Climate Change, Social Control and Violence in the US Southwest

  • Ryan P. Harrod
  • Debra L. Martin
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Anthropology book series (BRIEFSANTHRO)


A case study for one region of the USA is provided. The Southwest (Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico) is a region defined by marginality for human habitation due to high- and low-altitude deserts, droughts, unpredictable rainfall, and a short growing season for crops. Yet, it was and still is home to many indigenous groups. This brief overview of studies conducted in the Southwest that take climate change back by 1,000 years or more, shows a persistent pattern that does not include increased violence. A pattern emerges that documents a range of human responses to droughts that include migration, cultural reorganization, increased networking, redistribution of resources, and in some cases, an increase in raiding and low-level warfare. For example, the inhabitants at Black Mesa were extremely flexible, as their social patterns were not entrenched in ideologies of building large permanent settlements or maintaining strict hierarchies and boundaries in access to resources. Patterns such as this suggest a range of behavioral options to drought. These longitudinal studies ably demonstrate that humans did not automatically turn to violence when confronted with an increasingly unpredictable and challenging environment. It is more scientifically sound to rely on empirical data that shows trends over time and compares different cultures within larger interactive regions than to do a shortsighted study that has no such depth or breadth. It is also ethically irresponsible to rely on popular media accounts of scientific studies in a way that makes unicausal and unsupported associations seem to be proof of causation.


Volcanic Eruption Oral Tradition Edible Wild Plant Conflict Adaptation Human Skeletal Remains 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan P. Harrod
    • 1
  • Debra L. Martin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Nevada Las VegasLas VegasUSA

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