13 Reading 3-1 How far we can push the disequilibrium back towards the beginning of agriculture has not yet been determined. The economic value of children may have been an important in f uence very early in the evolution of agricultural societies. Certainly, the steady and intense pressures for ever larger populations set into motion trends that are essentially irreversible. Living within the productive capacity of the environment becomes a continual and exhausting struggle. A “hungry time” becomes a part of every year while crop failure means starvation and death. The threat of famine has become a characteristic of agricultural systems; we have no evidence that this was a part of pre-agricultural systems. On the other hand, the sample of surviving gatherers is so small and biased that our information may be misleading. The survivors maintain their populations at a fraction of the size that could be supported, but was this true of gatherers in the hearths of agriculture? Perhaps cultivation did begin because of population pressures and degradation of natural resources. How are we to know? Perhaps plant cultivation began in different areas for different reasons. We have no more facts to support a no-model concept than any other theory, but it does have the ad-
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