. "Many of the crises we see in the 21st century, I would argue, have their roots in the dawn of the Neolithic," he says. "We spent an enormous amount of time as hominids and as primates living as hunter-gatherers. That is the natural way for us to live, and we're suddenly living in this profoundly unnatural way, and we're still in the process of adapting to it and working out how to live with it."
The shift from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to an agricultural way of life, he believes, has not just led to many of the environmental problems we face today, it has caused some of dire medical disorders, from infectious diseases and obesity to the mental illnesses that are rampant in modern, urban living. "Since we settled down, population density increased massively. We became sedentary and the foods we ate changed enormously from the days we were hunter-gatherers," he explains. "We were once used to living in groups of no more than about 150 individuals. Now we live in cities of millions and the cultural cacophony creates a feeling of unease and we are seeing evidence of that with the rise of mental illness."
Despite the immense problems facing the human species in the 21st century, Wells believes there is hope – what he calls "Pandora's seed". When Pandora opened the box, she at least had to slap it shut fast enough to contain hope. "The hope is that humans are innately innovative and that we can innovate very rapidly when we're forced to," Wells says. Our one hope for continued survival, he seems to suggest, is the innate creativity of the same large brain that arguably helped to create much of the mess we find ourselves in today.