BC285B1F45C4

[9] Page 25 of ‘Free to Learn’ by Peter Gray.

[10] “Hunter-gatherers live in small bands (typically twenty to fifty persons, including children) that move from place to place. Their core social values, as described by nearly all researchers who have studied them, are autonomy (personal freedom), sharing, and equality. We in modern democratic cultures generally hold these values as well, but hunter-gatherers’ understanding of and emphasis on them go way beyond ours.

Hunter-gatherers’ sense of autonomy is so strong that they refrain from telling one another what to do. They refrain from offering unsolicited advice to one another. Each person, including each child, is free every day to make his or her own choices, as long as those choices don’t interfere with other’s freedoms or violate a social taboo. Their autonomy, however, does not include the right to accumulate private property or to make others indebted to them, as that would run counter to their second great value – sharing.” Page 24 of ‘Free to Learn’ by Peter Gray.

[11] “Most hunter-gatherer women breastfeed their children for 3-4 years.” Page 339 of ‘Human Reproductive Biology‘ by Richard E. Jones and Kirstin H. Lopez.

[12] “Studies of modern hunter-gatherers show that an infant is held almost constantly throughout the day, either by the mother or by someone else. In every known society of human hunter-gatherers, mother and infant sleep immediately nearby, usually in the same bed or on the same mat.” https://www.newsweek.com/best-practices-raising-kids-look-hunter-gatherers-63611

[13] It is clear that hunter-gatherer societies were diaper-free, since diapers are a modern invention. But what many Westerners don’t know is that there are examples of diaper-free culture all over the modern world too. In one example, the Digo people in Kenya “started bowel and bladder training at 2 to 3 weeks of age and had succeeded with all aspects reasonably well by the age of 4 to 6 months.” https://godiaperfree.com/infant-potty-training-in-indigenous-africa-how-people-potty-their-babies-in-countries-without-diapers-part-1/

[14] “Babies cries were responded to generally within three seconds and almost always within ten seconds. 46% of cries were met by the mother. 88% of responses involved another member of the group.” Page 436 of ‘Hunter-gatherer Childhoods‘ by Barry S. Hewlett.

[15] “Even aggressive acts by the young child are indulged – hitting the mother with a stick, for example – on the grounds that this is just another phase. Of neighbouring herding people who are less indulgent and more strict, they say: “They don’t like children.”” https://www.naturalchild.org/articles/guest/melvin_konner.html

[16] Page 182 of ‘Free to Learn’ by Peter Gray.

[17] Page 26 of ‘Free to Learn’ by Peter Gray.

[18] “The single most important form of learning is observation. Very little teaching occurs in traditional societies.” From ‘The Anthropology of Learning in Childhood’ by David Lancy.

[19] “Often I have had cause to notice this same good cheer and readiness to laugh and joke among the people of the Gibson Desert, even when they are plagued by boils and heat, pestered by flies, and short of food. This cheerfulness seems to be part of a disciplined acceptance of frequent hardships which complaints would only aggravate.” Gould 1969.

[20] “Decisions that affect the whole band, such as when to move from one campsite to another, are made by group discussions, which might go on for hours or days before consensus is reached and action is taken. Women as well as men take part in these discussions, and even children may voice their opinions. Within a given band some people are known to be wiser than others and are therefore more influential, but any power they exert comes from their abilities to persuade and to find compromises that take everyone’s desires into account.” Page 26 of ‘Free to Learn’ by Peter Gray.

[21] “The hunter-gatherer concept of sharing is different from our Western understanding. For us, sharing is a praiseworthy act of generosity, for which a thank-you is due and some form of repayment may be expected in the future. For hunter-gatherers, sharing is neither a generous act nor an implicit bargain, but a duty. It is taken for granted that you will share if you have more than others; failure to do so would invite ridicule and scorn.” Page 25 of ‘Free to Learn’ by Peter Gray.

[22] “The weapons most commonly used to combat boasting, or failure to share, or other tabooed actions, are ridicule and shunning. As a first step, people make fun of the violator for behaving in such an inappropriate way. They might make up a song about how so-and-so thinks he is such a “big man” and “great hunter”. If the behaviour persists, the next step is to act as if the violator does not exist. Such measures are highly effective in bringing around the transgressor. It is hard to act like a big shot if everyone ridicules you for it, and it is not worth hoarding food if the price is being treated as if you don’t exist.” Page 25 of ‘Free to Learn’ by Peter Gray.

[23] “The !Kung have little privacy, either in the village or within the family dwelling.” Page 94 of “Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman“, by Marjorie Shostak.

[24] “During our species’ entire evolution we would never have seen ourselves reflected clearly. Our assessment of self-worth and status would have been drawn from the behaviours of others around us.” From “Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body“, by Sara Pascoe.

[25] “I will always remember her calmness as we brought her to the encampment and dressed the wound. She had been alone, helpless and in pain for many hours in a place frequented by hyenas, yet she acted as if nothing had happened. To me, such composure did not seem possible, and I remember wondering if the nervous systems of the Ju’hoansi were not superior to ours. But of course their nervous systems were the same as ours. It was their self-control that was superior. Nothing would be more attractive to a predator than a weeping, struggling creature alone and unable to run away.” Thomas 2006, pp 216-217.

