Archives for posts with tag: agriculture

Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, 2011



Fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths (such as the biblical creation story, the Dreamtime myths of aborigines). Such myths give sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers.

As far as we can tell, changes in social patterns, the invention of new technologies and settlement of alien habitats resulted from genetic mutations and environmental pressures more than from cultural initiatives. This is why it took humans hundreds of thousands of years to make these steps.

When two strangers in a tribal society want to trade, they will often establish trust by appealing to a common god, mythical ancestor or totem animal.

In the savannahs they inhabited, high calorie sweets (ripe fruits) were extremely rare and food was in short supply. A Stone Age women would eat as many fruits as possible on the spot, before the local baboon band picked the tree bare. The instinct to gorge on high calorie food is hard wired into our gene.

Evidence from fossilized skeletons indicates that ancient foragers were less likely to suffer from starvation and malnutrition than their peasant descendants. The forager’s secret of success was their varied diet (while pre-modern agricultural population got their calories from limited number of crops -wheat, potatoes, rice) .

New agricultural tasks demanded so much time that people were forced to settle permanently next to their wheat fields. We did not domesticate wheat. Wheat domesticated us.

The Agriculture revolution made the future far more important than it had ever been before. Farmers work in its service. Peasants were worried about the future [not only because it impact on their corps but also because] they could do something about (e.g. clear another field etc.). The stress of farming has far-reaching consequences: it was the foundation of large-scale political and social systems.

Bureaucracy (methods of cataloguing information, schools for scribes) proved to be more difficult than writing to invent.  Many writing systems developed independently. But most of those remain curiosities because those who invented them failed to invent efficient ways of cataloguing and retrieving data.

Rape in many legal systems, falls under property violation – the victim is not the woman who was raped, it the male who owns her. The legal remedy was the transfer of ownership – to pay a bride price to the woman’s father or brother. The Bible consider this a reasonable arrangement ( if a man meets a virgin and lies with her….he shall give 50 shekels of silver to the father and she shall be his wife).

One theory is that, in order to ensure her own survival and the survival of her children, the woman had little choice but to agree to whatever conditions the man stipulated so that he would stick around and share some of the burden. As time went by, the feminine gene that made it to the next generation belong to women that were submissive caretakers. [But women could have been dependent on other women instead…and as women have superior social skills to collaborate, why are they not in charge?] – we have no good answer.

The best known religions (Islam, Buddhism) are universal and missionary. People tend to believe that all religion are like them. In fact the majority of ancient religions were local (local deities) and exclusive (no interest in converting the entire human race).


The insight of polytheism is conducive to far-reaching religious tolerance. Polytheists believe in many partial and biased powers: they have no difficulty accepting the existence of other gods. Polytheism is inherently open minded, and rarely persecutes heretics and infidels.

Roman persecuted a few thousand Christians who would reject all attempts at compromise. In contrast, over the course of the next 1500 years, Christians slaughtered Christians by the millions to defend slightly different interpretations of the religion of love and compassion.

St Mathew lent a hand to tax collector in distress…

Dualism explains that the entire universe is a battleground between good and evil, and that everything that happen in the world is part of the struggle.

Sometime between 1500 and 1000 BC a prophet named Zoroaster was active in the middle east. It was an important religion during the Achemenid and later the Sassanid, and inspired Gnosticism and Manicheism. Today only a handful of communities survive in India and the Middle East

The Chinese and Persians did not lack technological inventions such as steam engine (which could be freely copied). They lacked the values, myths, judicial apparatus and sociopolitical structures that took centuries to form and mature in the West and which could not be copied and internalized rapidly. Chinese and Persians did not catch up quickly because they thought and organized their society differently.

What did Europe develop in the early modern period that enable it to dominate the late modern world? There are two complementary answers: modern science and capitalism.

In year 2000 only 1.6% of dead bodies in the world are related to war and violent crimes.

The 10000 year explosion – Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending. 2012.



Great leap forward some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago: advent of cultural evolution and the end of biological evolution. However modern humans have experience a storm of change over the past 50,000 years.

It is clear that natural selection can proceed quite rapidly  (e.g. domestication of dogs in less than 15,000 years, of plants (corn) in 7000 years) and that the past consist of long periods of near-stasis interspersed with occasional periods of very rapid change.

The Ice Age ended some 11,500 years ago.

The conclusion that all humans are effectively the same is unwarranted. Evolution has taken a different course of different populations. Over time, differences among populations have accumulated.

We expect that differences between human ethnic groups are qualitatively similar to those between dog breeds (shallow).However differences between dogs are not so small. Very significant evolutionary changes in response to agriculture were still possible.

Someone from Nigeria may have sickle-cell mutation (a known defense against malaria) while hardly anyone from northern Europe does, but even the majority of Nigerians who don’t carry sickle cell are far more resistant to malaria than any Swede. They have malaria-defense version of many genes.

In principle, differences in a single gene could cause significant trait differences between human populations.

We believe that obvious differences between racial groups are linked to gene variants that have recently increased in frequency and had major fitness effect.

We are signicantly different from our ancestors 40,000 years ago and different from our ancestors of early historical times. We can empathize with the heroes of Iliad but we are not the same.

In most humans – and in mammals generally – lactase production stops around the age of weaning, but in Europeans and some other peoples, production continues throughout life. This adaptation lets adults drink milk. Lactose-tolerant Europeans carry a particular mutation that is only a few thousand years old.

