diffusion by immigration, conversion, missionaries
Table of Contents
What Is Culture?
To the social scientist, culture is the specialized behavioral patterns, understandings, adaptations and social systems that summarize a people’s way of life.
culture is shaped by environment: rain was a tool of God's wrath to the Hebrews, but sacred to the Anastazi
culture is shaped by social organization: the more advanced a society, the more organized it is
culture is shaped by values and beliefs: Aztec flower wars, cannibals
culture is learned behavior: sports, kissing
Culture includes the visible (buildings) and the invisible (language), the material (cultural landscape) and the internal (religion).
Seven Major Traits of Culture
a. Learned through interaction, observation, and imitation
b. Conscious: being told, reading
c. Unconscious: most culture is learned unconsciously, i.e. through language for example
d. Learned from a variety of sources
2. Folk tales and folklore
3. High Culture: poetry, art, music
4. Mass media (especially TV in this generation)
3. Based on Symbols
Changes occurs from:
a. innovation (discovery) e.g. television, computer, women’s movement
b. diffusion (borrowing) e.g. McDonalds worldwide
c. acculturation (long-term contact with another culture) e.g. Taco Bell?
Definition Of Culture
How is the cultural landscape perceived? People of all cultures have spatial memories that influence their perceptions. From the viewpoint of the US, many countries appear to be technologically unsophisticated and poor. But from the perspective of those countries, US society may seem overdeveloped and wasteful. Our perceptions of our own community and culture may greatly differ from those of people in other cultures.
Perceptual regions are intellectual constructs designed to help us understand the nature and distribution of the impressions and images of various regions and cultures. Although we can easily explain in general terms how we perceive a cultural region, it is much more difficult to put our impressions on a map. We all have a perception of the South as a cultural region of the US but we don't all agree on where that perceptual region begins and ends.
You can find an interesting example of a perceptual region in an article by Terry Jordan entitled “Perceptual Regions in Texas” (1978). Texans use regional-cultural names for various parts of the state and Jordan identifies where names such as Panhandle, Gulf Coast, Permian Basin and Metroplex actually apply. [T. G. Jordan, “Perceptual Regions in Texas.” Geographical Review 68, 1978, p. 295.]
Culture is learned.
It is not biological.
Culture is passed on from generation to generation through imitation, instruction and example.
Imprinting is the acquisition of information through speech and behavior. Imprinting is how we transfer our culture to others, especially our children. Imprinting starts when children are born. Children learn by watching other people, especially their parents, and then using the behavior they see as a model for their own. Imprinting can occur remarkably fast for children. Acquiring a new language can occur in a matter of months for children of a certain age.
Cultural Traits and Complexes
Cultural traits are the single elements or smallest units of a culture. They are the building blocks of the complex behavioral patterns of distinctive groups of people. They are “units of observation” which when put together constitute culture. According to Hoebel, a cultural trait is “a repeatedly irreducible unit of learned behaviour pattern or material product there of.” Any culture includes thousands of such units.
Traits of the material culture would include such things as the nail, the screwdriver; the pencil etc and the nonmaterial culture would be shaking hands, saluting the flag or driving. Thus shaking hands, touching feet, tipping hats, a kiss on the cheek as a gesture of affection, giving seats to ladies first, saluting the flag, wearing white ‘saris’ when mourning, eating vegetarian diets, walking barefooted, growing a beard or long hair, eating out of brass utensils etc. are cultural traits.
Some examples of cultural traits:
o tools and technologies to make a living
o beliefs (religion) and attitudes
o music and dance
o dress and grooming
o gender roles
o sport and recreation
o work ethic
Traits are the elemental units of a culture. It is these traits which distinguish one culture from another. A trait found in one culture may have no significance in other cultures. Offering water to the sun may have significance in a Hindu culture but none in a western culture.
Cultural traits do not usually appear singly or independently. They are customarily associated with other related traits.
