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Lecture 10

ANTC41H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Anthropocene

Course Code
Mike Callaghan

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ANTC41 – Lecture 10 – looking ahead
What stresses will we meet in the future, and how will we respond?
There are for stresses: urbanization, globalization, infectious disease and climate change
10.2 Looking back
People live in places, and respond to the challenges they encounter in different ways
Environments and people change (they don’t change and maintain homeostasis, change always occurs)
Adaptation (slow, energetically expensive, long-term) and adjustment (fast, cheap but not a long-term
Callaghan’s laws of human behaviour
Humans are infinitely pragmatic (like solving problems)
Humans are infinitely irrational (capable of believing in contradictory ideas, even at the same time)
10.3 looking ahead
The Handbook of Global Health Policy is a book that was published late last year. What is the future of global
health? How can we make policies to respond? The prof came up with four of the biggest environmental
stresses to look out for in the future: urbanization, globalization, infectious disease and climate change.
10.4 Urbanization
Over 50% urban by 2005 (more than half of the world’s human populations are living in cities), this trend seems
to be continuously accelerating. The average human experience is an urban one now.
The Chicago school of ecologists and sociologists (1920s) were lead by Robert Park. He thought that cities
should be thought of as something different (cities aren’t big villages). Cities operate as an ecosystem in
different ways (different set of parameters so it should be approached as a unique area of study). The main
feature of the urban environment that interests us is concentration.
Concentration: matter, energy, humans are intensified in cities. Energy input is one way to look at human social
organization (foraging societies are low energy societies and as we get more complex there is more energy in a
Dependence: cities are divorced from their production. We are massively dependent on the periphery for our
energy and for our food. Dependent on outsources but we are decoupled from them.
Suburban sprawl – as cities get bigger they need more inputs of resources and simultaneously cannibalize the
resources they need to sustain themselves (get rid of fields to build buildings)
It is important to think about stress … the urban environment presents us with a specific set of environmental
stresses. When the air is full of pollution and you have to breath that air in your body has an inflammatory
response (increased mucous). We have a more generalized inflammatory response to urban environments – we
are more prone to certain disease (cardiopulmonary diseases – chronic level). On the acute level, one billion
people live in slums: in addition to chronic diseases you are also prone to infectious disease (water tested have
strains of TB that have not been recognized previously … no current antibiotics could protect against it).
10.5 Globalization
Globalization is an increase in the speed and the density of connections. That includes connections between
organisms, ideas and institutions. It’s hard to tell if this is good or bad.
Columbian exchange – Christopher Columbus sailed to North America and he exchanged diseases with the
people he encountered (respiratory illnesses, flu and more) and they brought back Syphilis.
We get exposure to big benefits through globalization and we also get exposure to big shocks (Arab Spring –
food shortage due to a drought in China)
Big theme of globalization is Movement
People – the largest migration in human history is currently underway, it is happening in China. China is
urbanizing at an alarmingly high rate. Today 232 million people live outside of the country they were
born in. When moving around we create more opportunities for bad stuff to happen as well as good.
Animal – animals cross the world as fast as people do. There are real ecosystem affects. One in five
domestic livestock breeds are now at risk of extinction. About one domestic livestock breed goes extinct
every month due to global competition. Global demand for high output animals (chickens whose breast
meat is so large that they can’t even stand up and the Belgium blue is another example). The percentage
of antibiotics that is used in the United States that is used on animals is about 80%.
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