Since we have sequenced the chimpanzee genome, we know the size of the genetic difference between chimps and humans. Since we have a decent estimates of the length of time since the two species split, we know the long term rate of genetic change. The rate of change over the last few thousands years is far greater that this long term rate (100 times greater).

The ultimate cause of this accelerated evolution was the set of genetic changes that led to an increase ability to innovate.

P 25 Moderns showed up in Europe about 40,000 years ago. A superior tool kit – in particular needles for sewing clothes – may have made permanent settlement possible.

Modern human had projectile weapons, as opposed to Neanderthals. Another hypothesis is that modern humans had developed advance language capabilities. Moderns had long distance trade (favoured by language abilities probably) probably favoured formation of large scale alliances. Modern humans carried some disease and parasite that was fairly harmless to them but deadly to Neanderthals.

In southwestern France, we find tool tradition  from 35,000 to 28,000 (Chatelperronian) that appear to combine some techniques of the Neanderthals (Mousterian) and the moderns (Aurignacian). This tells us that there were interactions between both, Neanderthals can’t have been all that far behind modern human in terms of cognitive capabilities. (Archaeological artefacts from as recently as 100,000 years ago do not show real differences between both culture)

With the advent of modern humans in Europe, innovation was bustin’ out all over.

Spearpoints and scrapers of this period often used materials from hundreds of miles away. Bones and ivory are used as well. They had a more varied diet (and perhaps safer hunting methods) and new methods of preserving food. They used the fire better, made lamps and pottery figures. They built much more substantial protective structures.  They invented art. We have clear cut evidence of burial rituals. But being modern was not enough to trigger so much innovation. We don’t see this storm of innovation in Australia. So something important, some genetic change, allowed moderns to expand out of Africa and supplant archaic sapiens.

Human did not invent agriculture anywhere on earth during the Eemian period (interglacial period of about 125,000 years ago). They did so a least 7 times independently in the  Holocene, the most recent interglacial which began 10,000 years ago.

Genetic changes allowed important human development in 40,000 BC that were not possible 100,000BC : the human revolution. Some mechanism must have been at play that could cause unusually rapid genetic change. That mechanism, we believe, was introgression – that is, the transfer of Alleles from another species, in this case Neandertals.(case of introgression includes most domesticated plants and e.g. cows: taurine in the middle east and zebu in india are interfertile although they were separated several hundred thousand years ago.)There is no faster way of acquiring new and useful genes. The key point: rare interbreeding can be very important, as it introduce new gene variant in the population. So much so that even a few dozen half Neanderthal babies over thousands of years would have allowed modern human to acquire most of the Neanderthals’ genetic strengths.


The two specied had separated fairly recently, roughly half a million years earlier.

Venus of Dolmi Vestonice – 27,000 BC

Venus of Willendorf  23,000 BC

Lion Man of Hohlenstein, 30,000 BC

Some have seen evidence of Neanderthal features in some of the earliest form of moderns in Europe. Other dispute the matter.

Haldane : if the allele confers an advantage s, its chances of going all the way in 2s. IN a stable population, a single copy of an allele with a 10% fitness advantage has a 20% chance of eventually becoming universal.

Home heidelbergensis , the common ancestor of Neanderthals and moderns, settled both Europe and Africa about ½ million years ago. Both developed a larger brain.

Adaptation depends on supply of favourable mutations, which are generated randomly, thus two populations facing the same problem may well find different solutions and those solutions need not be equally efficient. (e.g. Amerindians from high andes have plenty of red cells, Tibetans have lower levels of haemoglobin but breathe faster to take more oxygen. They are both better adapted than flatlanders, and Tibetan solution is more efficient than its Andean equivalent).

Over a few centuries, people in areas where camel were available abandoned wheeled vehicles and roads almost entirely: the motto here is that sometimes the apparently inferior choice has better upgrade path.The seemingly inferior choice may come out on top down the road:excess heat production limited the trend toward larger brains in Africa, while in Europe heat was not much of a problem. Later, as evolution fine-tuned the physiology of large brains, much of the heat problem was solved and so the new brain could then spread in Africa as well.

5% of genetic variation among both Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans originated in archaic humans such as the Neanderthals. (there may have been archaic population in Africa as well (with variants only found in Pygmies for instance).

Microcephalin (MCPH1) is a gene that regulates brain size. Most people today carry the same version of it indicating a recent origin, estimated at 37,000. Neanderthals are a reasonable, indeed likely, source. FOXP2, who plays a role in speech was replaced by a new variant some 42,000 years ago (and existed among Neanderthals). It is surprising that we may have acquire our speech capabilities from Neanderthals, but not impossible.

There was 2 streams out of Africa 50,000 years ago – one to Europe and Central Asia, one to the far east to Australia and New Guinea. There is no trace of creative explosion in the second streams. Populations there brought and retained Neanderthal grade technology and culture.

P64. By 40,000 years ago, humans had become both anatomically and behaviourally modern (but exactly like people today). They had vastly greater powers of innovation than their ancestors, likely owing in parts to genes stolen from their Neanderthals cousins.

