Paleo Problems, Neo Solutions & now MP4U (Modern Problems for You)

Beginning around 10,000 years ago, some of our nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors first discovered they could no longer continue their traditional way of life. As Geneticist Spencer Wells says, "They were backed into a climatological corner." They used a chance discovery of an amazing food source, cereal grains like wheat and rice, along with their unique human abilities to innovate a completely new way to live and survive: The Neolithic Agricultural Revolution. (Watch Stories from the Stone Age to learn more.)

Their ideas worked so well, they not only survived, they grew into huge civilizations. They must have faced hundreds of problems as they tried growing their own food, raising their own animals and living together in permanent communities. Fortunately, they worked together, solved problems and innovated solutions, many of which are still used today. During the industrial revolution in the 1800's, mechanization made farming much more productive and labor intensive. During the 1900's, chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well as new breakthroughs in crop breeding lead to substantially increased yields. Today, agriculture produces more than enough food to to feed our growing population.
We can survive today thanks to fields of crops like this one near ISB,. What crop is this? Photo: Dr. Everett 2010

At the same time, there have been many unexpected effects. Agriculture has transformed us and our world so much that we now face new problems. Our neolithic ancestors' solutions have become our problems.

Jonathan Foley says "without a doubt, agriculture is the single-most powerful force unleashed on this planet since the end of the ice age." It is the single largest cause of global warming and the more land we clear for additional agriculture, the more we unleash this force on the earth.

Once again, we find ourselves backed into an ecological corner. We cannot continue using our current systems of agriculture to feed our growing population. If we're going to survive and advance, we'll need new innovations for our modern problems.

Like our ancestors, we have amazing minds and years of learning to help us understand complex problems, create new solutions, imagine a different future and work together to make it happen. And, since there are so many of us now, we can come up with more solutions. When we put them all together we have the potential to innovate ourselves out of the corner and into a new and better way of life! We could be the founders of the next revolution.

Learn more about our modern problems on this site. Choose one, find out more & start innovating our future today!