Culture complexes are clusters of interrelated cultural traits, related sets of cultural traits descriptive of one aspect of a society’s behavior. According to Hoebel, “Cultural complexes are nothing but clusters of traits organized about some nuclear point of reference.” A cluster of objects, skills and attitudes form the surfing complex. Kneeling before an idol, sprinkling sacred water over it, putting some food in its mouth, folding hands, taking ‘prashad’ from the priest and singing ‘arati’ form a religious complex.
A cultural pattern is formed when traits and complexes become related to each other in functional roles. Each cultural complex has a role to play in society. The cultural pattern of a society consists of a number of cultural complex. The Indian cultural pattern consists of Gandhi spiritualism, joint family caste, system and ruralism. So there is a cultural complex consisting of a numerous cultural traits.
The cultural complex is an intermediate level between the trait and the institution. An institution is a series of complexes centering upon an important activity. Thus the family includes the engagement-marriage complex, the honeymoon complex, the child-care complex and several others. Some complexes are part of institutions; others revolve around less important activities such as stamp collecting and are simply independent complexes.
Cultural Regions and Realms
Cultural traits and complexes have spatial dimensions.
[When you generalize at this scale, you ignore the enormous diversity in each cultural realm.]
The Structure of Culture
Leslie White, Anthropologist
Ideological Subsystem: value/belief systems
Technological Subsystem: material objects
Sociological Subsystem: social organizations and behaviors
Julian Huxley, Biologist
Mentifacts: the ideas, values and beliefs of a culture. Both religion and language are examples of a mentifact. Religion has had an impact on culture more than any other trait. Also, language is very important to a culture as well. Some languages may be more specific to a certain culture, while many different cultures will all share a common language.
Artifacts: the objects, hardware and technologies that a culture creates. They provide entertainment, shelter and most of the things that make life easier for people. Computers, machines and the buildings of religious centers can be seen as examples of artifacts. A few other examples might be religious masks or musical instruments. These objects tell us all kinds of things about a specific civilization.
Sociofacts: represent the social structures of a culture and dictate social behavior. Some of the best examples of sociofacts are families and tribes. Family means different things depending on the culture you are a part of. Some cultures only consider immediate family as family. Other cultures include more distant relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Political and educational institutions are also examples of sociofacts.
People and the Environment
Cultural ecology is the study of the relationship between a cultural group and the natural environment it occupies.
site and situation (resources)
Environmental determinism is the belief that the physical environment exclusively shapes human culture.
Possibilism is the belief that people, not the environment, are the dynamic forces of cultural development.
The Most Important Characteristics of Culture:
(1) Culture is acquired.
Culture is an acquired quality or behavior. It is not biologically inherited but learnt socially by individuals. In other words any behavior or quality which is socially acquired or learned is called culture. Behavior’s learned through socialization habits and thoughts are called culture. Human beings learn or acquire culture by living in group. He learns it from society through education.
(2) Culture is social.
Culture is not individual but social in nature. As a social product culture develops through social interaction which is shared by all. Without social interaction or social relations it is very difficult and almost impossible to be cultured. Culture is inclusive of the expectations of the members of the groups. It is created or originated in society. Hence it is social.
(3) Culture is transmitted.
Culture is transmitted from one generation to another. It passes from parents to children and so on. This transmission is a continuous and spontaneous process. It never remains constant. Man inherits or learns culture from his ancestors and passes it to his successors. In this way culture constantly accumulate.
(4) Culture fulfils needs.
Culture fulfills many social psychological, moral etc. needs of individuals. Culture is created and maintained because of different needs. It fulfills needs of both society as well as individuals. For example, religion used to fulfill the solidarity and integrative needs of society. Our need for food, clothing, shelter, name, fame, status and position are fulfilled as per our cultural ways.
(5) Culture is shared.
Culture is not possessed by a single or a few individual. Culture is shared by majority of individuals. Hence culture is collective in nature. For example polytheism is our culture. It means majority of Indians believe in polytheism.
(6) Culture is Idealistic.