60,000 year ago there were 250,000 modern humans. By the bronze age, 3000 years ago, that number was roughly 60 million. 100,000 years ago there was half a million people (moderns+archaic (Neanderthals + erectus). Some 12,000 years ago, there were 6 millions modern humans. From 10,000 BC to AD1, world population increased hundredfold.


Farming produces 10 to 100 times more calories per acre than foraging. Shelter, artefacts no longer had to be portable. Births could be spaced closer together since mother did not have to continually carry small children. For the first time, humans could begin to accumulate wealth. Governments come up, limiting local violence (allowing government to extract resources from their subject).

New mutations have played a major role in evolutionary agriculture and there was a vast increase in the supply of those mutations just around this time because of population increase associated with agriculture. More mutation occurred in large populations, some of them beneficial. By 5000 BC, new adaptative mutations were coming into existence at a tremendous rate, roughly 100 times more rapidly than in the Pleistocene.

There is every reason to believe that early farmers developed serious health problems from this low-protein, vitamin short, high carbohydrate diet (infant mortality increased due to poor diet) Humans who adopted agriculture shrank (average height dropped by five inches).

Over millennia population responded to these new pressure: people with genetic variants that helped them deal with the new diet had more surviving children.

Hunter gatherers and mammals stop making lactase in childhood. But after the domestication of cattle, milk was available to people of all ages. A mutation that caused continued production of lactase originated 8000 years ago and spread among Europeans. Similar mutations occurred  in Tutsi populations.

Vitamin D shortages may have driven the evolution of light skin in Europe and northern asia. Since there is plenty of vitamin D in fresh meat, hunter gatherers in Europe may not have suffered from Vit D shortages and may have fairly dark skin. Several mutations causing light skin colors originated after the birth of agriculture.

P 80 . population that have never farmed/not formed for long, such as the Australian Aborigenes and many amerindiens have health problems when exposed to western diets: high incidence of diabetes of type 2. Prevalence of diabetes in Aborigenes is 4 time more than in other Australians: we think this is a consequence of a lesser degree of adaptation to high carbohydrate diets. Polynesians are more prone to diabete (3 times the European rates) despite some agriculture (yams; taro, bananas etc.°): adaptation has been incomplete due to the relative small size of population and low rate of protective mutations. Limited contacts with far flung Polynesian islands would have interfered with the spread of any favourable mutations.

One hypothesis is that Pre agri population were prone to famine and developed metabolic differences that helped people to survive food shortages als led to diabetes in modern environments. Authors argue that hunter gatherers were less prone to famine as violence would keep their population low. In addition they seem not to have division between well fed elites and hungry lower classes (as opposed to agri society). A response based on adaptation to carbohydrate seems better.

P87 Malaria: people have developed genetic defences against it, and the side effects of those defences account for most cases of genetic diseases in populations originating in those regions.

Most important mutations to protect against malaria are those that change features in the red cells  which are the primary target of malaria parasite (sickle cells etc.).  This can lead to anemia, Duchene muscular dystrophy etc. These defences became common because they gave an advantage to carriers. However they cause problems in people with 2 copies. This is unusual (for instance an allele that makes carriers run faster does not cripple people with two copies) and probably because malaria (and adaptation to) has not been around for very long (perhaps 4000 years). The main African version is 2500 year old.

The sets of changes driving light skin color in China are almost entirely different from those performing the same function in Europe. SLC24A5 seems to be variant with most impact on skin color in Europeans came into existence abut 5,800 years ago. It spread very fast – so must have brought huge selective advantages. It may explain why Romans had the impression that scotts were dark skinned. This may have been driven by an increased need for vitamin D. If correct, why would that be different in Asia? And why lot’s of variety of Europeans (read heads and blondes, blue eyes and green eyes. Nowhere else in the world is that sort of variety.

A number of new, rapidly spreading allele have to do with central nervous system. Several affect serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulation of mood and emotion.

We have reason to think that humans circa 100,000 had stronger muscles than today – and so changes in dystrophin complex may have sacrificed muscle strength for higher intelligence.

Genghis Khan as exemple of elite reproductive advantage. Today 16M men in central asia are is direct male descendant.

If a high fertility subpopulation was reproductively isolated for long enough,selective pressures specific to that social niche might cause them to evolve in an unusual direction and become significantly different from the surrounding population : Ashkenazi jews (strong prohibition of intermarriage and an odd social niche in wich certain traits conferred high fertility.)

P111 Since the elites were in real sense raising peasants just as peasants raised cows, there must have been a tendancy for them to cull individuals who were more aggressive than average, which over time would have changed the frequencies of those alleles that induced aggressiveness. The 7R allele, associated to hyperactivity disorder is associated to this and is totally absent from East Asia (Chinese/Japanese population may have been tamed more than others).

If strong government made possible by agriculture essentially tamed people, people with nonexistent agricultural experience should be less submissive, on average. Bushman from south Africa has been described as the anarchist of south Africa. It was said of Indians with no exposure to agriculture that they could not be enslaved (by puritans in America).

Farming requires certain personality traits (patience, self control, ability to look for long term benefits instead of short term satisfaction) and natural selection must have gradually made such personality more common.

Agriculture has led to the birth of property. Ant-like behaviour must have increased in frequency, selfish, hardworking, self-denying people were far more common than they had been among hunter gatherers.

Groups that became agriculturalist recently – or not at all – are slow to master important social and technical development. This is the case of Amerindians in south America. The well know middlemen minorities (Armenians, jews, Lebanese, parsees, Indians and Chinese) all descended from long established agricultural populations.

