Its About Time, Too
The Crosscutting Theme for the
The ongoing Human Genome Project is the recent apex of those insights
revealed from a century or more of codifying inherited characters.
But where did these ideas come from?
From dilemmas regarding both linguistic patterns, and insights from studies of human genome lineages.
Amongst the remaining issues is how did so many 'tribes' evolve?
A trip around Italy, (or many other varied terrain countries)
to visit the regional hill towns can help you understand...
Where you are is as important as who you are!
(a hundred million Italians cannot all be wrong... or can they?)
It is History that records the tales... not popular fiction.
No matter what pathway one chooses for entering the enterprise-based social systems of the 21st Century, individual and societal success will be contingent upon a thorough grounding in the differing - and apparently growing needs of society within a continuously changing set of opportunities.
Check out these fine sites :
Ancient History Sourcebook
Art History Resources on the Web
Diotima: Women and Gender in the Ancient World
Labyrinth: Resources for Medieval Studies
Lacus Curtius: Into the Roman World
Perseus Digital Library
Voice of the Shuttle
Perhaps the most valuable asset to be garnered from a modern education - and access to the global communications system - will be an enhanced awareness, if not complete understanding of the causes of society's greatest changes, in response to historical pressures.
Then there are the seemingly "unchanged" ones?
These pressures range from simple population growth during periods of relative prosperity - with the resulting consequences being competition for dwindling resources, to complete collapses of social hierarchies, as a consequence of disease, famine, and/or warfare. Sometimes survival means only demographic dilution, as in the case of the Greeks in Sicily.
These are the fisherfolk of Messina, Sicily landing their day's catch, which will be sold to a Japanese buyer, and immediately air freighted to Japan. There are vast cultural differences between these and the inhabitants of Scylla, just across the narrow straits, although they depend upon the same natural resource base.
Human beings have not always dominated their environments. In fact people were quite responsive to climate and mostly migrated with the seasons until the "Warm" period about 10,000 years before present. The resulting global climate that was associated with the peak solar influences that melted the great glaciers formed during the last Ice Age also provided relative stability in particular regions that allowed human populations to persist within smaller ambits, throughout the year, as reflected by enhanced rainfall patterns, dependable production from the land, and therefore development of permanent settlements.
This, in turn set the scene for previously nomadic tribes and otherwise competitive groups to set up collaborative systems in which those groups with long experience in herding animals, and those with cropping skills could combine their activities in a much more efficient fashion, and thereby support ever-growing sectors of society whose contributions extended from part-time artisanry, to full time occupations in such tasks as potting, metal working, and trade. Technology was both an engine and a by-product of these changes in how humanity parsed out the many tasks needed to feed, cloth and sustain the developments that were required to build and support cities, cultures, and their definitive infrastructures.
Continuous changes in climate, associated with the same longer-term solar influences are also responsible for the eventual collapses of the large city-states that emerged during the period 9,000 to 3,000 before present. While a lot of emphasis has been given to the causes of "desertificiation" in the Levant, and all across North Africa, the declining rainfall associated with the continuing decreased solar intensity as a consequence of solar system orbital relations made it virtually impossible for the large city-states to persist. Although it is clear that people developed great skills in canal building and waterway channeling during this period, in their efforts to stem the obvious changes. Of course, as land became less productive it came available to marginalized goat-herds, and other land-use practices that placed greater pressures on the land that compounded the problems. Such is the history of human endeavor.
Genetic Diversity and Human Health Issues
One of the fascinating health issues faced by these early citizens was related to an evolutionary societal sorting mechanism - the link between individual human's natural enzymological ontogeny, and the foods that are accessible to them as they mature. The lactase enzyme is a prominant example of this relationship. Mammals (and therefore humans) are characterized by their production of milk that is rich in caseine and lactose, basic nutritional resources for their young, providing some guarantee that there will be both parental care and nourishment during early developmental stages.
There are many populations that have adapted to extended dependence upon milk products, from other mammals, (e.g., goats, sheep, reindeer, cattle, camelids, water buffalo, etc.), particularly in its most stable and portable form, cheese, itself a product of either mammalian stomach enzymes, bacterial fermentation, and/or mold-borne enzymology. Yet we also know that bacterial contaminations can also cause deadly diseases.
