Primate Change by Vybarr Cregan-Reid

by stephenpalmersf

The author’s thesis in this excellent and fascinating book is that, especially in recent centuries, the environment in which we live has changed our bodies, something which may perhaps seem fairly obvious. Yet the process has been going on for millions of years. This book develops the idea into something quite worrying, supported by a lot of science.

The book is split into sections, one covering human evolution up to 30,000BCE, one covering that time up to the beginning of the Iron Age, a third section dealing with the Industrial Revolution, and a fourth with the Digital Revolution, or what the author calls the Sedentary Revolution. A fifth part speculates about our future.

All of this material is fascinating, well written and often surprising, with plenty of detail about backs, feet, hands and teeth. The second section I found particularly good, with its emphasis on dietary changes and how often we eat. The section on the Industrial Revolution makes for grim reading, given how much exploitation occurred in that time, but the fourth is also worrying, with the author explaining how the rise of sedentary living is causing immense damage to us, to our communities and to the state organisations attempting to support us. In ten words Cregan-Reid offers governments a forward-thinking statement – Governments of the world: address falling activity levels and obesity.

Aimed at the lay reader, this is a timely and readable survey of how the world we have created, especially in the West, is causing pain, disease, mental conditions and much more, problems which could be largely solved by a change in perspective on life. I was especially impressed with the section on education, which points out that, just as nineteenth and twentieth century schools mimic the industrial factory model, so more recent changes in schools mimic the modern techno-capitalist model, also to the detriment of bored, inactive, stultified children.

Primate Change