We humans weren't born to live in towns. For most of the last four million years or more, we and our immediate ancestors survived as hunter-gathers, living off the land in small tribal societies, working closely with nature.
Culturally, we are adapting to urbanized living: our technologies, towns, economies and societies have developed at a remarkable speed. Anatomically, however, we have not evolved at the same electric pace: genetically, we remain as we were before towns developed, or even before large-scale farming was adopted some 5,000-10,000 years ago. Our bodies and brains retain many of the attributes and drives of our ancient ancestors: autonomically, instinctively, unconsciously and subconsciously they still impact significantly on our daily lives.
Today's cities accommodate a globally population of some 3.4 billion, but towns are not our natural habitat: there is therefore a profound dichotomy between the world we currently live in, and the one we were genetically, metabolically, physiologically and psychologically designed for. We can't uninvent towns, nor do we wish to, but town life is, superficially, the very antithesis of the hunter-gatherers' world.
There is a partial solution to this problem, however. It lies in the adoption of proxy behaviours, environments and townscapes that mimic key elements of the nutrition, daily activity, social interaction and engagement with the natural world that our minds and bodies demand. Such applied studies have been brought together to form a coherent protocol applied to 21st-century townscapes and urban life-styles. We call this approach the Eden Protocol, a short-hand term for the Evolutionary Determinants of health, social interaction and urban wellbeing. Through its implementation, urban wellbeing will be quantifiably improved, and the cost of the National Health Service much diminished. The better our urban and societal surroundings simulate our "natural habitat", the healthier we urban creatures will be.
Stringer C & Andrews P, 2011 The Complete World of Human Evolution