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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:15 pm 
Avisaru
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Chuma (emphasis mine wrote:
Oh, it's just a matter of how much reality needs to be twisted. :)

As for depleting the land - that's what the population limit in the calculation is for. We said that a square mile of land can support one person - that means he can go out and do the same thing the next day, right?
As for how much you can collect in a day, again citing the PCK, the Piraha work 15-20 hours a week gathering food, and a few hours making tools. These people would not need to make tools, as they have a city to do that for them. Gathering five units/day would then require 75-100 hours a week; a rather heavy workload, but not completely unthinkable. With an idealised ecology and a little optimism, it should be possible.
And even if they don't reach 8000, it's still bigger than many of the ancient Greek cities - should be enough to develop civilisation.


Work for 100 hours for a week, and come back with plausibility. Humans are not machines. (Did you take into account the time you'll need to move around. The Piraha certainly don't walk miles away from home every day, but your guys would have to.)

Torco : As for the Polynesians, didn't they have agriculture? They had at least some herding.

tsulaokiw : You may be able to gather a gallon of berries on one day, but how many days could you do it in a year? That limits the number of people that can eat. Your northern people face the same problem, albeit differently : they can gather a lot quickly and save it, but there's less food, so they don't do it all year round.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 2:27 pm 
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Let's be generous: in a resource-dense area, the maximum population might be 0.3 per sq mile. [Assuming we're not talking about pseudo-agricultural industrial-scale fish-farmers].

So, a city of 10k would need to be supported by 33k sq miles. This circle has a radius of around 100 miles. Assuming 15 miles per day, that's, say, 14 days there and back. The trip must therefore provide at least 14 units. If, as you say, it's around 2.5 hours per unit to gather, that yields 35 hours gathering, let's say three and a half days. That adds another 3.5 units to gather - and the food cost of gathering that unit brings it to, say, an even 4. So that's 18 units to find. Now, if you don't want to devastate the area, you can't rip 18 units out of a single location: after all, a sustainable density, we've determined, is one unit for every 3 sq miles. So the gatherer might have to travel to 54 different square miles, which we'll charitably say takes 54/15=~3.5 days. So add another 3.5 units, plus the cost of collection, so 4 units added in total (and we'll charitably ignore the travel time for that). So, 22 units to gather, taking around 22 days.

Except that that just supports the gatherer. If for every gatherer there are three dependanst (and that's quite charitable really - children, wives, elderly parents, craft specialists, aristocrats, etc), that's another 66 units to gather. 2.5 hours per unit, 10 hours per day, that's 16.5 days more gathering. That means another 66 units to gather, which means... err, hang on? How can he possibly gather this surplus? And we're not even including the additional travel time for all this foraging!

So OK, let's be more generous, and say he works 12 hours per day - which is questionable, unless he's on the equator or can see in the dark!. Recalculating, that means the initial gather takes 3 days. So add that unit cost and it's 17.5 units to find, and say another 3.5 for the moving-about-finding-shit travel time, so 21 units. So another 63 for the dependants, taking another 13 days, which requires another 11 days to cover the cost of that extra time (being generous with the travel time/cost), which requires another 9 days, which requires another 8 days, which requires another 6.5 days, which requires another 5.5 days, which requires another 4.5 days, which requires another 3.5 days, which requires another 3 days, which requires another 2.5 days, which requires another 2 days, which requires another 1.5 days, which requires another 1.25, another 1, another 0.75, another 0.5, and let's just say another day to deal with the asymptote. That's around 75 days, plus the initial 14 days travel plus three foraging, for a total absence from home of around 90 days.

