The environment can have radical effects on the speed and timing of maturation at the societal scale.

Over the last 100 years, the timing of puberty has dropped 4 or more years. Human bodies, because of the dramatic increase in resources in the form of protein, carbs and fats, make it possible for humans to reproduce sooner to create more progeny to take advantage of the bounty. This is a naturally selected biological response. Baboons in Africa, feasting on human food refuse, experienced an almost immediate drop in pubertal timing in one generation.

Careening into the 21st Century, cultures addicted to unrestrained consumption are now facing an increasingly limited supply. Environmental issues such as global warming are forcing us to restrain carbon output, compelling a clamping down on consumptive lifestyles. Just as an increase in nurturing foods can force an earlier physical maturing, at the societal level a decrease in necessary supplies is also encouraging an earlier maturing.

But maybe not. Things may not be as them seem.

Human puberty arrived literally a year or more sooner with every generation in the 20th Century. Brain growth was curtailed a little bit each time. For each individual so affected, the final stage of neurological development was cut short. The testosterone surges of puberty prune synapse growth when this powerful hormone surges through the body. Childhood dies. What else have we been losing?

We have been eating like there is no tomorrow for 100 years, reaching puberty faster to have more children to insure as many descendants as we can. Along the journey, we dropped the seemingly unnecessary baggage of aesthetics, appreciation, gratitude and sensitivity to the nuances of the interconnected nature of experience.

The last major step in our species’ evolution was that step where we crossed the line to god. One of my definitions for god is a vast, incalculable, unremitting deep appreciation for everything that exists. That feature was the feature we last evolved, the one that made us “human.” The thing that compelled us to dance, sing and make stuff up. If modern society has been characterized by “alienation,” we can uncover and discover the roots of that loss with the disappearance of the last stage in our species, and our personal evolution.

Perhaps it’s time we changed out diet.

Whereas eating everything we can caused us to physically mature faster, the emerging scarcities of the 21st Century are compelling us to mature more slowly. It is by reaching puberty later in our lifetimes that we access the full cerebral orchestra of instruments pre-prepared to fill the world with music. The late maturing versions of our brains have designed us to be artists and stewards. Eating wisely we become wise. The world is telling us that the time for wisdom has arrived.

Abundance can lead to ignorance, scarcity to love. Still, we don’t have to be starving artists. Eating wisely would be a start.


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