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*** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive 
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Post *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
This thread is for discussing Ch. 3 - The Last People Alive: Pitcairn and Henderson Islands.

You may post within this framework or create your own threads.


Edited by: misterpessimistic  at: 4/13/05 1:10 pm



Sat Mar 26, 2005 1:01 am
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Reading the parts about how difficult it was for a modern team to find water on Henderson, I'm amazed to find that persons apparently lived there on a 'permanent' basis at one point in time. Also amazing is finding such a small piece of land so far away from where others lived. It seems like a 'why would you go there' story, at least why would you settle there permanantly?




Wed Apr 27, 2005 12:07 am
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Yes. One of the things that struck me through this chapter was the distances involved over open water. Why?...HOW could they get there?

Of course it is possible, but...sheesh!

One fact that impressed me was how primitive civ's located tiny land masses by looking for birds circling in the air.

Mr. p.

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Sat Apr 30, 2005 2:33 pm
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Along this same line of thinking is Diamond's discussion about the colonization of the American continents by humans, in Chap. 1, of GGS.

He makes the case that Clovis descendants made it from the US-Canadian border to Patagonia, in about 1000 years. And they proceeded to fill both continents from sea to sea and including every desert and mountain range there.

Human beings are very aggressive colonizers, and they are quick to exploit whatever resources they can find in the new territories.

I think that is trait common with most mammalian species, but we humans are much more adaptable than any other species, because we can use technology as part of our adaptation process to an extent that other species cannot, so far.

WW




Sat Apr 30, 2005 3:19 pm
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Human beings are very aggressive colonizers, and they are quick to exploit whatever resources they can find in the new territories.

I think it's important to ask of that observation, why? Our answers will, hopefully, defend against our unconsciously distorting that observation to mean more than it does.

The most obvious answer to me is that human populations expand because of a particular evolutionary pressure that is almost invariably constant in any human environment: interspecific competition. To wit, we branch out because there ain't room for the two of us in this here town. That may be due in most cases to the dynamics of resource management -- if competition over a given set of resources is perceivable more restrictive than the task of seeking out or claiming another set of resources, the population will divide. Another factor may be merely social, as with the migration and resettlement of populations that have been driven from one area to another due to insoluble social schims, as with the forced migration of Native Americans along the Trail of Tears, the exodus of the Sephardic Jews from Christian Spain, or the partial exodus of freed black slaves from the American South to Chicago and St. Louis. Given this view, what is perhaps more startling is that populations have tended to accumulate in certain areas and under certain conditions, such that we have urban and metropolitan areas, each with strategies of social integration that make them socially and culturally distinct from the baseline model of the clan, tribe or village.




Mon May 02, 2005 10:59 pm
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Good morning, Mad:

Why is it that no one else joins in these dialogs?

Surely there are other readers, posters, lurkers who have questions, or observations or concerns about these same issues, aren't there?

Come on, speak up. The two of us aren't even that far apart in our viewpoints, there must be some more interesting thinkers lurking out there somewhere. Especially some of those younger, brasher voices.

Quote:
interspecific competition. To wit, we branch out because there ain't room for the two of us in this here town.


Ah, but WHY ain't there room for the two of us?? It seems to me that this is a very important question, and that it has a wide range of answers.

Remember that when the American continents were being initially settled between 9-11,000 years ago that the settlers were strictly hunter-gatherer groups. They need a lot of territory for younger mating pairs as the population expands in a new land with a relative abundance of food for hunters.

I think that the situation was analogous to what we see with the reintroduced wolves in the Western US. They are spreading very quickly, and quite far in just a few years, even with their habitat being severely limited by human populations. Some groups have spread 800 to 1000 miles in just a few years, because they roam to where good hunting is available, just like the early humans did here in North America.

But I think you overstate this trait in human populations. For example, China was unified politically in 221 B.C., and has remained so to the present day. Diamond makes the case that as soon as a food surplus is generated, human populations rapidly use those resources to organize into more complex societies, until they reach the level of a state (or nation). As soon as there is sufficient resource to support the specialization in a town, there is plenty of room in town not only for the both of us, but for millions of us.

The pattern for human settlement in the world today is in huge metropolitan centers, or strips, not in rural settings. I live in a county, which is larger than some small states, and which has lost population in every census since 1920. The Dakotas, Eastern Montana and Wyoming are losing population statewide, and this during a time of rapid growth in the metropolitan areas of the US.

Most human being don't live out in the country, they live in very densely populated cities.

WW




Tue May 03, 2005 8:50 am
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Quote:
Why is it that no one else joins in these dialogs?


'Cause we're reading the book more slowly! I'm here, I'm here! Hold your horses! (I also have a pile of books that I literally have to read, as I'm doing book reviews on them...then I have to read Collapse with an eye to discussion...I'm also dipping into GGS, for the 'before' picture...)

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Tue May 03, 2005 9:35 am
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
LOL

OK, I'll try to be more patient!

You do notice that Mad and I don't let a little thing like not reading the book slow us down when it comes to arguing and stating our opinions, though, don't you??

I know it's a weakness, but I love the discussion much more than reading the books!

WW




Tue May 03, 2005 10:29 am
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
wwdimmitt: Ah, but WHY ain't there room for the two of us?? It seems to me that this is a very important question, and that it has a wide range of answers.

