Disease and Demography in the Anthropocene

Friday, January 7, 2022: 9:30 AM
Galerie 2 (New Orleans Marriott)
Kyle Harper, University of Oklahoma
This paper explores a basic question: how should historians integrate the mortality decline into narratives of Anthropocene history? The populations dynamics of animals are regulated by ecological constraints such as energy availability, predation, and parasitism. Human population history too can be considered in ecological terms insofar as energy limits and parasitism acted to shape long-run population trends. While stories of the Anthropocene often identify changes in food production, fossil energy extraction, and other forms of resource consumption as central (as indeed they are), the reduction of parasitism has been left aside. This is strange because it was the control of infectious disease that was the proximate cause of the mortality decline as well as modern population growth. This presentation argues we should try to integrate biological/demographic processes into histories of the Anthropocene.
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