Culture is idealistic in nature. Because it embodies the ideals, values and norms of the group. It sets ideal goals before individuals which is worth attaining. In other words culture is the sum total of ideals and values of individuals in society.
(7) Culture is cumulative.
Culture is not created in one day or one year. It gradually accumulates through centuries. Beliefs, art, morals, knowledge are gradually stored up and became part of culture. Hence culture is the social heritage.
(8) Culture is adaptive.
Culture possesses adaptive capacity. It is not static. It undergoes changes. Different aspects of culture adapt with new environment or challenges posed by social and physical environment. Adaptation refers to the process of adjustment. And culture helps man in this process of adjustment.
(9) Culture is variable.
Culture is variable and changeable. It varies and changes from society to society. Because each and every society has its own culture. It also varies within a society from time to time. Ways of living of people of a particular society varies from time to time.
(10) Culture is organized.
Culture has an order or system. As Taylor says culture is a ‘complex whole’. It means different parts of culture are well organized into a cohesive whole. Different parts of culture is organized in such a way that any change in one part brings corresponding changes in other parts.
(11) Culture is communicative.
Man makes and uses symbol. He also possesses capacity of symbolic communication. Culture is based on symbol and it communicates through different symbols. Common ideas and social heritage etc. are communicated from one generation to another. In our society ‘red color’ stands for danger. In Indian culture red color symbolic danger. Hence culture is communicative in nature.
(12) Language is the chief vehicle of culture.
Culture is transmitted from one generation to the next. It never remain static. This transmission became possible through language. Culture is learned through language.
(13) Culture is a total social heritage.
We know culture is a social product. It is linked with the past. Through transmission past continues to live in culture. It is shared by all.
A cultural hearth is a nuclear area within which an advanced and distinctive set of culture traits, ideas and technologies develops and from which there is diffusion of those characteristics and complexes.
cultural diffusion: the spread of elements of culture from the point of origin over an area
Characteristics of Cultural Hearths
We use the term cultural hearth to describe centers of innovation and invention from which key cultural traits moved to influence surrounding regions.
These are the foundations of major cultures. We can trace the domestication of plants and animals to a small number of areas in the world.
Early cultural hearths formed in areas of surplus in which agriculture freed some people to pursue occupations other than farming.
Historic Cultural Hearths
Historically, there are several cultural hearths.
Many of the ideas and improvements that began in these hearths spread to other parts of the world.
Modern cultural hearths include cities such as London, NY and Tokyo.
Other things - religions, inventions, etc - have spread from cultural hearths.
Cultural hearths of major religions:
Middle East: Judaism, Christianity, Islam
Indus / Ganges: Hinduism, Buddhism
Characteristics of hearth areas
o social stratification and labor specialization
o metallurgy and other technologies
o long-distance trade connections
o urban culture
o writing, astronomy, mathematics
Cities and Culture
o What's a city?
o What are some basic characteristics of cities?
o Where are cities likely to develop?
o How important are geographic features to the development of cities?
o How important are non-geographic features to the development of cities?
Types of Cities
Cultural convergence is the tendency for cultures to become more alike as they increasingly share technology and organizational structures in a modern world united by improved transportation and communication systems.
Spatial diffusion is the general process by which an idea or innovation is transmitted across space. The geographic principle of spatial diffusion – the spread of any phenomenon, idea, disease or concept through a population across space and through time – can be applied to any phenomenon, idea, disease or technology that spreads through a population. Cultural diffusion overwhelms cultural evolution but diffusion is affected by a number of important variables: the duration and intensity of contact, the degree of cultural integration, similarities between the donor and recipient cultures and built-in cultural resistance.
There are two main types of spatial diffusion: expansion diffusion (a phenomenon that starts at one point and propagates outward from person to person; includes both contagious diffusion and hierarchical diffusion) and relocation diffusion (a phenomenon that starts at one point and propagates outward by relocating to a different place).
