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Modes of Subsistence and their Impact on Society

Learning Objectives

1. Identify the four modes of subsistence and describe the major activities associated with obtaining food in each system.

2. Explain the difference between wild and domesticated resources and how plants and animals are domesticated.

3. Explain the relationship between the subsistence system used in a society and the amount of private property or wealth differences that develop.

4. Assess the ways in which subsistence systems are linked to expectations about gender roles.

5. Categorize the social and economic characteristics associated with agriculture and describe the benefits and drawbacks of the agricultural subsistence system.

6. Analyze the ways in which the global agricultural system separates producers from consumers and contributes to wealth differences.

7. Appraise the ways in which human intervention in the environment has made it difficult to separate the “natural” from the human-influenced environment.

1. A hallmark of agriculture is the separation of food production from food consumption; many people know almost nothing about where their food has come from. How does this lack of knowledge affect the food choices people make? How useful are efforts to change food labels to notify shoppers about the use of farming techniques such as genetic modification or organic growing for consumers? What other steps could be taken to make people more knowledgeable about the journey that food takes from farm to table?

2. The global commodity chains that bring food from many countries to grocery stores in the United States give wealthy consumers a great variety of food choices, but the farmers at the beginning of the commodity chain earn very little money. What kinds of solutions might help reduce the concentration of wealth at the end of the commodity chain?

3. Mono-cropping is a feature of industrial food production and has the benefit of producing staple foods like wheat and corn in vast quantities, but mono-cropping makes our diet less diverse. Are the effects of agricultural mono-cropping reflected in your own everyday diet? How many different plant foods do you eat on a regular basis? How difficult would it be for you to obtain a more diverse diet by shopping in the same places you shop now?

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