What forces have shaped humanity most?

We should start acting like we live here, Pope says.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What forces have shaped humanity most?

Carl Pope: I think what happened to this country, and it’s very understandable, is we walked into this artificially empty continent. I mean the continent was largely empty because most of the people who lived here before we arrived had been wiped out by smallpox epidemics. So we arrived into what seemed to be an empty continent. And we were a frontier society, and frontier societies are wasteful. Frontier societies are violent, and we’re a violent culture. Frontier societies are also very innovative, and we’re a very innovative society. If you contrast the American experience on the frontier with the way that the Inuit lived in the Arctic or the Kung lived in the Kalahari, they didn’t have a big, open commons. They were fully exploiting a narrow ecosystem. And what they got to be was incredibly resourceful. We’re not that resourceful. They got to be incredibly deft. They knew how to fit in with the rhythms, and we’re not that good at that either. So we don’t have those big commons anymore. We’ve occupied it. The frontier’s gone. It’s been gone for 100 years, and we haven’t made the adjustment yet to realize we don’t live on a frontier anymore. We live at home. You treat the frontier as if you didn’t live there. But we now live here, and we should start acting like we live here.

 

Recorded on: September 27, 2007.