Against the Grain

Against the Grain : How Agriculture Overran Civilization

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In this provocative, wide-ranging book, Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human: at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of our past 10,000 years. The evolutionary road is littered with failed experiments, however, and Manning suggests that agriculture as we have practiced it runs against both our grain and nature's. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and philosophers, along with his own travels, he argues that not only our ecological ills-overpopulation, erosion, pollution-but our social and emotional malaise are rooted in the devil's bargain we made in our not-so-distant past. And he offers personal, achievable ways we might re-contour the path we have taken to resurrect what is most sustainable and sustaining in our own nature and the planet' more

Product details

  • Hardback | 232 pages
  • 160 x 232.2 x 23.6mm | 444.53g
  • North Point Press
  • Berkeley, California, United States
  • English
  • 0865476225
  • 9780865476226

Review quote

"An exhilarating and provocative questioning of our most ingrained beliefs about how we get our food and why. A must read for anyone concerned about the intimate couplings of man, plant, and beast." --Betty Fussell, author of "The Story of Corn" ""Against the Grain" is a brilliant, provocative book. Where environmental journalism is concerned, Richard Manning is at the head of the class." --Larry McMurtry "Richard Manning's important new book is radical in the very best sense, taking agriculture by the roots to make a bracing case that unless we manage to tame this environmental juggernaut it will ruin our health and the health of the planet." --Michael Pollan ""Against The Grain" is both fascinating and frightening. But Manning reports more than bad news--he also suggests solutions. This is an important book. Let's hope it's widely read, and that its urgent message reaches our leaders. As it will, if we insist loudly enough." --William Kittredge, author of "The Nature of Generosity" ""Against the Grain" is an important book. It effectively upends the assumption that domesticating agriculture thousands of years ago improved lives then and now. Instead agriculture domesticated people. Manning brings the concentration of the hunter-gatherer to his subject. The writing is taut and powerful. He shows how with agriculture diets deteriorated, workload increased, and social inequities soared. We have become distanced from our very natures as sensual human beings. Agriculture's quest is products. As grain production rose, it required more outlets, so we eat what needs to be sold. Manning points the way to restored health for humanity and for ecosystems: a counteragriculture offood rather than food products. Diversify what gets planted, raised, and eaten to go against the grain." --Deborah Popper, geographer at City University of New York's College of Staten Island "Anyone who can read this book and still accept the NPR-advertised Archer Daniels Midland notion of non-sustainable monoculture "feeding the world" is sleepwalking off a cliff. Industrial agriculture is not farming: It's a political scam that gives industrialists money to bankrupt real farmers, force unhealthy food-commodities upon the world, and ruin cultures and ecosystems in the process. This book will raise screams from what will pretend to be the "farmer community," but those screams will be from corporate welfare recipients, not real gardeners and farmers. Manning's indictment is so well researched, provocative, and damning that it makes us feel moral conflict every time we place a processed food product in our mouths. This conflictedness can only improve our health and lives." --David James Duncan, author of "The Brothers K" and "My Life as Told by Water"show more