Harris CHAPTER 5: Production
Energy-capturing technology- refers to how people apply human labour and technology to natural resources.
Features of the Environment- consist of sunlight, rainfall, soil quality, forests and mineral deposits.
Fossil fuels- consist of materials such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas derived from decomposed remains of prehistoric
organisms over a period of hundreds of millions of years.
Ecological Anthropology- is concerned with cultural and biological responses that affect or are affected by the survival,
reproduction, and health and spatial distribution of human population.
Carrying Capacity- is the upper limit on production and population in a given environment under a given technology, without
degrading the resource base.
Point of Diminishing Returns- is the point at which the amount of food produced per unit of effort begins to fall.
Intensification- refers to an increase in labour output (using more people, working longer hours, or working faster) to produce
greater yields without expanding the amount of land used.
Liebig's law of the minimum- a pop. will be limited by critical resources that are in the shortest supply.
Maximum sustainable yield- defined as the level of production immediately prior to the point of diminishing returns.
Optimal foraging theory- predicts that hunters or collectors will pursue or harvest only those species that give them the max.
energy return for the time spent foraging
Slash-and-burn farming- requires large stretches of fallow land because long periods are necessary for the soil to be
Pastorialists- peoples who raise domesticated animals and who do not depend on hunting, gathering, or planting their own
crops for a significant portion of their diets. Typically occupy arid grasslands and steppes where precipitation is too sparse or
irregular to support rainfall agriculture and where water for irrigation is not available.
Transhumance- form of pastoralism organized around the seasonal migration of livestock between mountain pastures in warm
seasons and lower altitudes the rest of the year
Nomadic pastoralism- is often associated with migrations that follow established routes over vast distances.
early hominids gained all energy from food, first great step in evolution of production was the use of fire
40,000 years ago fire was being used for cooking, warmth, protection against carnivores, driving game over cliffs/into ambushes, and
possibly favouring growth of plant species.
10,000 years ago (approx), animals provided energy in the form of muscle power, first harnessed to sleds, then to plows.
Roughly same time humans used high temp. charcoal fires.
Fossil fuels= within last 200/300 years
supply nearly 90% of all the energy consumed by industrially developed nations.
Throughout history technological advances have steadily increased the average amount of energy available per person.
As a pop. Grows, it increases its need for production. To produces more food, a society must increase per capita use of energy.
Increased energy use ≠ higher standard of living, nor energy is produced/used more efficiently.
Less advanced cultures may be better adapted to their environments than high-energy cultures
Groups and individuals adapt to their environment by making adjustments for survival. Therefore it is expected to see individual
acts and beliefs to respond in a broad range of characteristics, such as:
Fluctuations over time in availability of resources
Activities of other groups in competition for these resources
introduction of new tech. that changes the way food is produced.
Ecological anthropology sees the human pop. as integral part of ecosystem and focuses on human adaptation, incl.
physiological, cultural and behavioural relationships.
Ecosystems tend towards homeostasis- they tend to resist change and remain in equilibrium.
Some predictable patterns do take place such as:
climatic: drought, flooding, causes migration or internal conflict
technological: replacing old tech. with new more effective tools, or by diffusion of food crop
social organization: features new patterns of domestic organization or political institutions
For humans, carrying capacity is relative to infrastructural and sociocultural conditions- if the conditions change ( as a result of
deforestation, or new tech.) carrying capacity changes as well.
Although carrying capacity sets the upper limit to production and reproduction, most societies maintain their production and
reproduction below that limit.
Slash-and-burn farmers bring on diminishing returns as they increase the number of years they consecutively plant in the same garden .
Have to work harder to produce same amount of food to maintain the same-size population.
Most food production systems maintain below carrying capacity because diminishing returns set in before carrying
capacity is reached and no one wants to work more for less.
Unless population growth is maintained as well, the temptation to maintain or increase production will be great- can be done by
intensification (increasing the time and energy devoted to production)
intensification, a mode of production can be pushed far beyond point on diminishing returns to or beyond carrying capacity,
irreversibly damaging the resource base.
It is inevitable that intensification will lead to the depletion of non renewable resources.
Example, Ocean fisheries; rate of return per unit of fishing effort has declined by almost half.
To avoid depletions the maximum sustainable yield must be found.
The basic principle of ecological analysis states that communities of organisms adapt to the minimum life sustainable
conditions of their habitats rather then average – Liebig's law of the minimum
Meaning growth is limited by the availability of any one necessary resource.
In the past environmental depletions have sometimes stimulated the adoptions of new modes of production.
Example, When hunters and gathers deplete their animals and plants they begin to adopt a mode of production based
on the domestication of animals and plants
the shift from preindustrial to industrial and petrochemical forms of agriculture can also be seen as a response of depletions.
Example, Aquaculture is the raising of fish in nets and ponds to compensate for the depletion.
Hunting and Horticulture Pastoralism Agriculture Agriculture Industrial
Gathering with Plow with Irrigation Agriculture
Example !Kung Matsigenka Turkana Northern India China United States
Environment Desert with Tropical forest; Arid grasslands Arid region with Fertile plain with Fertile land with
sparce resources, gardens relocated unsuitable for irregular perpetual growing intensified
including water every 3 to 5 years agriculture and monsoon rains season mechanized
water holes production
Settlement Migratory and live Semi-sedentary Highly mobile in Sedentary Large villages Rural regions
in temporary hamlets search of food for villages with with access to exclusively
camps livestock permanent river devoted to
Population Low population Low population Low population Increased High population Only 3% of
density density density population density workforce are
Production Adequate wild Cultivation of root Nomadic herding Intensive rainfall Intensive rice Mechanized
vegetable food crops with trade cultivation of cultivation; double equipment
and meat for supplemented by agriculturalists grains; livestock cropping; powered by fossil
small population hunting fishing, provides traction domesticated fuel; used
and wild foods and milk animals; fertilizer and
communal water pesticide; indirect
resources and labour exceeds
ditches direct labour.
Land Use Communal Communal of Grazing land Half farmland Land owned by Private and
territory and land claimed owner of owned by wealthy households with corporate
water holes; through individual corporate kin farmers who hire some tenant ownership of
access willingly use group with other farmers to farmers land; used for
granted exchange work land profit
throughout region Hunting and gathering was the only mode of food production until about 12 000 years ago.