Now, some problems occur to me:
1. We've not been including travel time - and if he has to visit 180 different square mile areas to get all that food, that's a lot of travel time.
2. In this 33ksqm circle, there are only 180ish zones of 180sqm for this foraging. Three deps per gatherer, that's an actual city population of only 720 people. Now of course some gatherers will be gathering closer to home, and the closer to home the less area needed per gatherer, but you couldn't support more than a couple of thousand in this area. So you need to push the area... but as travel times to the periphery increases, the area required to support the gatherer going there increases likewise, so the efficiency actually decreases the bigger the circle, and it's never possible to support a city.
3. 90 day absence means carrying home 270 units! Accepting your figure of 3 pounds per unit (and I suspect that's processed, not raw, but let's ignore that for now), that's over 800 pounds to carry back. At 70 pounds per person per trip, that gatherer will have to make 12 trips to bring all that food back.
4. Excuse me, but those 12 trips will take him another 170 days. And that's another ~680 units he has to gather, which will take a lot of time and energy in turn, and how exactly will he bring all that food back? More trips, taking more time, taking more trips... as each trip requires a longer trip to support, the gatherer will never get back home.
5. Even if he did get back home, those are some damn long-lived fruit he's bringing back on his months-if-not-years-long trips!
6. They must have really good real-time monitoring and radio contact and GPS to direct people to the areas where there's available food, because if they don't know until they get there they'll be utterly fucking - seven days to get there and find the whole area's been wiped clean by the last fucker! The task is already impossible, but if it were possible, the possibility of arriving at a naturally or unnaturally denuded area makes it all impossible again.
7. Oh, wait, do you think that a city with 2000 gatherers traipsing in and out will actually have hinterlands that have equivalent productivity to virgin forest?



An additional point to make is that hunter-gatherers are subject to severe abundance/scarcity cycles, and their population tends to yo-yo dramatically. It's not good for supporting a stable civilisation. In particular, perversely, the more productive they are, the less food they will have in the long run [at low productivities, there is little surplus, so any scarcity of food results in a population decline due to famine - this decline reduces hunting and gathering, allowing the food supply to recover; at high productivities, there is a big surplus, so a scarcity of food in the wild does not at first result in population decline, as people eat their reserves instead - which means there are the same number of hunters at a time when the price of hunted food is increasing due to scarcity, so hunting and gathering actually increase in famine times, which in turn exaggerates the famine as the food sources are wiped out. Basically, the introduction of surpluses (which are necessary for a city, remember) breaks the direct link between food and population, which is the only thing that prevents ecological collapse. This is the fundamental difference from farming: in hunting and gathering, overutilisation (an inevitable part of the economic cycle once you get above the bare survival level) results in long-term food crisis, even the total destruction of the ecosystem, while in farming, overutilisation just reduces efficiency of production (except after many years of overutilisation on a massive scale, which can in some cases lower productivity permanently due to soil degradation - but this is unlikely to happen, because long periods of overutilisation are prevented through the inflationary feedback - too much farming produces more food, lowers the price of food, which lowers the amount of farming. Only a long-term famine, very bad farming practices, or very marginal land are likely to have the same sort of total-collapse that large hunter-gatherer economies are subject to.]

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:57 pm 
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I'm sure there are people who work 75 hours a week, if not 100. But as Sal points out, that is indeed difficult without artificial light - I didn't think of that. I think Panama is pretty close to the equator, but even so.

Would the gatherers use extra time moving? No, they would have been moving at the same speed regardless - twice as much gathering requires twice as much moving, no more. If we like, we can let the gatherers stay in the same area and let others do the shipping. So yes, travelling time is included.

Sal: I suppose you're right about the surplus. Not sure how to handle that.

We seem to have some differing data when it comes to population density. PCK suggests 1 per square mile, but it's only given in passing, so maybe you have better sources?

Allow me to make another attempt at some more accurate calculations:



Suppose we have
- total population: p
- radius (in days travel time): r
- gathering time (days/unit): t
- carrying capacity: c

There are three different roles relevant to the problem: Gatherer, shipper, other. So g+s+o = p. They might of course shift roles, but that makes no difference. However, I think it does make a difference whether the carrier is foraging while he moves, and I think it is more efficient that he does. Let me know if you disagree.

How many are the gatherers? That's easy: g = p*t.

