Around 14,000 years ago, human survival strategies took a radical new direction, namely a shift from hunter-gatherer to agriculture. Life would never be the same.
The word “agriculture” does not make us wince, but it should because it came with a high price in terms of health, happiness, and well-being. On its heels came many new problems, stresses, and diseases that earlier people did not suffer.
New fossil evidence confirms that early farmers, unlike their hunter-gatherer ancestors, had reduced life span, higher infant mortality, a greater prevalence of degenerative disease, more bone and dental problems, reduced stature, and more nutritional deficiencies. As for cancer, it seems to have been largely non-existent prior to Neolithic times.
In his paper “Capitalism and Cancer,” Mikhail Sivashinskiy, the renowned Russian oncologist and cross-cultural epidemiologist, writes that “Modernity is cancer-prone,” but adds that the “toxins” of the modern age go far beyond physical ones. Just as important are the social, spiritual, and emotional aberrations that can erode the integrity of the immune system. Features of modernity that are especially corrosive in this regard are stress, frustration, repression of feelings, pretense, artificiality, inhibition of creativity, loss of control, decline of family and community support, and loss of existential grounding.
Diet is certainly another factor. It is estimated that our Paleolithic forerunners ate upwards of eighty different plants, herbs, and tubers in the course of their gathering, which was supplemented by small amounts of meat. Theirs was a largely vegetarian diet which means it is more accurate to refer to them as gatherer-hunters rather than hunter-gatherers. The switch from this diverse immune boosting diet to an agriculture-based one reduced drastically the richness and variety of our diet, and today’s woeful dietary habits continue to offer little cancer immunity.
Ultimately, the illusive cure for cancer may require us to gain a better understanding of the toxic indoctrinations that infect us in the modern age, along with the goals, aspirations, and lifestyles that they inspire.