Betty J. Meggers Article, Environmental Limitation on the Development of Culture,

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Megger’s Article Response

Betty J. Meggers article, Environmental Limitation on the Development of Culture, examines how environmental habitats directly affect and influence culture. Meggers discusses the differing environmental types and its resulting effect on the people and their cultural development. Her theoretical framework is grounded on the idea that the relationship between culture and its environment is not only based in terms of subsistence (802), but largely to a culture’s experience with diffusion (822). Diffusion can best be defined as a process in which a cultural trait, idea, or behavior is spread from one society to another. While she does believe that the relative strength or weakness of an environment to provide a suitable means for food production affects the adaptation and advancement of a culture, she also believes that cultural diffusion plays a vital role as well.

According to Meggers, the general belief is that environmental potentiality is the sole conditioner of cultural development (801). The span of environmental habitats into classified into 4 environmental types, ranging from Type 1 environments, which have the least agricultural potential, to Type 4 environments, which have unlimited agricultural potential. Meggers does generally seem to agree that the environmental type can set limitations on the level of development a culture is able to obtain (816). Because Type 1 environments have the least agricultural potential, tribes must subsist mainly by hunting, fishing, and gathering. Cultures that live in Type 1 environments are relatively small in population size and tend to lead more of a nomadic lifestyle, a necessary part of life because they must continually follow their food source. As a result, their existence is noticeably simplistic because their primary focus is on satisfying only their very basic needs such as shelter and food. This type of environment results in a culture where social organization and technology is...
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