How many are the shippers? That's a lot more difficult.
I think we can skip the calculus by saying that the average distance from the center is 2r/3. Let me know if you disagree.
The average travel back and forth is then 4r/3, but that's without foraging. The fraction of time the guy can spend moving is (1-t), so his actual travelling time is 4r / (3 * (1-t)).
How many guys do you need per consumer? That would be the above divided by c, so
4r / (3c * (1-t)).
But how many shipping consumers do we have? p? Nope, the gatherers and shippers are all self-sufficient - neither of them needs their food carried into the city. It's really just o. So the total number of shippers is
s = 4ro / (3c * (1-t)).

We get a nice little equation system:
g + s + o = p
g = p * t
s = 4ro / (3c * (1-t))

From that I get
g = p * t
s = p / (0.75c/r + 1/(1-t))
o = p - g - s

Now we just put in the numbers.

Sal, your numbers as I understand it:
p = 10 000
r = 7
t = 0.25
c = 20 (?)

That gives:
g = 2 500
s = 2 877
o = 4 623

If each of the gatherers and shippers has a wife and children, that wouldn't work - those families would take up the whole "other" sector and more. Realistically, the women and children aren't completely incapacitated, so we can pretend that they just take up a part of the "other"-sector. Or we could posit that there are no children in the area - maybe these guys are a kind of guest workers, with their families outside the seven day limit. Anyway, the number of non-productive people comes down to 4623.

With the numbers I used, we get:
p = 20 000
r = 5
t = 0.2
c = 20

g = 4 000
s = 4 706
o = 11 294

If we are roughly agreed on carrying capacity and movement speed, the actual maximum population possible would depend on
a) what is actually a realistic population density
b) which fraction of the population we can reasonably devote to food production; it sounds silly to keep the majority busy feeding a minority in the city, but then again, 90% food producers is normal in an agricultural society
c) how far you can carry food before it goes to waste

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Last edited by Chuma on Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:52 pm 
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Chuma wrote:
If each of the gatherers and shippers has a wife and children, that wouldn't work - those families would take up the whole "other" sector and more. Realistically, the women and children aren't completely incapacitated, so we can pretend that they just take up a part of the "other"-sector. Or we could posit that there are no children in the area - maybe these guys are a kind of guest workers, with their families outside the seven day limit.


but then the question becomes "why are the guest workers there, when they could be with their families gathering food for said family?"

Chuma wrote:
As for how much you can collect in a day, again citing the PCK, the Piraha work 15-20 hours a week gathering food, and a few hours making tools. These people would not need to make tools, as they have a city to do that for them.


who feeds the toolmakers in the city?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:46 am 
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Rodlox wrote:
why are the guest workers there, when they could be with their families gathering food for said family?

To get things from the city, such as tools.
Rodlox wrote:
who feeds the toolmakers in the city?

The guest workers.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:45 am 
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Yiuel Denjidzirc wrote:
Torco : As for the Polynesians, didn't they have agriculture? They had at least some herding.


Sure, to some degree, and moreso did the Quechua or the Mexica, it still proves civilization without metalworking is viable, which was my point. now, regarding civilization without agriculture...

Gathering doesnt seem to be a viable source of food for a large urban area for a bunch of reasons, including calculations already made. However there is another alternative for non/agricultural civilizations to eat. On one hand you have fishing, which is a great way to get protein, high quality nutrition and a whole lot of calories. Then you have zie herding of zie cattle, preferably on horseback or something, which has supported populations numbered in the hundred thousands for reasonable periods of time: you still have a low overall density, but with a moving horde of, say, a hundred thousand guys, you still get a very complex society: even moreso if you mix the last two mechanisms as in coastal cities with a large seminomadic class of herders you can get enough food to feed a large population.

Now of course, if you rule out all domesticated sources of food, this is, herding, gardening, growing veggies in your backyard, and stuff, then no, I think civilization is not really possible. By its very nature large densities of people need the development of food production technologies, and those are precisely the domestication of edible organisms... unless you can somehow develop some sort of technology to go through the required chemical processes yourself, like a starch factory that turns carbon and air into glucose or something.