Gradual biological changes played a key role in the birth of the industrial and scientific revolutions. Economist have shown that the age of transition to agriculture appears to have a strong influence on a country’s economic development.

Phase transition: modest biological changes might also trigger dramatic social changes by crossing some threshold, just as tiny increase of temperature can turn ice into water.

The scientific revolution may well have resulted from modest changes in gen frequencies affecting key psychological traits. But we believe that there was no selection favouring creativity itself and that creative individuals are accidental by product of other traits, traits that paid off in everyday life (such as ability to make complex model). Creativity seldom confers large fitness advantages, because new ideas can be rapidly copied by others.

Blue eyes is a due to a new allele of the gene OCA2. This allele accounts for 75% of the variation of eye color in Europe. It originated some 6-10,000 years ago in northern Europe (Lithuania). Vandals (in Mauritania), Romans, Greeks spread the genes across the world (Central Asia, north Africa…)

There is every reason to believe that the ancestor of all languages was once spoken by a particular people living on some particular region. One idea is that Indo European languages were carried along by an expansion of early farmers from Anatolia around 7000 BC. Uralic language appear to have had extensive contact with indo-european and they may share a common ancestry . Since finnish people lived in the Russian forest, Anatolia was probably not the place of origin.

Second hypothesis: Kuran model, Kurgan from Pontic –Caspian Steps as  the proto-Indo Europeans. We suggest the advantage driving those indo European expansions was bilological – a high frequency of the European lactose tolerance mutation (13910T allele). Adult population could drink milk, allowing a new pastoralism to be possible: dairy products means more calories, more high quality food. More warriors could be fed on the same piece of land. Cattle was made more important, valuable and was subject to theft more easily than a heap of grain. Fighting for cattle, planning revenge and raids led to the development of warrior societies. This has happened at least three times (in east Africa (upper nile) and Arabian peninsula)  due to lactose tolerance mutations of their own.

Ashkenazi jews have the highest IQ of any ethnic group known. They average 112-115, well above European norm of 100. They also have an unusual set of serious genetic diseases. We propose that they have a genetic  advantage in intelligence that arose from natural selection for success in white-collar occupations during their sojourn in northern Europe.Strong selection for intelligence also produce some unpleasant side effects. IQ test predict academic achievement and other life outcomes, and IQ score are highly heritable . IQ test are imperfect but a useful measure of intelligence. Ashkenazi jews have won more than a quarter of all Nobel science prizes and account for half of the 20th century world chess champions, although they make less than 1/600 of the world population.

Azhkenazim increasingly specialised in one occupation, finance, left open to them because of the Christian prohibition of usury. The majority of Ashkenazim seem to have been moneylender by 1100 and this pattern continued for several century.They had managerial and financial jobs, jobs of high complexity, from 800 to 1700. 90% of the population had to farm to produce enough to feed themselves and productivity was too low to feed a large crust of rulers, scribes, merchants, soldiers etc. Scribes and merchants could somehow become an ethnic group, one defined by occupation rather than location. This did not happen in the Muslim world so strongly. Greek Christians and Armenians competed with Jews in the financial sector. There was less persecution. There was many more jews than in Europe and less white collar jobs: so more tended to have ‘dirty’ jobs. Non Ashkenazi jews do not have high average IQ scores.

Jews as a whole are not a single genetically distinct group, however, some subgroups are-in particular the Ashkenazim. An endogamous group can remain genetically distinct, or become genetically different from neighboring people, if that social pattern persist. Ashkenzim were endogamous for a long time, rarely marrying outside their faith. This was combine with external prejudice.  Prosperous individuals have more children (natural selection), Ashkenazi jobs were cognitively demanding, intelligence is highly heritable.

IQ is partially determined by genetic factors. Siblings with the same biological parents have similar IQs. IQ in childhood is more susceptible to environmental influence. Surprisingly, the way in which a family raises children seems to have no effect on adult IQ.


Jared Diamond, The world until yesterday, 2013


P2 The first Australians to enter and discover NG highlands in 1931, teeming with a million New Guinean villager using stone tools.

In 1931 no new Guinean born in Goroka had ever visited Wapenamanda a mere 107 miles to the west; the idea of traveling such distance without being killed was unthinkable.

All those similarities misled me into thinking “people are basically all the same everwhere”. No I eventually came to realize, in many basic way we are not all the same; many of my New Guinean friends count differently (by visual mapping rather than abstract numbers), select their wives or husbands differently, treat their parents and their children differently, and have different concept of friendship.

People spent their entire life in or near the village…disputes within the village had to be settled in a way that restored relationships or made them tolerable.

WEIRD society: Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic society. Study samples are from the usual WEIRD subjects – mainly American psychology undergraduate, this needs to be changed if we want to understand traditional society.  (WEIRD values are not universal in short)

Traditional society have come up with thousands of solutions to human problems, solutions different from those adopted by WEIRD societies.

Elman Service’s division of human society: band, tribe, chiefdom and state.

Chiefdom have thousands of people: it is impossible for everyone to know everyone else. Stranger in a chiefdom must be able to recognize each other as fellow but individually unfamiliar members of the same chiefdom. Hence chiefdoms developed shared ideologies and political and religious identities (often derived from the supposedly divined status of the chief). Chiefdoms have a chief that makes decisions and has a monopoly on the right to use force against his society’s members.

