Discussion Questions for Tuesday, December 5
Please come to class on Tuesday with some notes prepared for each question. If you have questions of your own to add, by all means do so here. I strongly recommend that you download and read an article by Pimentel, et al. You can obtain it by clicking on this link:
1. What do you see as the most important factors associated with the decline of ancient civilizations?
2. Do you think that any of these factors present problems for the world today? Why?
3. If your answer to question 2 is “yes”, what do you think should be done to alleviate those problems?
4. Pimentel and others have argued that the human population of the earth is three times what it should be if long-term destruction of the environment (depletion of non-renewable resources, extinction of other species, pollution and so on) and declining quality of life are to be avoided. Regardless of whether or not we accept all of his calculations, our study of population growth at Copán has shown that even with growth rates lower than those seen in many areas today, our numbers will eventually exceed the carrying capacity of the earth (unless, of course, technological advances can solve all the problems that overpopulation brings). Given this premise, what do you think needs to be done? How should it be done? By whom should it be done?
5. If half of the world’s human population today is malnourished, what should be done about that? It has been argued by some that although there is at present enough food to feed everyone, inequalities in distribution of that food are the primary cause of the problem. How much would you be willing to sacrifice to help ensure that distribution of resources is more equal globally?
6. The population of the United States is now 300 million and will reach 400 million in less than 35 years. Do you see this as good or bad? How large a population do you think we should have? If you wish to see the population of this country limited, how should we go about that? Reduced the internal growth rate? Limit immigration? Both?
7. Let’s revisit a question we discussed earlier. What do you think human beings gained and lost when our ancestors gave up the hunting/gathering way of life that worked so well for millions of years for farming? What was gained/lost when our ancestors moved from living in small farming communities to civilizations? What has changed from earlier civilizations to the type we live in today?
8. It has been argued that over the long-haul, agriculture may not be a sustainable adaptation. Do think that this belief could be correct?
9. When you think about the future (short- and long-term), do you feel optimistic or pessimistic? Why?