I'd say that's due largely to social factors, specifically size of population in reference to the form of social organization. It seems that most forms of social organization have a kind of critical mass, at which point they must either adapt to a new mode of organization or divide. It's interesting to look at the phenomenon of totemism in this regard, and I would say that a feasible explanation for totemistic division in a society is that it arose as a strategy for dealing with population sizes that had reached the critical mass of the previous form of clan organization. In fact, I think you can see subtle totemistic social strategies in cities and nations even today, particularly in the political realm where Democrat and Republican signify so little difference that the party system seems nearly meaningless.

But I should say that population size is likely not a merely quantitative measure. What's really indicated by population size is the likelihood of a given individual knowing and trusting any other given individual, despite their situation in the same social unit. Edward Said's "Orientalism", which is one of the books I'm reading now instead of tackling the Diamond tomes, is interesting to read in this light, and it may be that one of the reasons Orientalism took hold is that we needed to "know" that gargantuan other half of society, particularly when knowing meant a form of mental and political subjugation.

Then again, sheer numbers might also have an effect on resource management, such that the stress put on animal and vegetable populations in a given area might keep human populations at whatever maximum level was necessary to keep food supplies sustainable. The agrarian revolutions of Europe in the late Middle Ages may have allowed Westerners to bridge that gap, but it certainly wasn't the solution to the social pressures outlined above.

They need a lot of territory for younger mating pairs as the population expands in a new land with a relative abundance of food for hunters.

I would think that the pressures of a growing hunting population in a hunter-gatherer society might actually facilitate social concentration in tribal forms. Individuals that voluntarily organized themselves into hunting groups would stand a better chance of defending themselves in melee over hunting territory and could more easily mobilize themselves into war parties.

For example, China was unified politically in 221 B.C., and has remained so to the present day.

It was unified by conquest, and maintained in much the same way, but it has not remained constant as such. The dynastic history of China is evidence of the continual pressures placed on a state that large, and China has remained a perpetual state in name only. In truth, the history of China since the unification of the Four Kingdoms has been the history of multiple peoples unified in successive nations. Each nation has collapsed in time or was forcible put down by their successors.

Most human being don't live out in the country, they live in very densely populated cities.

Frankly, while that may be an advantageous social strategy, I think that's a poor defensive strategy given the technologies and techniques of modern warfare, and I think the near future will show a reversal of that trend.

Loricat: 'Cause we're reading the book more slowly! I'm here, I'm here!

But look at me! I'm proof that you don't have to be reading the book at all to join in on the conversation. Incidentally, this is how I made it through college as well.




Tue May 03, 2005 12:43 pm
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Quote:
I'm proof that you don't have to be reading the book at all to join in on the conversation. Incidentally, this is how I made it through college as well.
Oh, Mad! Give the rest of us, who don't have your stunning intellect, a break!! :b

Anyway, I've caught up to this chapter.

Mad: In truth, the history of China since the unification of the Four Kingdoms has been the history of multiple peoples unified in successive nations. Each nation has collapsed in time or was forcible put down by their successors.

That's true -- but I think there is a distinction between a true collapse and, shall we say, a transfer of power? Diamond, in this chapter neither of you has actually read :lol , talks about how, when Mangareva's ecological failure came (because of over-fishing, over-harvesting, deforestation for planting of gardens and building of canoes) there were a lot of tribal battles for the remaining resources. But a battle for control of territory for the purposes of survival is not the same as one for political control. Mangareva's collapse was pure desperation -- and the dependence of the other two islands further out (Pitcairn and Henderson) on the trade from Mangareva caused their devastating collapse when trade stopped. Theirs was not a question of successors.

Lori

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Tue May 03, 2005 1:20 pm
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Post Re: *** Chapter 3 ***- The Last People Alive
Loricat: Oh, Mad! Give the rest of us, who don't have your stunning intellect, a break!!

There should be a different measure for what I've got. Egollect, maybe.

That's true -- but I think there is a distinction between a true collapse and, shall we say, a transfer of power?

Well, Diamond and I are likely talking about two different things. He's talking about the collapse of a civilization, and from what I understand, he's talking specifically about the collapse of population as seen from an ecological point of view. In talking about ancient to modern China, I'm talking more along the lines of political collapse. In most cases those have been transfer of power, which we're using euphemistically to mean usurpation and conquest, but those transfers likely could not have taken place without a great deal of internal corrosion.

I wish that I had a decent reference on Chinese history available so that I could cross-reference our discussion with some actual fact. The best I have are the major Confucian works, which aren't exactly thorough as historical texts. I may be able to pick up something more explicitly historical next week (I'm abstaining from buying any books until the college library sale starting this Saturday), so if we want to get more detail oriented we may want to switch the venue to Rome or medieval Europe until that time.

Mangareva's collapse was pure desperation -- and the dependence of the other two islands further out (Pitcairn and Henderson) on the trade from Mangareva caused their devastating collapse when trade stopped.

This, from what I gather of the reviews I've read, is one of the significant differences between Diamond's study and the discussion passing between wwdimmitt and I. Diamond's book is, for the most part, scrutinizing rather isolated, contained societies, particularly island nations, whereas we've ventured into the realm of mainland civilizations. I could be wrong on that point -- my information is somewhat second hand. (The review from which that comparison is gleaned treated Diamond's focus on small civilizations limited to a limited resource pool as a crucial flaw in his larger argument.)

Incidentally, wwdimmitt, how would you prefer that I and others refer to you? W.W.? Dimmitt? Something else?




Wed May 04, 2005 1:02 am
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