Of course you could imagine a weird kind of civilization that didnt require spatial proximity and that therefore allowed for the lack of any domestication whatsoever. if you think about it what is the social function of proximity in this context? or in other words, why do we think civilizations need cities? My understanding is that it is because in order for a complex, hierarchical and highly specialized social structure to arise, one that is able to politically mobilize large amounts of energy and matter to make a few huge proyects happen, which is more or less what we understand to be a civilization, there needs to be a certain volume of communication and a certain amount of surplus. The amount of surplus can be generated no by economies of scale or by food domestication technologies but by emergence of sophisticated, sustainable and efficient gathering techniques, such as the horse, the use of roads, cooking technology that allows for non-edible things to become edible (like a way to break down wood into starch, if you want some handwavium to get into play) and awesome conservation technology. surplus is no problem. small gathering communities near macrofauna tend not to, unless disturbed in some degree, have a problem feeding their large non-hunting sector. the problem is the emergence of a sufficient volume of communication so as to enable the development of a high degree of specialization and differentiation both culturally and productively, as well as a more-or-less centralized political leadership that can mobilize surplus labour and resources into the kind of things we normally associate with civilizations, such as monumental architecture, engeneering works like the aqueducts, palaces, great walls, roads, fortresses, and organized warfare. This volume of communication can be attained, as well as through simple spatial proximity, by way of changing other parameters.

For instance, long-lived people that knew writing or some other way of information preservation could gather up a sufficient level of specialization, skill development and a spatially far reaching network of communication as to, while remaining nomadic and feeding of hunting and gathering, by way of using this long-livedness to have, for instance, and effective medium of communication by way of attaching letters to trees and following ritualized migration patterns. This was kind of like Tolkiens vision of his elves.

If every hunter-gatherer was hooked to the internet by way of some easily manufactured and maintainable device the result, in terms of cultural homogeniety, coordination, internal diversity and the ability to mobilize resources would result in something that could easily be called a civilization. Monuments could be built, specialists could arise, all in the context of urbanlessness.

Maybe the most simple answer to the question of the possibilities of non-agricultural civilization is that of a post-agricultural civilization, such as one I am developing right now, which was once a traditional agricultural empire a la rome but that, for some reason (in this case societal collapse and the emergence of movements prescribing the HG way of life as morally superior) abandoned agriculture and became huntergatherers without abandoning such institutions as the political class, writing, the building of monuments, and the mobilization of resources.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:12 am 
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One thing we haven't touched on much is what kind of ecology would be ideal. Is jungle a poor choice for HGs? Fishing has been mentioned, that sounds like a good idea. For people in a small area, it might be good to focus on animal food, because the animals can move into their territory whereas plants have to regrow. What sort of yummy land animals can be expected in the Panama climate? If there aren't any, which could be imported? (I think it's a pretty small stretch from reality to move in some animals and plants which are not found in the area in the real world, as long as they could reasonably be expected to survive.)
It would be nice to have some good plants too. I mentioned potatoes, because I've heard that they contain more energy than other crops, and they are from the area - altho apparently from the mountains, which would perhaps make them odd in a jungle area? What other plants do or could exist there? Fruit trees of some kind sounds like a good idea to me - much more efficient than little berries and stuff. I'm not sure what sort of fruit would grow there.

Even if they don't have agriculture, they might still have a kind of anti-agriculture; not growing plants, but cutting them down. For example, they could easily cut down the nearby trees, thus removing said jungle. They might also be clever enough to specifically remove the species they didn't like, for example cutting down trees that are not fruit trees, or killing off animals which competed with them for food.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:09 am 
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Has anyone tried looking into large-scale pastoralism in a sub-tropical or temperate grassland yet? What about a wetland?

I am thinking that keeping lots of bigger animals in a tropical forest environment might make managing the animals rather difficult. A closed-in environment would give them lots of opportunities to run away and/or get nabbed by a predator, and tropical forest ecosystems tend to get depleted rather quickly. You would need to keep smaller animals for the ecosystem to remain sustainable long enough to develop a civilization, and I don't think small animals alone would be enough to sustain a civilization. Remember, the Maya and Aztecs also had agriculture.