Diffusion signifies a group phenomenon, which suggests how an innovation spreads. 10% of cultural innovation comes from spontaneous local creation but 90% comes from diffusion from other cultures. Anything that changes culture tends to face resistance. Cultures, by predisposition, both embrace and resist change, depending on cultural traits. There are both dynamic influences that encourage acceptance of change, and controlling forces that resist what change threatens. Cultures adjust to change in three ways: fighting it (the behavior of those who have much invested in the old culture), adapting to it (natural human behavior), or accelerating it. On the world stage we can see the opposition to modernization and globalization that the innovations associated with those mega-diffusions provoke. We can also see those cultures, or segments of cultures, that adapt to or even accelerate modernization and globalization.
Adoption is an individual process detailing the series of stages one undergoes from first hearing about an innovation to finally adopting it. The diffusion adoption curve shows groups within a culture and how quickly each adopts cultural change. The horizontal X-axis is time and the vertical Y-axis is numbers of people. However, please note that not all innovators, for example, are innovators of all changes or in all situations.
Innovators are not typically part of social groups and explore what's new just because it’s new.
Early adopters seek the leading edge but don’t really want to be first. They are more evaluative than innovators and have a particular skill at sorting the useful ideas from the interesting but ultimately useless concepts that innovators may be raving about. They look for what’s useful and hesitate a bit, looking for some evidence of that.
The early majority prefers the new and popular, and is the first large segment of people in a culture to adopt innovation. This group is comparatively slow to adopt ideas and, when it does, individuals act like a herd, all acting together. They are typically socially aware and do not want to risk rejection by standing out from the crowd. There is often a trigger point, a critical mass, before which the early majority fears losing out if it jumps and after which it fears being rejected if it doesn’t.
The late majority wants cheap and easy. This group is generally risk-averse and although it knows the idea is there, it will put off adopting the idea until it has been developed as far as possible and is as easy as possible to adopt.
Laggards avoid innovation and resist change. It’s not that they change late … they don’t change at all. They view change as too much trouble to adopt or just plain wrong. Laggards can be deceptive, appearing to adopt ideas while actually undermining them.
Barriers to the spread of ideas/culture can be both physical and cultural.
Distance decay describes the decline of an activity with increasing distance from its point of origin.
We can often document the diffusion of ideas and culture:
Acculturation and Syncretism
Acculturation: the process by which a cultural group (or individual) adopts the traits of a new culture through immigration or conquest.
Syncretism: the development of a new form of cultural trait by the fusion of two or more distinct parental elements … examples: food, religion
When all people were hunters and gatherers their cultures had similarities.
The change to agriculture brought cultural divergence: the tendency for cultures to become increasingly dissimilar with the passage of time.
Hunting and Gathering
o requires large areas
o nomadic lifestyle
o group trade and socialization though generally isolated bands
o low density
o 5-10 million global population by 9000BC
Before farming, hunting and gathering were the universal forms of primary production. It is only practiced by very few people now, in very isolated areas. These numbers are declining as contact with more technologically advanced cultures is made.
o domestication of plants and animals
o greater population per area of land
o sedentary lifestyle
o labor specializations
o spinning and weaving
o government-legal codes
o more formal religion
o eventually an accelerated rate where change became a way of life
Cultural change is constant.
Cultural change can be both major and minor.
Cultural change is brought about by:
o spatial diffusion
Mechanisms of Change
...ideas or technology created within one group and adopted by the larger culture
All cultures have some innate resistance to change.
However, when a social group is especially unresponsive to innovation it exhibits cultural lag.
It is not always clear or certain whether the existence of a cultural trait in two different areas is the result of diffusion.
In some cases independent (or parallel) invention has occurred … example: pyramids
Culture vs. Ethnicity
So-called ethnic conflicts are usually cultural conflicts. Often they are not between different races, but rather between different cultural groups.
...the fragmentation of a region into smaller, often hostile, political units … usually results in a new independent state [Term comes from the Balkan Peninsula of Europe, a region that has balkanized many times and is still undergoing balkanization.]
