July 28, 2022

Agriculture (and Energy) Revolutions

The First, or Neolithic, Agricultural Revolution was the wide-scale transition of many human cultures during the Neolithic period from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, making an increasingly large population possible. [Also the beginning of centralized government and social hierarchy]

The Second, or British, Agricultural Revolution, was an unprecedented increase in agricultural production in Britain arising from increases in labor and land productivity between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries. Agricultural output grew faster than the population over the hundred-year period ending in 1770, and thereafter productivity remained among the highest in the world. This increase in the food supply contributed to the rapid growth of population in England and Wales, from 5.5 million in 1700 to over 9 million by 1801, though domestic production gave way increasingly to food imports in the nineteenth century as the population more than tripled to over 35 million.

The Third Agricultural, or Green, Revolution is the set of research technology transfer initiatives occurring between 1950 and the late 1960s that increased agricultural production in parts of the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. The initiatives resulted in the adoption of new technologies, including high-yielding varieties of cereals, agrochemicals, controlled water supply (usually involving irrigation), and newer methods of cultivation, including mechanization. … It contributed to widespread reduction of poverty, averted hunger for millions, raised incomes, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced land use for agriculture, and contributed to declines in infant mortality.

The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon-fueled irrigation.

(above from Wikipedia)

Obviously, there have been adverse consequences for the environment and other animals, but you can't just outlaw it without an alternative in place (and support for the transition, eg, to large-scale organic agriculture) that can sustain what it created. But that's what much of the new "green" agenda is doing, particularly in energy, pushing (much) less efficient technologies (requiring more resources – both materials and land – and infrastructure) that are therefore even more harmful to not only people but also the planet as a whole.