Impact of Outside Invasion in the Central Andes and Himalayas
In Toward a Cultural Ecology of Mountains: The Central Andes and Himalayas Compared, David Guillet writes to address the nature of cultural adaptations between two mountain populations. His research is spurred by increased recognition that human intervention can cause detrimental resource degeneration in these fragile mountain environments. Guillet attempts to answer two questions; What environmental constraints on material provisioning will a human population encounter in mountains? How does the range of possible responses lead to patterns of social relations?
By asking these questions Guillet believes that the production process is the critical link between the culture and the environment. Production is important to the cultural ecology of mountainous regions because; 1.) production decisions are constrained by altitude; 2.) cultural strategies implemented as a result of the mountainous environment are related to production; 3.) comparing production allows for a comparative model of mountain adaptations; and 4.) it shows that individuals and groups are involved in a process of adaptive flexibility that allows human response to the environment (Guillet, 563).
In mountain environments, human populations are limited by vertical constraints on production strategies. The interaction between altitude, climate, and soil fertility sets limits on what types of crop can survive. This is evident in the use of animals to plow fields. The yaks of the Himalayas were able to adapt well to the plow, unlike the Andean camelids that lacked the physical strength for plowing.
The mountain environment impacts many aspects of life. These regions have a poor division of labor by age and sex; and require a high degree of flexibility in social arrangements at the individual, household, and community level (Guillet, 563). These patterns are representative of the "potential for intensification, demands on land and labor, and the managerial requirements of vertical production zones (Guillet, 563)." The overall production of land and labor appears to be higher for lowlands than mountain regions. The higher the elevation the less potential for the intensification of production. The differences in productivity are a result of the vertical production zone and population density. Generally speaking, population decreases with altitude. The result of this separation forces the population at a higher elevation to be dependent on the lower zones for goods and services.
To reduce risk and gain reciprocal labor during peak periods, households at higher elevations are forced to diversify production. By creating a network of social relations they can afford to rely on others in circumstances that would otherwise be devastating. In the higher production zones of both the Central Andes and Himalayas, communal management is extremely important to the reproduction of resources (Guillet,...