Examples: Yugoslavia, USSR, East Timor
Unsuccessful Attempts: Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Catalonia
...the process by which regions within a state demand and gain political strength and growing autonomy at the expense of the central government … results in increased autonomy for a region (If strong enough, these devolutionary pressures may result in balkanization.)
...those forces from within a state that tend to divide it … causes of conflicts within a state
Memory Hint: centrifugal = go apart
Examples: religion, language, ethnicity, ideology
...those forces from within a state that unite it … forces that keep a country together
Memory Hint: centripetal = pull together
Examples: a strong common culture, religion, language, history, a popular national hero, a common outside threat, colonialism, an historical enemy
...a policy of cultural extension and potential political expansion aimed at a national group living in a neighboring country … for example, when India mistreated Muslims living in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim government of neighboring Pakistan threatened and ultimately went to war.
Irredentism is often a cause of cultural conflicts as countries protect members of their cultural group living in neighboring countries.
Examples: the Marsh Shiites, Armenians in Azerbaijan, Muslims in Kashmir, Serbs in Bosnia, Somalis in Ethiopia and Kenya, Afghanis in Pakistan
Solutions: relocate borders, resettle population, devolution / autonomy
The Geography of Language
Language is a fundamental strand in the complex web of culture serving to shape and distinguish people and groups.
Languages are constantly changing.
Languages evolve in place; responding to changes and borrowing from other languages.
Languages disperse … carried by migrants, colonizers and conquerors.
Language is an organized system of spoken words by which people communicate with each other with mutual comprehension. This definition fails to recognize the gradations among and between languages or the varying degrees of mutual comprehension between two or more languages.
Some estimates place the number of languages spoken around the world at 4000 to 6000.
Although this seems like a lot, we estimate that up to 15,000 languages were spoken in the past.
Cultural convergence: More than half of the world’s inhabitants speak just eight languages.
...a group of languages descended from a single earlier tongue
Latin: Romance Languages
We can trace Latin, Germanic, Celtic and Slavic (and other) languages further back to a larger family of languages known as the Indo-European Language Family.
About half of the world speaks a language from the Indo-European Family of Languages.
The present world distribution of languages cannot show much of the details, but gives an overall view.
Languages are dynamic and some have spread throughout the world from their place of origin.
Amerindian (Asian) Languages
Bantu and Khoisan Languages
Language can spread through each type of spatial diffusion.
Relocation: English, Bantu
Expansion: Latin, Arabic
Hierarchical: English in India
Most languages spread through adoption rather than eviction of other languages.
Diffusion Barriers to Language
Language can be affected by the presence or absence of diffusion barriers.
Physical Diffusion Barriers
Caucasus Mountains (Slavic and Ural-Altaic)
Cultural Diffusion Barriers
Languages constantly change and these changes may not always be noticeable over a lifetime, but can be significant over longer periods of time.
King James Bible
Change can be gradual or abrupt.
In the case of the English language:
Norman Conquest (10,000 new words)
From 1558 to 1625 (12,000 new words)
New World (200 new words)
Scientific research, computers, business and the internet are constantly adding new words.
...an established language used for communication between groups of people who speak different languages
Latin (Latin Quarter)
...a country’s required language of instruction in schools, government, business, law and other official functions
Language is a very important part of any culture.
Recently many countries in Europe -- for example, France and Wales -- have relaxed the use of the official language or standard dialect.
Does the US have an official language?
Toponymy is the study of place names.
place names: language on the landscape, a record of past inhabitants
Religion is a personal or institutional system of worship and faith in the sacred or divine.
It's difficult to define exactly what a religion is, because religion manifests itself in so many different ways. Organized religion has powerful effects on human societies. It has been a major force in combating social ills, sustaining the poor, educating the deprived and advancing medical knowledge. However, religion has also blocked scientific study, supported colonialism and exploitation, and condemned women to an inferior status in many societies. Even where religion is less dominant, its expression is still evident in many practices and beliefs.
Religion, like language, is a symbol of group identity. The role of religion can vary in culture, dominating among some and unimportant or denied in others.