Torco wrote:
Yiuel Denjidzirc wrote:
Torco : As for the Polynesians, didn't they have agriculture? They had at least some herding.


Sure, to some degree, and moreso did the Quechua or the Mexica, it still proves civilization without metalworking is viable, which was my point.

Just to add something here: the Polynesians not only had agriculture, they also practiced different types of animal husbandry. Chickens and pigs were major sources of food, and probably the most common, but I learned of one instances where one man - or group of people, I forget - introduced rats to an island and kept them there for food. I remember hearing that the man in question who was keeping and hunting the rats recieved an offer to exterminate the rats because they were an invasive species and probably would have devastated the island's ecosystem. He refused, because the rats had become a staple for him and his family.

Regardless, islands are not a very stable environment for civilization to arise - unless outsiders bring the means for further development with them to the islanders - because of the significantly lower production yield in the island's eco-system and the more fragile the ecosystem itself is. Think about what it takes to throw a continental ecosystem out of whack, and then multiply that by the number of square acres that the island doesn't have in comparison, and you will see what I mean. Island nations today that are open to heavy tourism and (hell forbid) immigration rely mostly on trade, with the island itself providing only part of the people's subsistence.

I suppose you could have something like a collective assembly of islands under one government, with each focusing exclusively on one or two resources only, but the people would need to learn to cooperate with one another for that to happen. And pre-colonial Polynesians weren't exactly warm and friendly with each other.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:20 am 
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Mashmakhan wrote:
Regardless, islands are not a very stable environment for civilization to arise - unless outsiders bring the means for further development with them to the islanders - because of the significantly lower production yield in the island's eco-system and the more fragile the ecosystem itself is. Think about what it takes to throw a continental ecosystem out of whack, and then multiply that by the number of square acres that the island doesn't have in comparison, and you will see what I mean.

What about fishing? Doesn't that get around that problem?

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:35 am 
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Chuma wrote:
One thing we haven't touched on much is what kind of ecology would be ideal. Is jungle a poor choice for HGs? Fishing has been mentioned, that sounds like a good idea. For people in a small area, it might be good to focus on animal food, because the animals can move into their territory whereas plants have to regrow. What sort of yummy land animals can be expected in the Panama climate?


armadillos, tarmanduas, rodents, tapirs.

but then you have to feed them too.

Quote:
It would be nice to have some good plants too. I mentioned potatoes, because I've heard that they contain more energy than other crops, and they are from the area - altho apparently from the mountains, which would perhaps make them odd in a jungle area? What other plants do or could exist there? Fruit trees of some kind sounds like a good idea to me - much more efficient than little berries and stuff. I'm not sure what sort of fruit would grow there.


almost any could grow there; not sure what fruits did grow there prior to the arrival of Spaniards and other Europeans.

Quote:
Even if they don't have agriculture, they might still have a kind of anti-agriculture; not growing plants, but cutting them down. For example, they could easily cut down the nearby trees, thus removing said jungle.


The problem there, is that rainforests are deceptive -- they are massive forests living on a few inches of soil (which stops being productive after four years of crops grown on it) and rocks under that.

the Maya tried that strategy.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:22 am 
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Do things like an empire run by some kind of nomadic tribe that practices garden cultivation and herding count?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:53 pm 
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Nortaneous wrote:
Mashmakhan wrote:
Regardless, islands are not a very stable environment for civilization to arise - unless outsiders bring the means for further development with them to the islanders - because of the significantly lower production yield in the island's eco-system and the more fragile the ecosystem itself is. Think about what it takes to throw a continental ecosystem out of whack, and then multiply that by the number of square acres that the island doesn't have in comparison, and you will see what I mean.

What about fishing? Doesn't that get around that problem?

