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Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fortified

The greatest danger for humans over most of the 60,000 years or so we've existed has been other humans. This thought occurred to me forcefully for the first time while exploring a "castle" in Foix on the eastern flank of the Pyrenees mountains in France. I was there for a couple of weeks of biking last month. The "Chateau de Foix" pictured is now a regular tourist attraction. But just five centuries ago such buildings--elaborate defensive structures--were essential to surviving the predations of other people nearby, also living in fortified villages. Either you lived atop a hill affording a view of approaching enemies, or you needed walls for protection, especially at night. This was particularly true along natural transportation routes like valleys and rivers. Then as now survival depended upon the use and control of water. So the rapidly advancing new era of warming climate and dwindling resources suddenly triggered my sense that humans may once again be forced by the competing needs of populations to barricade themselves behind walls and defend what they possess by killing others who desire it. Maybe the growth in recent years of "gated communities" is an early warning of this prospect. So far, the richest are merely segregating themselves as far as possible from the sight of others not so well off. Things haven't yet come to lethal confrontations. Or have they? I'm thinking about the vigorous campaign over the past forty years to ensure the supply of guns, coupled with widespread rage about immigration. Maybe this is how it starts...