P19 the explanation for the differences in type of societies coexisting in the modern world depends on environmental differences. Increases in political centralization were driven by increases in human population densities, driven in turn by the rises and intensification of food production. Surprisingly few plant and animal species are suitable for domestication. Those few species were concentrated in a dozen of small areas in the world, whose human societies consequently enjoyed a decisive head start in developing food production, surpluses, expanding populations, advanced technology and state government. European developed, Kung in south Africa or Aborigines did not…

P58 A new Guinean interviewed in 1980’s: We believed that when a person died, his skin changed to white and he went to over the boundary to the place of the dead. So when the strangers came we said ‘these men do not belong to the earth.Let’s not kill them ) they are our own relatives. Those who hav died before and have turned white and come back’. New Guinean highlanders sought to fit these strange looking creatures – the first Europeans – into know categories of their own world view.

P62 Gold lipped pearl shell in New Britain’s Kaulong people or large stone disks from Yap island, cowrie shells of new Guinean highlanders were money but differed from money in that they were used only to pay for certain things (not wasted on potatoes!) and were attractive luxury items to be shown off.

We shall see that the basic fact of market economies often does not apply to traditional small scale society where the party are no professional buyers or sellers…they may consider the exchanged items to be of negligible significance compared to the personal relationship that the exchange serves to strengthen.

P74 what is the point of these conventional monopolies and of arrow for arrow trading, seemingly senseless to us accustomed to trading for objects that we can’t readily provide for ourselves? Traditional trade has social and political as well as economic functions: not to obtain items for their own sake but also to create trade for advancing social and political goal (strengthen an alliance on which one can call if the need arises…(exemple of the Dani buying Jalemo arrow or bag that they could perfectly well duplicate…the Dani can continue to sell salt to Jalemo because they also buy them arrows and bags…) “Trade real function is to maintain alliances”.

P89 reestablishing relationships counts for everything in traditional new guinea, and establishing guilt or negligence or punishment according to western concepts is not the main issue.

Among nomadic hunter gatherers disputes within a group can be settled just by the group dividing so that disputants move apart. That option is difficult for settled villagers/farmers with big investment in their gardens…

Eventually , the chief urges one side to accept the other side’s offer, and the former side does so with a show of reluctance, insisting that it is doing so only to honor the chief. That is, the chief provides a face-saving way to accept a compromise necessary for the good of the community.

The greater the distance between the two lineages involved, the more difficult it becomes to settle the feud (because there is less desire to restore normal relation).

The state’s focus on reducing private violence, forster obedience to state’s laws, protect the public as a whole….tends to diminish the state’s attention to goals of individual citizens involved in dispute resolution in small scale societies: the restoration of relationships and reaching emotional closure (because people can expect to continue to encounter each other for the rest of their lives i.e. they are motivate to find a solution…)


P222 nuclear family, with married couple and dependant children: while this seems normal to us, it is exceptional by geographic and historical standards: only 5% of traditional societies have this. The commonest arrangement is patrilocal household, meaning that a newly married couple comes to live with the groom’s
parents or family.

Also part of this American value cluster is our emphasis on individual privacy, an unusual concept by the standards of world cultures, most of which provide little individual privacy and don’t consider it a desirable ideal.

P235 About 20% of the American population changes residence each year, so that old parents and friends will have moved repeatedly since childhood…. New problem created by retirement: severing one’s life long work relationship, and thereby falling deeper into the social isolation arising from mobility…

P 273 Talkativeness of traditional people: they keep up a running commentary on what is happening now, what happened this morning or yesterday etc. We may be inclined to dismiss such talking as mere gossip. However it has functions: talking is the main form of entertainment, it develops social relationships, it helps new Guinean cope with life in a dangerous world (more information, better preparedness for dangers).

P295 crowd disease could not have existed before 11,000 years ago. Only with the explosive population growth made by agriculture du human population reach the high numbers required to sustain our crowd disease. Unsanitary permanent villages and trade provided ideal conditions for rapid transmission of microbes. Most of the microbes responsible for many and certainly most of the crowd diseases now confined to humans arose from diseases of our domestic animals (pigs, cattle).

Western pharmaceutical companies have extracted drugs from these plants. Ethno-botanist have studied this traditional pharmacological knowledge. Nevertheless the overall effectiveness of traditional medical knowledge tends to be limited.

P299 compared to accidents, violence and disease, starvation receives much less attention. People in small scale society share food, so that either no one starves or else many people do simultaneously.

P305 That’s why field scattering make sense. If you have got just one big field, no matter how good it is on average, you will starve (to death) when the inevitable occasional year arrives in which your one field has a low yield. But if you have many different fields, varying independently of each other, then in any given year some of your fields will produce well even when your other fields are producing poorly. (no point having field that can produce twice more above starvation level if it is in a single location: on a bad year, you will starve.

P342 on people paying dowsers to find water on a field and spend money digging a well unlikely to yield water. The psychology behind such beliefs is that we remember the hits and forget the misses…

P344 diffusing anxiety by prayers, rituals, ceremonies, donations to the gods…all those measures are scientifically ineffective but they preserve the fiction that your aren’t helpless, you haven’t given up, you feel in charge and less anxious.

