San live in the deserts of southern Africa. Until just a few years ago,
they lived off this harsh land as nomads, gathering plants and hunting
animals much as their ancestors had for ten thousand years or more.
Some of the first Westerners who contacted them in the 1960s asked
what they wanted. For the San the answer was obvious: water. They live
in a desert and are perpetually searching for water. Even a slow drip
from one of our faucets would provide for a small band of people.
behold, there is plenty of underground water in the Kalahari. In 1962
the Westerners drilled five boreholes in the area known as !Koi!kom,
thereby providing a stable water supply. Unfortunately, these San simply
traded one nightmare for several others. Normally, they are nomadic,
moving from place to place as animal migration or plant seasons dictate.
With their boreholes, the San unpacked and settled down nearby. Soon
they had depleted all the animals and plants within practical walking
the San had never needed to develop any sanitation methods, leaving
their garbage and bodily waste just outside their huts and fireplaces
and moving on before debris could build up. Mother Nature took care
of recycling. Wedded to their water and unwilling to move, however,
they found that their waste piled up and began causing illness. Satisfying
the Sans water dreams quenched their thirst but made them hungry
of the !Kung San illustrate the intricate balance between an animals
instincts and the environment. Today we each face more profound versions
of these problems. Our love of possessions, food, and generally easy
living has moved us far from our natural setting, creating a plague
of troubles in the process.
is changing with dizzying speed. A new computer is outdated by the time
it is installed, and a week seems like an eternity in the Internet world.
In contrast, evolution is ploddingly slow, and human genes have not
changed very much in thousands of years. Plato would have been puzzled
by e-mail, but he enjoyed the same buzz we do from a fine glass of wine.
His brain contained exactly the same genetic pleasure buttons that we
our genes are largely unchanged from a time long before Plato. Genetically,
we are still cavewomen and cavemen despite our living in ultramodern
homes. This mismatch between our genes natural world and the modern
world causes many problems. Drug addiction, obesity, gambling, and bankruptcy
do not, however, stem simply from innocent discord between ancient and
modern worlds. The explanation is more sinister. ...