I am Man. I am a farmer.
I haven't always been. Or rather i don't remember exactly how it all began. Some say we were just hanging out in a garden until we got expelled because of a girl stealing an apple. Sounds like a hoax for sure.
What is certain is that I am a beast of nature. An animal like any other animal. I live here on planet Earth. I eat and defecate, I make love and have kids, I kill, I die... but I hardly recognize myself like that anymore. So much have happened.
Let me tell you a short, short version of it all. My sincerest apologies for inconsistencies of chronology. It's a long and complicated story. And recollecting it is nearly traumatizing as I'm almost in a state of shock due to the current affairs of my kind.
It began... in Africa...
I think. My first memory is roaming the plains there. Not too stressful a life, I tell you. We'd just stroll around. We'd follow flocks of antelopes and other ungulates, picking up whatever edible fruit, berry, root or what have you we'd come across. Every now and then we'd kill an animal and eat that too. We were gatherers and hunters - and prey too, but we learned to outwit our hunters. Having a friend eaten by a lion is a good reminder of the food chain though.
In the footsteps of the animals we followed, mushrooms appeared sometimes. Different ones from those in whatever garden or forest we came from. We partied around the camp fire. We painted stories of our life on rocks. We talked. No other animal did this. All of a sudden we were Mankind.
We roamed far and wide. Long beyond the savanna. Some even as far as a wall of ice, following reindeer and the huge Mammoths. Because we were curious, but also because we grew in numbers and had to break up and spread out every now and then.
We were Mankind, yes. But we were also still packs of humans - Homo sapiens - one out of many of Gaia's children. Equals? More than that. We were one. Spiritually we worshipped Gaia, Mother Earth, the provider of all things. Mankind was born feminist.
Seeds and burning trees
Meat is nice. But plants is what we live off most of the time. You never really know if and when you catch an animal. Plants are more reliable. So someone came up with the idea of collecting seeds and planting them for later harvest. That turned out to be a brilliant idea - with a stable food supply we were much better equipped to resist shortages of prey animals and such whims of nature. Also, it's great to be able to produce the same amount of food or more with the same workload or less. But avoiding famines is just crucial.
Thus, we grew in numbers even faster. We found out how to establish more fertile fields on newly burned forest floors, turning the constituents of the forest into nutrition for our crops: Slash and burn farming.
Some settled at lake shores and along rivers, cultivating land nurtured by flooding and catching fish. The Nile was such an area of settlement. In the case of shores along The Nile, we'd later learn that it's fertility was caused by the erosion of Ethiopia. Sadly, it didn't last forever.
We invented the plough. We baked bread. We brewed beer. We began cultivating our crop plants, selecting choice seeds for next season. We also began herding the animals whose trail we'd walked in earlier. Not only did we eat them, we made them pull the ploughs. Great! Those species of animals would evolve along with us - they became domesticated. We bred them much like we cultivated our crop plants. We were particularly successful in a region later called The Fertile Crescent: From The Nile we spread to Euphrates and Tigris and human civilization evolved along with wheat and other new species.
In a sense, we were no longer just a part of nature. We'd begun manipulating it. And worse: we'd begun breaking it down, hadn't we? Our crops wouldn't grow in the fields forever. After some harvests the plants would get sick and weak. Sometimes the fertile top layer of soil would disappear shockingly fast. So we had to move on for another place. We couldn't return to an old field for many, many years.
This system of agriculture was effectively sustainable - but only as long as our numbers were limited and we had new land to explore. We hadn't seen it, but there was an end to it. Also, we didn't stay equals. Trading of food, seeds, flour, fur and many other things didn't always distribute the same amount of goods to everyone. Along with the onset of inequality came social unrest, which means trouble. Regretfully, somewhere along the line the anomaly of murder was invented. How should I handle that? In the case of a domesticated animal killing a human, the animal is struck down. But if I strike down one of my own, I am a murderer myself. I still haven't fully resolved that ethical issue.
Towns: Peasants, priests and kings
What was later to be dubbed Manorial agriculture was a system of settled agriculture. By rotating our various crops between fields, we avoided most weeds and plant diseases. With the invention of marling and manure we tried to preserved the fertility of the soils. Grazing herds would collect nutrients in the wild to be left at home as their droppings - without which the system would have probably broken down.
In each town people helped each other out. The surrounding lands were divided among each family to equally distribute harvests. But strict control was needed. Not just of land allocation, but also of stocking rates, cultivation dates etc. Towns need leadership. Leadership needs justification. So we build religious houses and institutionalized spirituality to have it justify our leaders. It's just hilarious to think of now, but the church would actually begin to debate whether a given pest was a "tool of the Devil", punishments sent from it's god or just a regular part of nature.
Productivity didn't really go up for thousands of years. That's right. There were some problems with our farming methods: I.e. three times as much phosphorous - an essential plant nutrient - was removed from the soil with grain harvests as was added again through weathering of rocks. Agriculture wasn't really sustainable. In Europe the problem was alleviated by the spread of plague, The Black Death, and in China by the invention of fertilizer.
Most of the people were more or less still equals (well, those not dying from epidemics or slaughtered in wars) - but a class society had begun to emerge. Those at the top of the hierarchy perfected the art of tyranny as described in a 16th century book called Il Principe. They wouldn't rest on their laurels.
My eyes have gone watery from staring at a screen emitting light in frequencies this monkey wasn't exactly born for. I shall have to take a rest. In the next chapter of this story I make confessions of enslaving my own kind, killing my own kind for other reasons than survival, foreseeing my own demise and many other things.