Small scale society place much less emphasis on salavation and the afterlife than more developed societies. 1.Small society are less inequitable, with less social stratification. Everybody is suffering and there is no visible of good life to aspire to. 2.A second reason: life of the first farmer was harder than for hunter gatherers. More daily working hours to deal with farming, nutrition deteriorated, infection increased and lifespan reduced. 3. Small society have less formalize moral codes: why do law breakers get away with being cruel with you (if you are yourself behaving virtuously).

In New Guinee, religion is never invoked to justify killing.

P371 The world has 7000 languages. The top 70 languages (1%) represent 80% of population. all Europe west of Russia has less than 100 languages. Africa and India more than a 1000 each. Vanuatu has 110. New guinee has 1000. Cut off between language and dialect is when people understand 70% of each other speech. In PNG ecological factor an dissected mountainous terrain explains language diversity. Population experience limited climate change, land is fertile and productive. Population do not move much as they feed themselves. They don’t even have to trade (except for salt). They also never had the language steamroller experience elsewhere (british, roman, quechua then Spanish etc.). PNG never developed state government (this promotes one language, the one of the leader(s)). Basicalle languages developed and were not eliminated by other factor (similar to Caucasus).

P435 Nauru annexed by Germany in 1888, occupied by Australia in 1914, independent in 1968. Epidemic of genetic disease due to environment risk factors (it wanes when the number of potential victims fall).

Traditional way was based on agriculture and fisheries – with occasional episodes of starvation. Nauruans admired fat people and put girls on diet to fatten. In 1906, phosphate was discovered and royalities of production reached the island in 1920’s. sugar consumption skyrocketed – 1 pound/per day/per Nauruan.  Japan invasion, put people on diet, imposed force labor, deport population to Truk where people starve. Survivors returned after the war to make money, shop in supermarket and eat twice more calories than needed. Today they are the most obsese pacific island population. Diabetes increased until 2000 – the main cause of non-accidental death. Then % began to fall – it is probably because all that are genetically most susceptible have died.

P442 genes predisposing to diabetes have been favored and preserved independently dozens of times by natural selection :  they allow for the storing of fat and limit the breakdown of accumulated fat. Allow people to accumulate fat rapidly at times of food abundance and help go through famines. In modern world, with no more famine, no physical exercise, it is only about getting fat…

Interisland canoe voyages : only the fattest survived, leaving the population enriched with diabetes susceptibility genes. (double effect in Nauru with the starvation of Nuaruan by the Japanese, only the fattest survived…

The same genes in European population must have disappeared gradually as food reliability improved gradually (in Nauru, food appeared within 10 year and signs of natural selection happened within 40 years – as the most diabetes prone start to die now. The process was gradual over several centuries in Europe.

Le monde a faim – Philippe Chalmin 2009


P21 Politique agricole des US : en quelques années les tonnages de maïs utilisés pour l’éthanol passèrent de 10 à 80 millions de tonnes en 2007-2008 et à 100 millions de tonnes en 2008-09 sur une production qui tournait autour de 300M (représentant 40% de la production mondiale)


P29 l’abolition des corn laws, ces lois qui protegeaient l’agriculture locale en maintenant des prix agricoles et alimentaires élevés au moment ou le Royaume Uni devenait la première nation industrielle et se devait donc de nourrir sa main-d’œuvre ouvrière. L’abolition des corn laws et la généralisation du libre échange permirent au UK de s’approvisionner sur l’ensemble de la planète, de l’argentine à l’australie, de l’inde à la Russie.


P 31 Malthus : croissance démographique était largement supérieur à la croissance agricole : les famines semblaient inévitables et les exemples lui donnait raison. Mais il commettait l’erreur de ne pas tenir compte des révolutions technologiques.


P 40 On peut nourrir 10 milliard de végétarien mais certainement pas 6 milliards d’ocidentaux ni même de chinois de la classe moyenne. (Il faut trois calorie végétale pour faire une calorie animale de type volaille, 7 de type bovine.)


P43 On peut nourrir 9 a 10 milliard d’hommes consommant en moyenne 2500 calories par jour avec deux fois plus de production agricole qu’aujourd’hui.


P 47 Anticiper c’est spéculer. Anticipation, spéculation sont presque naturels sur les marchés agricoles soumis à la seule logique de l’instable (météo etc.) Le XIX a permit de formaliser les marché permettant l’accès au capitaux.

P49 Or par essence, le jeu de la spéculation est neutre : toutes les études menées depuis plusieurs décennies qui compare le comportement des marchés avec ou sans marchés à terme (le marché de la spéculation puisque qu’on y achète et vend à terme) mettent en évidence que l’instabilité est à peu près identique, que la fonction d’anticipation de véritables pénuries physiques est mieux exercés lorsqu’il existe des marchés à termes.

Le marché agricole ont fait tres peu l’objet de régulation et cartellisation, contrairement aux métaux, marchés monetaires etc.  (New York, le Nymex est le marché de cotation du pétrole)– la première fortune a été faite sur ce marché sur les pommes de terre du Maine…)


P53 économiquement fondée, et même nécessaire au bon fonctionnement du marché, la spéculation n’en est pas moins difficile a défendre sur le plan moral sur pour les produits agricoles.


P59 le baril de pétrole à 10 dollars en 1998…


P 63 Au total, en 2008, on pouvait estimer que sur 2 Milliard de tonnes de céréales, 100 Millions étaient consacrés à la production  d’énergie.


