time and context: a radical shift

Guess what? If you compress the history of earth into the context of a 24 hour day, human civilizations don’t even show up until mid-afternoon. And that’s just the cavemen… modern culture doesn’t begin until just before midnight. mere seconds…has it really been long enough for us to be so confident about the effects and sustainability of our modern lifestyle?

I’m guessing you probably don’t read books about raising grass-fed cattle. I can’t imagine why ever not, but I won’t hold it against you.

Since you aren’t likely to stumble across this in your reading travels,  I want to be sure you don’t miss this bit o’greatness.  It’s from one of my favorites, Grass-fed Cattle, How to Produce and Market Natural Beef  by Julius Ruechel.  I love this book for lots of reasons, but mostly for logic like this:

 “Our seemingly arrogant preoccupation with our technological solutions and human-contrived cattle production philosophies and our lack of trust in nature’s answers to our production challenges can be traced directly to our biased views of evolutionary time.  We mistakenly believe that we are central to history, that we are the glorious end product of a long, linear progression of events. We believe that we have been around for a very long time; we even call the time before the evolution of modern humans prehistory as if it is less important because we weren’t part of it. Yet this pre-historical period stretches back through vast spans of time; our human history is but a blink of the eye in comparison.”

Because the whole of history is too vast for us to wrap our brains around and establish context, Julius Ruechel graphs all of history beginning at the early development of the ancestors of our modern livestock in the context of a 24 hour day. It’s kind of paradigm-shifting:

 History of Modern Livestock Compressed into 24 Hours

  •  12:01  just past midnight – Ancestors of cattle and other livestock are developing
  •  3:00 mid-afternoon – first humans start scavenging meat as small part of their diet
  •  4:45 the most recent cycle of great ice ages begins
  •  5:42 almost dinnertime – Humans learn to hunt and become active predators; meat becomes a significant part of their diet
  • 11:51 PM –  First modern human ancestors (Cro-Magnons – early Homo sapiens) paint on cave walls in France
  • 11:57  Last ice age ends; glaciers retreat; mammoths go extinct
  • 11:57:50 just over 2 minutes till midnight – Earliest known domestication of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and grains; transition from hunting culture to pastoralism and agriculture, from predator to shepherd and farmer
  • 11:59:58.25 the last 1 ¾ seconds – Industrial Revolution; petrochemical industry, antibiotics, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fertilizers, grain surpluses become animal feed, the feedlot industry emerges.

Note: Strike-throughs and bolds mine.

You see, while Julius Ruechel is speaking of cattle management solutions, what he says is true without exception of every single man-made system, culture and philosophy.

Wait, there’s more:

“Mind boggling, isn’t it?  Our livestock has been domesticated for only 2 minutes and 10 seconds of their 24-hour history. Our modern farm practices have been around for only approximately 1.75 seconds of this 24-hour history.  Still, we naively believe that the solutions to our farm and livestock’s health, productivity and production problems lie in technology, biotechnology, petrochemistry, and pharmaceuticals that have yet to stand the test of time.”

It surely is mind-boggling.  I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little insignificant right now.  At the rate we’re burning through resources, what will the world be like after we’ve had half an hour?


12 thoughts on “time and context: a radical shift

  1. So true!! We have launched ourselves blindly into an age of “biotechnology, petrochemistry, and pharmaceuticals,” totally unaware of what the long-term consequences of these so-called “innovations of progress” will bring. Add to these the increasingly globalized market, the wholesale depletion of natural resources by international corporations, and the disappearance of indigenous cultures who traditionally live in harmony with local ecosystems, and we see what a mess we’ve made of things in that last 1 and 3/4 seconds!

  2. i was actually thinking about this very thing the other day! well, not so much about cows and livestock production, but about the length of time humans have been around in the grand scheme of things. we’re a blip. barely.

    your perspective in this post is spot on. not only is it unclear exactly how sustainable our dominant agriculture system is, but what are the true effects of it’s practices on the planet as well as humans? we’re hearing reports now of cancers evolving from “-cide” use and whatnot… Obesity and heart disease are out of control in various locations around the world… we’re running out of water… indigenous knowledges are being lost… i’m with erranttranscendentalist – i think i’m thankful i won’t be around in another 100 years. if we even last that long.

    p.s. feeling insignificant can be humbling. enjoy it :)

  3. This illustrates the problem perfectly. As a species, we are both arrogant and short-sighted. I find this so very frustrating, not to mention terrifying. Insignificant, yes. I hope we’re not powerless to change it all!

  4. I reckon at this rate, we’ll never see tomorrow. Its tough to wake up at midnight. Just found your site, and I love you opinions and your style.

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