Book Monitor: Pandora’s Seed

In: Uncategorized

12 Jun 2010

Although Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist has received many positive reviews the overwhelming weight of books published today remains sympathetic to the green perspective. Pandora’s Seed by Spencer Wells looks like the antithesis of Ridley’s work: bemoaning prosperity from the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago onwards. According to the publisher:

“Although this decision to control our own food supply is what propelled us into the modern world, Wells demonstrates with the latest genetic and anthropological data that such a dramatic shift in lifestyle had a downside that we’re only beginning to recognize. Growing grain crops ultimately made the planet more crowded, sedentary and unhealthy. The expanding population and the need to apportion limiting resources such as water created hierarchies and inequalities. The desire to control – and no longer cooperate with – nature altered the concept of religion, making deities fewer and more influential, foreshadowing today’s fanaticisms. The proximity of humans and animals bred diseases that metastasized over time. Freedom of movement and choice were replaced by a pressure to work that is the forebear of anxiety and depression millions feel today.”

Meanwhile, Ridley’s book was given a sympathetic but critical review by William Easterly, a development economist at New York University, in the New York Times.