P67 Le monde agricole produit plusieurs milliards de tonnes de déchets chaque année dont l’essentiel n’est même ni recyclé ni valorisé. C’est probablement là plus que dans l’agriculture que le potentiel se situe …(biomasse dite de troisième génération).


P70 il n’y à guère que 20% des terres qui soient arables ce qui correspond a peu près a ce qui est aujourd’hui cultivés. On estime que chaque année 0.5% des terres arables disparaisses (urbanisation, grands complexes industriels etc.)

Afrique sub saharienne : moindre qualité des sols et progression de l’aridité..les terres qui restent sont celles a faible potentiel agricole.

Le potentiel d’augmentation des terres cultivables dans le monde est limité et compensera la disparition de terres gagnées par la croissance urbaine.


P 86 Les OGM ne peuvent se concevoir que dans le cadre d’une politique globale intégrant la mise à disposition de crédit : les circuits commerciaux et bancaires sont nécessaires pour permettre l’achat de semences etc. Il faut un débat ouvert sur les OGMs et leur intégrations ne peut être qu’un élément de la solution.


P 98 Le système qui à fait ses preuves, qui a permis le développement extraordinaire de l’agriculture occidentale, est bien celui de l’agriculteur individuel, du modèle de l’exploitation familiale et c’est sur cette base qu’il faut imaginer le développement et la modernisation des agricultures du tiers monde plutot que sur d’hypothetiques investissements étrangers qui marginaliseraient un peu plus la vraie richesse des agricultures, les hommes.


P116 La BM a cherché a promouvoir l’utilisation des marchés a termes par des groupements de producteurs afin de compenser la disparition des offices publiques (dans le cadre des SAP et du désengagement de l’état). Idées louables mais utopiques. Cependant les marchés a terme développé en Chine ont connu un assez grand succès (en volume) Mais les autorités ont encadrés de manière stricte les marchés par des politiques de stockage public – avec un souci majeur qui est celui de l’inflation des prix alimentaires.


P117 protéger les marchés agricoles des pays en développement est donc une nécessité absolue. Et les responsables de l’OMC en conviennent.

Les financements des politiques agricoles du tiers monde ne peuvent venir que de l’aide internationale (trop de pression sur les budgets)…


P124  le président des la BM  avait déclaré qu’il fallait remettre les politiques agricoles au cœur des stratégie de développement : il y a quelques choses de la naïveté enthousiaste des nouveaux convertis.

Agriculture Africaine et Marché Mondial- Marc Dufumier (2008)


11. Afrique intertropicale humide : l’abondance de la végétation ne doit pas faire illusion. …la minéralisation de l’humus se trouve accéléré  dès que les terrains sont défrichés, exposés au soleil, à la chaleur….a cela s’ajoute le lessivage intense des eux de pluie…ces sols ne sont pas à même de conservé leur fertilité.

13 l’avancée des populations bantoues en direction des forêts équatoriales a commencé il y a plus de quatre millénaires, lors su dessèchement progressif du Sahara…


14 Quelques populations continuèrent de vivre exclusivement de chasse et cueillette : les pygmées, les bochimans. Leurs déplacements étaient synchronisés avec les rythmes de la nature.


21 Les pays africains se sont spécialisés dans la culture d’exportation (cacao, café, arachide, coton…) mais les productions africaines sont concurrencés par celles en provenance des Etats-Unis (coton, arachide) ou de pays du Sud dans lesquels les investissements destinés a accroître la productivité ont été massifs : cafés brésilien, cacao indonésien, caoutchouc thaïlandais…


23 Palmier au Benin :  les interventions de l’état visaient  délibérément a remplacer la multitude palmeraie, veilles et petites et dont on pouvait traditionnellement extraire de multiples produits (huiles, vin de palme, bois, fibres…) et dans lesquels les paysans parvenaient a cultiver aussi une grande gamme de plantes vivrières, par des plantations denses sous l’ombrage desquels ils n’étaient plus possible d’entretenir d’autres cultures.


24 Programmes s’ajustement vont de pair avec l’ouverture des économies au marché international. Tant et si bien  que de nombreux pays africains ne paraissent plus disposés à faire valoir leur droit a protéger les agricultures nationales par des mesures tarifaires.


30 La théorie des avantages comparatifs est remise en cause :  l’ouverture s’est avéré catastrophique pour les pays africains déjà déficitaires en produits agricoles. Cela tient au fait que la productivité du travail agricole est plus de 200 fois inférieur dans les exloitations paysannes des pays africains qu’au sein des entreprises moto-mécanisées du Nord ou des grands latifundiums d’amerique du sud. (Ex du riz en casamance – 500kg/an/actif contre 500 tonnes/an/actif en Camargue – soit 1000 fois plus. Meme si les intrants chimiques et depreciation du materiel represente 4/5 de cette production, le valeur ajouté en Europe est encore 200 fois plus élevée).