Non-religious value systems -- Humanism or Marxism -- can be just as binding or important to some people or cultures.
Religion and the Landscape
Religions can leave an imprint on the cultural landscape.
Classification of Religion
Monotheism is the belief in a single deity or god.
Polytheism is the belief in many gods.
Neither of these classifications is particularly spatially relevant.
Geographers focus on the patterns and diffusion of religions.
...claim applicability to all humans and seeks converts … it has open membership and no one is excluded because of nationality, ethnicity or previous religious belief
Christianity, Islam and Buddhism are examples of universalizing religions.
Universalizing religions tend to expand.
More than half of the world adheres to the major universalizing religions.
...have strong territorial and cultural group identification
Membership is by birth or by the adoption of a complex lifestyle … not by a simple declaration of faith. (Do not seek converts.)
Judaism, Hinduism and Shinto are examples of ethnic religions.
Ethnic religions tend to be regionally confined.
Most migration decisions are based on economic opportunity; real or perceived.
Other factors can include:
Many times the decision to migrate is based on perception more than reality. Individual migration decisions are based on push and pull factors.
Push factors: negative home conditions impel people to migrate, push them away
Pull factors: perceived attractions of another location, pull them to come
Place Utility is the measure of an individual’s satisfaction with a given location ... The potential migrant considers not only the place utility of his present location, but also the expected place utility of potential destinations.
Migration Fields are the areas from which a given city or place draws the majority of its in-migrants.
Types of Migrants
Forced Migrants Reluctant Migrants
African Slaves Refugees
Native Americans Bosnians
Types of Migration
There are several different ways that people can migrate including:
Step migration: step by step transition usually from a smaller place to a larger place
Chain migration: the process by which migration movements from a common home area to a specific destination are sustained by links of friendship or kinship between first movers and later followers
North America is a composite of many ethnic groups. Increasingly that is the case for the whole world.
The multiple movements, diffusions, migrations and mixings of people of different origins are the subject of ethnic geography.
Even the most seemingly homogenous countries are home to distinctive groups.
...a term derived from the Greek term ethnos, meaning a people or nation. No single trait denotes ethnicity … group recognition may be based on language, religion, national origin or unique customs. Ethnicity is a spatial concept and ethnic groups are associated with clearly recognized territories.
Ethnocentrism is the term describing a tendency to evaluate other cultures against the standards of one’s own. This sometimes leads to a feeling of superiority of one’s ethnic group or culture over another.
The host society is the established and dominant society within which immigrant groups seek accommodation.
When an immigrant group adopts cultural and social modifications that permit it to operate effectively within its new social surroundings, the process is known as acculturation.
Assimilation is when an individual or minority group has greatly reduced or loses completely its identifying traits and blends into the host society. Assimilation does not necessarily mean that ethnic consciousness or awareness is lost. Many times ethnic consciousness is revived by the group most assimilated.
Culture rebound is the re-adoption of culture traits and identities associated with your ethnic forebears or ancestral homelands.
Culture Transfer: When immigrants arrive in a new location they bring their culture with them. How much is kept depends on the circumstances.
In North America everyone is technically a migrant. If we look at the relatively recent (last 500 years) immigration to North America we can break it down to three major waves.
In 1920 13% of the US population was foreign born.
In 1970 only 4.8% was foreign born.
By 1990 8.8% was foreign born.
Immigration accounts for about 30% of population growth in the US.
First Immigration Stream
from beginning of pioneer settlement to about 1870
mostly Northwestern Europe (English, German, Irish Scotch-Irish, Welsh) and African (About 20% in 1790)
source area of the majority of the migrants changed
Second Migration Stream
from 1870 to 1921
made up of mostly migrants from eastern and southern Europe (Poles, Italians, Slavs, Jews and Scandinavians)
ended with new immigration laws
Third Immigration Stream
started in the 1960s with changes in the immigration laws and continuing to present
composed of mostly Hispanics and Asians
The Doctrine of First Effective Settlement
Whenever an empty territory undergoes settlement or an earlier population is dislodged by invaders, the specific characteristics of the first group able to effect a viable, self perpetuating society -- the charter group -- are of crucial significance for the later social and cultural geography of the area, no matter how tiny the initial band of settlers may have been.