Sanitation and food preparation have been social issues since the dawn of humanity. The food hand - dung hand traditions of old cultures bespeaks their wisdoms, and concerns for sanitation in food preparation and service. It is often lost on those of us from cities that such mundane items as toilet paper were only available to the western world masses in the middle of the last century. Plant materials such as straw, lichen, and peat, were used througthout the world. Sponges on handles were deployed in public latrines for use by Roman citizens. The first mention of paper for toilet usage was in 589 AD, in writings by Yen Chih-Tui. Records from the chinese emperial court tell us that by 1391 they were being delivered over 720,000 sheets per year.
These quaint signs in restaurant restrooms throughout the western USA were only mounted near the end of the Second World War, as more of North American rural poor moved through the various armed services, and by living in close quarters, in barracks and in the field, rediscovered hygiene. We are now relearning that regular hand cleansings with soap can protect us against many forms of communicable disease. Yet, over-zealous use of caustic soaps and anti-bacterials on our bodies surfaces can be self-defeating, as our personal flora and fauna are co-evoloved with us to maintain their hosts (our skin and gut lining) surficial stability, and general well-being. We are walking culture media, and our survival depends upon maintaining a balance between those living on our outside, and those which we need to ingest, and keep in good state, as they digest various bits of our meals, and provide us needed nutrients.
Humans and other mammals are awash in both surficial and enteric lactobacilli from birth. It can be said that these lactobacilli are our guardians against being overrun by other pathogens. Our young are constantly re-introduced to sources through breast-feeding, and so-called "cleaning" behaviors such as licking, wiping, or even kissing. It is a characteristic of some human populations to sustain their production of oral and gut lactobacilli, and maintain abundant lactase for extended periods beyond ages when they might need to suckle.
Many other human populations are characterized by early losses of natural lactase production, and even declines - or absences - of gut lactobacilli and other microorganisms that might facilitate digestion of milk lactose and milk products. Once the enzyme or bacilli that can produce lactase are no longer available, indigestion of milk products, and a general aversion to and intolerance for milk products is usual, throughout the local social system(s).Lactase maintainance is one of the obvious "natural selection factors" that facilitated nomadism - a prerequisite for herding cultures. This is in contrast with the many cultures that lack or lose this enzymologic capability, - that have necessarily moved on to other nutritious, vitamin rich, portable protein sources, such as dried fishes, dried animal flesh, fruits, nuts, grains, or kelp and other algae forms.
The recent (10,000 years ago) Paleolithic Revolution created another fundamental sorter for Natural Selection to work with. The analog grain-based nutrition problem is gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, another common characteristic for many European populations. One can imagine that these two criteria might provide great motivations for diversification of both herding and crops in early civilizations. Diversity in such mundane demands as food tolerances, joined by other genetic typologies such as sickle-cell that is fatal in diploid form, or bestows resistance to malaria in haploids.
Hair types, skin colors, and even affinity for sweating are among a long list of potential selection factors on which Nature's trials were met within these early cultures and civilizations, all of which were interactive within normal climate changes, and seasonal patterns. Today, Tsetse flies and various mosquito-born parasites and diseases still dominate vast regions of the planet's human health threats. Rivers and streams where slow flows are characteristic are also notorius for harboring snails that host several dangerous human parasites, causing deadly diseases such as Schistosomiasis. These are not easily resolved problems, even today.
The underpinnings of all these cultural differences can be described in terms of slowly changing societal opportunities, local conditions, and associated values. They can be tracked through time as both small and great advances in location, food and water resources, and both trading partners and technologies. Most technological advances have myriad non-reversible impacts on human populations and activities. Roman aquaducts made urbanization a fact over large regions of Europe. Yet lead plumbing fixtures poisoned the populus. The better technologies operate via enhanced capacity for sustaining ever-larger portions of local non-agricultural populations via other food producing components of society. The worst are the sort that affected Minamata, Japan, during its industrialization period after World War II, or more recently, where the highest levels of methyl- mercury ever measured are found in the river-water supply that flows through the center of Surabaya, East Java.
Ultimately, the engine that drives social change is Nature, via dynamics of the solar system, geophysical changes and events such as earthquakes, and climate dynamics, seasonal change, epochal changes in weather - extreme weather events - and longer term climate changes. However, genetic adaptations are still very important, particularly as life spans increase, and more types of errors in cellular genetic processes can take place over time. It has been theorized that cancer was a rare disease before humans on average began living well beyond forty or so years. Not today.