Not really. Not unless you either had a fishing industry - which, when you are talking about fishing, requires an industrialized society in order to support a large enough yield for a whole civilization - or some form of aquaculture. Fisheries would solve the problem, but islands don't really allow for that. All of the inhabitable islands in the Pacific ocean are surrounded by coral. The coral prevents large ocean-dwelling fish like tuna from getting too close inland. You are then left with either keeping smaller shallow water species - which have smaller yield per animal and are more difficult to keep - or having your fisheries in the open water. There are a number of things that could go wrong with that. Sharks, storms, ocean currents (these fisheries wouldn't be stationary), etc.

A traditional tribal or small chiefdom society could be supported quite well on a bunch of islands if they know how to manage their resources. Whether this constitutes as civilization is another matter. It may or it may not. If it doesn't, then you won't get what you are looking for here.

Rodlox wrote:
Chuma wrote:
One thing we haven't touched on much is what kind of ecology would be ideal. Is jungle a poor choice for HGs? Fishing has been mentioned, that sounds like a good idea. For people in a small area, it might be good to focus on animal food, because the animals can move into their territory whereas plants have to regrow. What sort of yummy land animals can be expected in the Panama climate?


armadillos, tarmanduas, rodents, tapirs.

but then you have to feed them too.

More than that. Those animals are also difficult to tame, difficult to domesticate (this involves breeding them) and more difficult to keep than mid-sized and large ungulates. Especially in a forest environment, which gives them more opportunity to escape and resist their captors, and makes managing the animals more difficult for the captors themselves. The meat yield is smaller. Guinea pigs were easy because they are small enough that you can keep them in man-made enclosures and they proliforate so quickly because they are rodents. This is not so easy to do with a tamandua, which has a more specialized breeding strategy and only eats ants. Same thing with armadillos, though apparently they are much more prolific. And tapirs tend to stick by water like a magnet so good luck getting them out of there.

Rodlox wrote:
Quote:
It would be nice to have some good plants too. I mentioned potatoes, because I've heard that they contain more energy than other crops, and they are from the area - altho apparently from the mountains, which would perhaps make them odd in a jungle area? What other plants do or could exist there? Fruit trees of some kind sounds like a good idea to me - much more efficient than little berries and stuff. I'm not sure what sort of fruit would grow there.


almost any could grow there; not sure what fruits did grow there prior to the arrival of Spaniards and other Europeans.

There is a bit of a drawback here, too (unless you were only talking about fruit). You mentioned that bit about the topsoil already...most of the production in a tropical forest occurs above the soil, not below it. That is how so much production can be found in these forests. Hardly any trophic energy returns to the soil, that is why it is so poor. Most animals actually die and are decomposed in the trees themselves. Tropical forests are maximum-diversity minimum-production ecosystems, meaning all that production is an accumulation of multiple animals and plants each producing a low trophic energy yield. That is why farming is so detrimental to tropical forests. All of a sudden, you have only a few types of animals and plants producing so much because they take so much from the environment, and they don't return most of it because of the rising human population.

If you want to support a civilization in a tropical forest, you've got to fit into the tropical forest's ecosystem. You do that by choosing a wide variety of plants that take very little from a single place. Fruit are good because they already do this, but instead of ground crops, you may need to rely on epiphites like lianas, bromeliads, other kinds of arboreal vines, etc. Don't cucumbers and beans grow on vines?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:05 pm 
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People could harvest various sea weeds as well, mosses grow fast along with mushrooms though one must be careful with that stuff.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:24 am 
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Actually, seaweed sounds like a very good idea to me. You would want to give the people some tie to the water so that they want to grow the seaweed, but once domestic varieties have already been established, it shouldn't be difficult to grow a large enough yield to fuel a civilization. Mind you, multiple large seaweed farms would be needed, but it could happen.

I am not so sure about mushrooms. They are a slightly different matter than plant crops are, because they are fungae. And fungae are heterotrophs, meaning they need organic matter. The people would need to be able to provide this organic matter in large enough quantities to feed an entire civilization. The good news is that mushrooms have a decent amount of calories in them. Not an ideal amount, but more so than, say...lettuce or celery.

Coincidentally, one of the concultures on my main conworld grows mushrooms as a staple. On another related conworld, the main conculture there grows seaweed as a staple too. They also rely on fishing, though.


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