[26] “These studies show that hunter-gatherers need only work about fifteen to twenty hours a week in order to survive and may devote the rest of their time to leisure.” From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society

[27] “The !Kung are a contracepting, nonabstinent population with low natural fertility. They have menarche at 16.5, first birth at 19.5, last birth in the late 30s.” From “Timing and Management of Birth among the !Kung” by Melvin Konner and Marjorie Shostak.

[28] “Given their rarity, ancient remains of women who died during childbirth tend to gather a lot of attention in anthropological circle.” https://cosmosmagazine.com/archaeology/estimating-childbirth-deaths-in-prehistory

[29] In North America “Before the arrival of European settlers, birth in many First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities was a time for sharing and reinforcing sacred knowledge of birth, and for strengthening social relationships and ties to the land. Community births brought together midwives, elders, men, fathers and extended family to help. In Dene tradition, for example, mothers would stay in a shelter with their baby for a recovery period after the birth, being looked after by a midwife and older women.” https://www.macleans.ca/society/life/how-indigenous-midwives-are-helping-women-reclaim-childbirth/

[30] “I suddenly learned the not-so-difficult secret as to the joyful silence of African babies. It was a simple needs-met symbiosis that required a total suspension of ideas of “what should be happening” and an embracing of what was actually going on in that moment. The bottom line was that my baby fed a lot – far more than I had ever read about anywhere and at least five times as much as some of the stricter feeding schedules I had heard about.” https://www.naturalchild.org/articles/guest/claire_niala.html

[31] Baby-wearing is still used in this way all over the world. This is a beautiful array of baby wearing across different modern cultures. https://wrapyourbaby.com/cultural-babywearing/

[32] “Medical interventions carried out at high rates had a negative impact on women’s childbirth experience. Therefore, a proper assessment in the light of medical evidence should be made before deciding that it is absolutely necessary to intervene in the birthing process and the interdisciplinary team should ensure that intrapartum caregivers will “first do no harm.”” From https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-018-2054-0 

[33] In Traditional First Nations groups, “The hands-on training for a community-based midwife often began in her teenage years with observation of childbirth practices. Practices were handed down by oral tradition and included prescriptions for healthy diet and moderate exercise during pregnancy; intrapartum care with preparation of clean cloths, moss, and scissors; the involvement of certain supportive family and community members; careful attention to the sacred handling of the placenta and umbilical cord; and careful wrapping of the newborn in fur.” https://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(16)34768-5/pdf

[34] There are a handful of midwife-led birthing centres around the modern world that have remarkably similar statistics, indicating that the vast majority of women have no problem giving birth without medical intervention if they have the right support. Ina May Gaskin from “The Farm” has a 95.1% rate of completed home births, 1.4% cesareans, 0.5% forceps deliveries, 0.4% combined 3rd and 4th degree tears, and 1% post partum depression. She says “We have tried to use the best that both traditional peoples and the medical world have to offer. We kept up on the medical literature and equipped ourselves with portable technology useful for out of hospital births (blood-pressure cuffs and sterile gloves for instance).” Page 271 “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin.

[35] Statistics from “The Farm” are published on the website: https://thefarmmidwives.org/preliminary-statistics/

[36] Sudbury Valley School Theory. https://sudburyvalley.org/theory

[37] “The school’s rules are enforced by the Judicial Committee, which changes regularly in membership but always includes one staff member, two elected student clerks who chair the meetings, and five other students selected in such a way that they represent the entire age span of students at the school.” Page 89 of “Free to Learn” by Peter Gray.

[38] “Per student, Sudbury schools cost only about half of what we now spend per student on coercive public schools.” From “Free to Learn” by Peter Gray.

[39] “In Europe, 35 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men above 60 years of age live alone. This trend is in accordance with a general preference for independent living in economically developed countries. However, older persons living either alone or in skipped-generation households tend to be an especially disadvantaged group in the less developed regions. In many cases, living alone is not a matter of choice, but of external circumstances” https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/pau/_docs/age/2009/Policy_briefs/4-Policybrief_Participation_Eng.pdf

[40] Permaculture Design Principles explained (with embedded video). https://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/

[41] “Pesticides are often considered a quick, easy, and inexpensive solution for controlling weeds and insect pests in urban landscapes. However, pesticide use comes at a significant cost. Pesticides have contaminated almost every part of our environment. Pesticide residues are found in soil and air, and in surface and ground water across the countries, and urban pesticide uses contribute to the problem. Pesticide contamination poses significant risks to the environment and non-target organisms ranging from beneficial soil microorganisms, to insects, plants, fish, and birds. Contrary to common misconceptions, even herbicides can cause harm to the environment. In fact, weed killers can be especially problematic because they are used in relatively large volumes.” From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984095/

[42] “The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (the FAO) estimates that there are roughly a quarter million plant varieties available for agriculture, but less than 3 percent of these are in use today. The world’s food supply depends on about 150 plant species. Of those 150, just 12 provide three-quarters of the world’s food. More than half of the world’s food energy comes from a limited number of varieties of three “mega-crops”: rice, wheat, and maize.” From https://www.idrc.ca/en/research-in-action/facts-figures-food-and-biodiversity

[43] Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”

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