33 En France et a Dakar, un litre d’huile d’arachide et un litre d’huile de tournesol se vendent a peu près au même prix. Mais a-t-on conscience qu’il y a 200 fois plus de travail dans le premier que pour le second ?  Ces huiles au même prix sur le marché international, signifie que les Sénégalais offrent 200 fois plus de travail qu’il ne leur en ai donné en contrepartie. De quels avantages comparatifs disposent)ils ? Aucun…et nombreux sont les paysans qui migre vers les villes….ou vers le marché clandestins de main d’œuvre…


Pour les produits pour lesquels  il n’existe pas de concurrence au Nord, le pays africains sont en concurrences avec les pays du Sud qui se sont aussi spécialisés dans les même production – faisant face à la même concurrence du Nord -. Plus mécanisé, ils sont plus competitifs et produisant beaucoup, innondent le marché et font baisser les prix..

34 La questions n’est pas seulement de lutte contre les subventions aux exportations des pays riches mais de véritable permettre aux nations africaines de faire ce que les Européens ont fait eux-mêmes avec succès : protéger leurs agricultures vivrières dans le cadre d’un marché commun régional par le biais de droits de douanes conséquents.


35 la PAC du debut des années 60 déroge totalement aux normes de la doctrine libérale. De déficitaire a la sortie de la guerre, l’europe est devenu excedentaire a partir de 70 pour presque tout les produits protégés (viande, céréale, lait…) .  Il y a bien des quotas qui limite la production de sucres et de lait, mais rien pour la viande et les cereales. Les excedents ont ainsi écoulé sur le marché mondial, notamment grâce a des subventions.


Les 25,000 producteurs de cotton de Louisiane et de Caroline du Sud recoivent en subvention les PIB du Burkina Faso, pays dans lequel 2 M de ruraux cultivent le cotton.


P37 La PAC depuis 92 a évolué progressivement d’un régime de soutien par les prix vers des mécanismes d’aide directes aux agriculteurs, de plus en plus découplées de la production proprement dite…..mais ces aides directes favorisent surtout les producteurs les plus performants et concourent a accélérer la concentration des exploitations, sans mettre fin à l’exode rurale et aux excédents agricoles. Ces subventions contribuent elles aussi, malheureusement, à déprimer les pris des marchandises agricoles sur le marché mondiale.


Cette distorsion des conditions de concurrence aggrave encore davantage la situation des paysans dont les techniques sont encore manuelles et qui éprouve de ce fait déjà maintes difficultés pour rester compétitifs.  Leurs familles se retrouve fréquemment condamnées à rejoindre les bidonvilles des grandes villes….mais il s’agit de la partie émergée de l’iceberg. Bien plus massif on été les déplacements de populations sahelo-soudanienne à la recherche de terre à cultiver dans les dernières régions forestières de l’Afrique de l’ouest et de l’Afrique centrale ; et on sait que ces mouvements migratoires n’ont pas été sans causer parfois de graves troubles politiques et sociaux dans les régions d’acceuil. La solution pour les paysans des pays en développement c’est le droit d’imposer  des droits de douanes à l’entrée des grains en provenance du Nord et du nouveau monde et la suppression de toutes formes de subventions agricoles…


…supprimer les surplus, quitte a recentrer essentiellement l’agriculture européenne sur son marché intérieur….

Changer le mandat du Commissaire Européen au Commerce afin qu’il plaide pour une régulation internationale des échanges agricoles donnant droit aux pays africains et ceux du tiers monde de constituer des marchés régionaux protégés de l’extérieur par des droits de douanes communs.

En echange du renoncement a soutenir l’exportation de nos surplus à des prix de dumping, l’UE devrait se protéger des importations de protéagineux en provenance du nouveau monde (nord et sud) dont ils sont largement importateurs du fait de leur très faible protection.

De même il conviendrait de favoriser la production en Europe de denrées agro-alimentaire de grande qualité (bio, fermiers, labellisés, AOC…) dont les paysans européens pourraient alors tirer des pris rémunérateurs sur les marchés intérieurs et les marchés solvables.

Il s’agirait de relancer la demande de produit de qualité via la restauration collective (écoles, lycées, hopitaux, université, hospices..) en redirigeant une partie des subventions de la PAC. D’autres pays  on deja des politiques d’aides alimentaires pour leur populations défavorisées (US, Brazil) et ne risque d’attaquer ce type d’approche a l’OMC.

Ces changements permettrait aux paysans africains une chance pour qu’il puisse eux même assurer leur sécurités alimentaires. La hausse des prix payés aux paysans africains aurait des effets bien plus rapides et importants sur leur revenu et leur bien-être que tous les efforts de l’aide publique au développement.


44 Le rivalités pour  l’accès aux terres agricoles sont de plus en plus nombreuses et débouchent sur des conflits de plus en plus meurtriers et des mouvements de populations au soudan, nigeria, cote d’ivoire, grands lacs… faut-il pour autant faire de la terre une propriété privée….pas si sur. La prise en compte des droits coutumiers n’est pas sans intérêt pour parvenir à un développement durable.


48 ce n’est pas les pays ou la densité démographique est la plus forte qui dépendent aujourd’hui le plus des importations pour leur alimentation. Il s’agit au contraire des pays forestiers peu peuplés (Gabon, Congo, RCA). La concurrence des importations fait qu’on assiste parfois dans ces pays à une véritable déprise agricole, avec une extension progressive de la forêt dense aux détriments des savanes.


49 de nombreux conflits fonciers sont apparus dans les zones ou il ne restait plus de terres vacantes au Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’ivoire avec pour résultat l’expulsion massive de paysans étranger dans leur pays d’origine.