Wilbur Zelinsky termed the imprint left by the charter group as the doctrine of first effective settlement.
The English became the charter group for most of North America establishing the cultural norms and standards.
In eastern Canada the French were the charter group.
In the southwestern US the Spanish were the charter group.
Many ethnic groups that came to urban areas in the US moved to ethnic enclaves. (chain migration)
Some ethnic groups that moved to rural areas created ethnic islands. (cluster migration)
Some entire regions of North America have become associated with certain ethnic groups.
Urban Ethnic Areas and Segregation
Immigrant neighborhoods are a measure of the social distance that separates the minority from the charter group.
Segregation is the extent to which members of an ethnic group are not uniformly distributed in relation to the rest of the population.
The rate of assimilation of ethnic groups is dependent on both external and internal controls.
External Controls: Groups on the edge of an ethnic enclave will use blocking tactics to keep that group out of their neighborhood.
The self-elected segregation of ethnic groups serves four functions including:
Defense (reduces exposure-familiar)
Support (language, jobs, relatives)
Preservation of the culture (diet, marriage)
Attack (voting and political representation)
While an ethnic cluster endures it may be termed a colony or point of entry, many times dispersing after assimilation.
When an ethnic cluster persists because the occupants keep it intact the area is considered an ethnic enclave.
When the cluster is perpetuated by external forces and discrimination it is a ghetto.
Ethnic neighborhoods are not always permanent.
Agriculture: defined as the growing of crops and the tending of livestock whether for subsistence or commercial reasons, has replaced hunting and gathering as the most significant of the primary economic activities.
In developing areas farming is 75-90% of the labor force. In developed areas, it is 10% or less.
...consists of any agricultural economy in which the crops and/or animals are used nearly exclusively for local or family consumption
In most of Africa, Asia and much of Latin America, a large percentage of people are primarily involved with feeding themselves from their own land and livestock.
Two types of subsistence agriculture are recognized: extensive and intensive. Although each type has several varieties, the essential contrast between them is yield per unit of area used.
Extensive subsistence agriculture involves large areas of land and minimal labor input per acre. Both product per land unit and population densities are low.
Intensive subsistence agriculture involves the cultivation of small parcels of land through the expenditure of great amounts of labor per acre. Yields per unit area and population densities are high. Intensive subsistence agriculture involves the cultivation of small parcels of land through the expenditure of great amounts of labor per acre. Yields per unit area and population densities are high. The major crops produced are rice, wheat, corn, millet and pulses (peas and beans). Most of these people live in monsoon areas of Asia and rice is the major crop which under ideal conditions can provide high yields per unit of land.
Urban subsistence agriculture is an important part of food production in urban areas of the least developed parts of the world.
...the wandering, but controlled movement of livestock, solely dependent on natural forage, the most extensive type of land use system
Sheep and goats are the most common with cattle, horses and yaks locally important. The common characteristics are hardiness, mobility and ability to subsist on sparse forage. These animals provide milk, cheese, meat, hair, wool, skins and dung (for fuel).
Declining in numbers (Russia and The Sahel)
Another form of extensive subsistence agriculture is found in the tropical rainforest areas where people engage in a kind of nomadic farming. This shifting cultivation is called swidden or slash and burn. In these areas, the soils have little ability to hold nutrients because of the large amounts of rain.
The trees and brush are hacked down and burned, and these areas are planted with corn, millet, rice, manioc, yams and sugar cane. Then the field is moved to another area and the plot is allowed to re-vegetate. More and more commercial crops such as coffee are grown as a cash crop.
Initial yields are high, but drop off as the nutrients are used or washed away. Productivity is maintained by rotation of plots rather than crops. Problems include declining soil fertility and population pressures.