Dilemma: 21st Century Technology
Spectrum of Societies
Even today, self sustaining human social units occupy a full spectrum from nomads, to hunter-gatherers, to great regional enclaves with substantial proportions of individuals residing within cities. Each generation smaller percentages of extant populations engage in either primary food production, or conversion of natural resources to artifacts that enhance qualities of life within these social units.
Citizens of coastal Southern Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece and the Black Sea may have had seasonal access to tunas and swordfishes for millennia, the inhabitants of Sumeria, the Levant, and northern Central Asia, have had to adapt many times to great changes over the same course of history. Much of their adaptation was in the form of technological innovations, such as domestication of many plant and animal species, canal and water manipulations, as well as relocation when the water resources shifted from one location to others. Recent advances in sanitation and medical treatment have permitted a greater proportion of older citizens to survive. The kinds of social issues that are associated are also reflective of climate patterns, and vulnerability of older individuals due to both population densities and individual's mobilities. Travelers are now transporting pathogens around the world in weeks instead of decades as in the distant past.
On a human scale, the Global Economy has yet to encompass all of the world's peoples. Within the recent five or six centuries of relatively mild climates, social evolution in response to the sequence of challenges to regional human stability have resulted in substantial, economic integration of local, regional and continental cultures. Integration of city cultures is driven to sufficient degree by technologies that it should be obvious that within this next decade, global communication will be a fact. This does not, however, suggest that all segments of society will benefit.
These douhs and smaller masdouhni and their crews have carried goods and people across the Indian Ocean, into the Red Sea, and throughout the Gulfs, for millennia. Most will not yet have radios, or other means of communication. These traders and fishers sail with knowledge of the seasonal cycle, and its relative year-to-year stability. This does not work in most of the rest of the world's oceans, simply because of the absence of uniquely dependable seasonal wind reversals that characterize the monsoon-driven Indian Ocean regions.
Marginalization occurs for those outside city's walls, even more blatantly than those within... Electronic media are modern tools of social integration, and can be implemented wherever they are supported. That support is not now, nor will it be any time very soon, a universal situation, simply because some of the world's social systems and their economies have embraced neither the city nor electronic communications as a basis for general societal interaction. Social services evolve along with the urbanization of societies, in response to the concentration of obvious and common, or shared social needs.
Why Do We Try To Integrate Science
with Policy Issues?
There remains much to be learned about how to bring about conflict-free commingling of different cultures and their differing mores, under conditions of limited resources. Hence the major human dilemma - that caused by population growth, swarming of humans onto the open ocean and other natural refuges - resulting in ever more rapid exploitation of finite resources.
It is all about time, and developing capacity for both changing and minimizing disparate social values. Its about how to slow the rate at which human societies race toward the destabilization of their own and other's environments, particularly those marginalized societal units least able to respond (i.e., those too poor within the walls, those beyond the walls - that are disconnected or isolated from basic information resources). Inevitable clashes will result as changes occur.
In many ways, it is imperative to study the past, to seek analogies, simply because we have limited resources for innovation via trial and error research. Due to the ever decreasing time-frame as a consequence of Malthusian population growth, it is imperative that new tools be developed, to monitor the Earth and to disseminate information about the world, from local environments, to global climate, in direct, socially interpretable terms. Myths and Just-So stories are misleading.
Biotechnology has come into it own as scientists and resource management have come together to grapple with many cross-disciplinary issues in remediation of human perturbations of Natural Systems.
Successes will be measurable in terms of the actions and social responses of the next generation of educators and managers.
Failures will be measurable in increased environmental degradation and increased social conflicts and catastrophes.
If there is one common objective for the 21st Century, it should perhaps be to prepare each human being to take a strong stand on necessary social change, from a basis of understanding of both natural (climatic and seismic), and societal (cultural and broad economic) pressures, on local through global social contexts. It all starts with a clear understanding of the emergent Energy Crisis, and the consequences to Regional Societies within a Global Context..
Whether as measurers of environmental changes, as story-tellers, as true teachers and mentors, or as managers for the next generations - knowledge and adaptability will be the sources of both leadership and insights into resolution of social conflict.