An Edible History of Humanity

Excerpted from a recent story on

“Throughout history, food has played many roles in changing the world: It has been a weapon of war, an offering for peace, a force of development and imperialism and an organizer of societies. In many cases, food and its production have had some of the most profound effects on humanity and indeed on the earth itself. Food has affected social status, social roles, empires and the outcome of wars. The roles that food has played in shaping society and the planet itself are captured in a new book by Tom Standage, titled An Edible History of Humanity.

Maria Armoudian: Let’s start with how food production has altered the planet. What is the impact of food on the earth?

Tom Standage: Farming has made the biggest difference to the environment on earth. You could call it the biggest environmental disaster in history. We use 40 percent of the earth’s surface for agriculture. If farming was invented today, environmentalists would never allow it, because it has led to huge ecosystem disruption. I’m in Britain now, and the natural state of Britain is not beautiful fields with sheep and the odd tree. It is, in fact, forests of oak with wild boar running around. So when we look at an agricultural landscape we think it’s natural. We think it’s beautiful, but in fact it’s just as man-made as the Manhattan skyline.

MA: How has food been a weapon of war?

TS: If you ask yourself the question: What’s the most devastating weapon in the whole of history? People would probably say the atom bomb or the machine gun or something like that. But I think if you really do the numbers, the weapon that’s probably been most devastating is actually food. And this is something that was recognized as long ago as the Roman period. One Roman writer in the fourth century AD said, “Starvation destroys an army more often than does battle, and hunger is more savage than the sword.”

This is because in the old days you had armies marching around, and you had to give them food so they could keep moving around. You had to give them food so they’d have enough energy to wave their weapons, so food was basically fuel. It was a kind of ammunition because it was what powered the army. Generals who weren’t able to cope with the logistics of providing enough food for their soldiers wouldn’t even get to the battlefield to fight the battle.

If you look at the history of military conflict, there are a lot of battles which are forced upon one of the participants because they don’t have enough food, and there are a lot of conflicts where the inability to maintain the flow of food actually affects the outcome. A good example of that is the Revolutionary War in fact, or the American War of Independence, as we call it in London. What happened there essentially was that the mightiest empire in the world at the time, the British Empire, was unable to defeat the American colonists who wanted independence, in large part because the British soldiers had to be supplied from across the Atlantic, and maintaining the supply of food across the waters was just very difficult logistically….”

Read it all on

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One response to “An Edible History of Humanity

  1. Milkmen USA

    Yes, we know. Ed Hartz and The Milkmen USA mentioned these references in prior postings here with the Bovine. It is obvious to an emotionally intelligent person or group that food is the basis for civilization. Thus the famous bumper stickers say, “No Farm – No Food.” The problem is, we all cannot relay on those in power to fix the Industrialized food system. By the time they react for the sake of profits, the opportunity to restoration and sustainable manners will be gone. Just like certain animal or plant species are gone or almost vanished forever.

    Local systems must prevail. And the entrepreneurs, the small to little size businesses and farms must become and act innovative and aggressive now. We started out with just one milk truck delivering farm fresh foods, milk an dairy, produce and more to the consumer, direct to their door. This works. There are other ways too.

    Stop or let up on all the intellectual writings. Come up with business plans that work. If you have not noticed; all of the “powerful people – corporations” impress and intimidate by saying less. The best deceivers utilize a bland and inconspicuous front that calls no attention to themselves. * Look what happened with the oil spill in the Gulf. What did BP do?

    Those who spoil the earth, the environment, our natural resources, nature, and the dairy industry are still in power. They are the enemy. A person of power, man or woman, welcomes conflict, using enemies to enhance his reputation as a surefooted fighter who can be relied upon in times of uncertainty.

    Use the enemy. Work hard and be like a Brave Heart. And DO IT!

    The Milkmen are Back!

    Thank yo.

    Ed Hartz
    The Milkman Company

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