Nearly 5% of the world’s population and 1/5 of the world’s land area are predominantly engaged in tropical shifting agriculture.
The Cost of Territorial Expansion
Rapidly growing populations have led to more and more intensive, extensive and exhaustive use of land for agriculture. When population pressures dictate land conversion, serious environmental deterioration may result.
Tropical rain forests
The Green Revolution
Increased productivity of existing cropland rather than expansion of cultivated area has accounted for most of the growth of food production over the past few decades.
The Green Revolution is a shorthand reference to a system of seed and management (fertilizer and pesticide/herbicide) improvements adapted to the needs of intensive agriculture that have brought larger harvests from a given parcel of farmland.
Between 1965 and 1995, world cereal production rose 90%. The increase was due to increases in yields rather than expansion of cropland. Harvests have risen dramatically. Genetic improvement in rice and wheat has formed the basis of the Green Revolution.
In the most developed areas of the world, agriculture is managed like an industry … the farm is a factory that must turn out consistent products that can be processed efficiently.
Intensive commercial agriculture is practiced in areas where large amounts of capital (machinery, fertilizers) and/or labor per unit of land are used with the crops being sold in the market place. Often called truck farms (fruits, vegetables and dairy products)
Extensive commercial agriculture is characterized by low amounts of labor (highly mechanized) per unit of land area and is practiced further from markets on less expensive land. Typified by wheat (grain) farming and livestock raising.
Special circumstances, most often climatic, make some places far from markets intensively developed agricultural regions.
Mediterranean agriculture: grapes, olives, oranges, figs, vegetables ... these crops need warm temperatures all year long … winter rain, summer dry, irrigation
These are some of the most productive regions of the world.
...specialized crops usually native to the tropics in areas where the climate is conducive to these crops: coffee, sugar, cacao, tobacco, rubber, tea, bananas
Plantation crops are not for local consumption and are usually grown near coastlines to export.
In addition to agriculture other primary economic activities include fishing, forestry and mining of materials … The development of these primary activities is dependent on the occurrence of these resources (availability), the technology to exploit these resources and the cultural awareness of their value.
There are renewable and non-renewable resources.
The maximum sustainable yield of a resource is the maximum volume or rate of use that will not impair its ability to be renewed or to maintain the same future productivity.
The Tragedy of the Commons (3:19)
1832: William Forster Lloyd observed the devastation of common pastures and the puny and stunted draft animals that grazed on them.
1968: Garrett Hardin created the economic term tragedy of the commons.
The commons refers to any resource shared by a group of people.
Each household has the right to take resources from and put waste into the commons.
As the population grows, greed runs rampant and the commons collapses … the tragedy of the commons.
The plight of the commons in Lloyd's day is similar to the problems of over-fishing in our times.
Fish provide a significant amount (7%) of protein consumed by the world. Reliance on fish is greatest in developing countries of eastern and southeast Asia, Africa and parts of Latin America.
Almost all marine fishing is from the coastal areas. The wetlands, bays, estuaries, provide the nutrients from rivers and the spawning grounds for many species.
Both over-fishing and pollution have endangered the supply of the traditional and desired food species.
Fish farming is now about 30% of the world’s fish harvest and is growing every year.
Commercial forests are restricted to two very large global belts.
Two major uses of wood:
Industrial: paper, construction, furniture, 50% of all industrial wood harvested in US
Fuel: charcoal, heat, cooking; mostly in developing worlds, depleted at a rate above the maximum sustainable yield
Tropical lowland hardwood mostly cut down for fuel.
Mineral resources are not distributed evenly across the world. We have exploited the easiest ones.
Three types of minerals determined by geology: metallic minerals, non-metallic minerals and mineral fuels.
Metallic minerals: copper, iron, nickel, zinc, lead, etc. The metals market is highly volatile and driven by changes in supply and demand.
Non-metallic minerals: construction materials, gravel, building stone, gypsum and limestone for cement.
Mineral Fuels: also known as fossil fuels.
[We'll take another look at primary industries when we look at economic geography.]