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Lecture Week 4 - Culture and Environment Members of all...

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Culture and Environment Members of all societies, even people in industrialized ones, interact with the environment to ‘make a living”. When anthropologists refer to the satisfaction of the most basic survival needs: food, closing, and shelter, they use the term subsistence . The subsistence resources available to a people depend upon three factors: natural environment, population, and culture. Cultural anthropology studies the ways in which different human groups interact with their environment to survive or to change. Human societies exist in real physical and social environments, and their culture, organization, and behavior are best understood in terms of human ecology and adaptation. Human ecology (also known as ecological anthropology) is the study of the interplay between humans and their environments. It emphasizes the adaptive significance of culture and behavior. The term adaptation refers to both biological and cultural processes that enable a population to survive and reproduce within a given or changing environment. Human adaptation to the environment involves culture. This term refers not to individuals but to social groups, which are capable of modifying the behavior of its members through sharing learning, innovation, and invention in order to increase their chances for survival and reproduction. These activities enable the society to survive. Like other animals, human beings must adapt to their environments. However, unlike other animals they also change the environment. Humans not only change the environment. Unlike most animals humans also create artificial environments in which to live. The artificial
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environments, which humans have constructed have taken many forms, the most extraordinary being modern megapolis. ` The relationship between environment and culture is a very complex one. The environment does not actually determine what a human group does to survive. Being warm- blooded animals and equipped with cultural means of coping with nature, humans have been able to adjust to a great variety of environments, including even polar lands and deserts. However, in pre-industrial societies the environment posed limiting conditions for possible growth. No adaptation can be seen as a perfect solution; each carries with it certain costs and hazards. All species, human and not human, survive by exploiting some sector of the environment. They also play a part in the forming of that environment. What distinguishes the activity of humans from other species is that the human interaction with nature is buffered, or mediated, by culture. Unlike most other species, humans do not have to rely on biological mutations to change the way they use resources. People can deliberately change their behavior to meet new situations or to make better use of present ones. Of course, cultures are not changed easily.
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