Growth and inter-generational tradeoffs: Archaeological perspectives from the mimbres region of the US southwest

Michelle Hegmon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


In the early 1960s, about a thousand people a day moved to California, which became the most populous state in the United States in 1962. That great achievement was cause for a four-day long celebration, presided over by Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, Sr. Pat Brown was an unabashedly pro-growth governor whose administration built new highways and universities to support the growing population. His crowning achievement was the construction of an enormous water distribution network that made possible the expansion of agriculture in the central valley and population growth in the arid south (Rarick 2006). The verb “to grow” of course, means to become larger, but it also means to become “better or improved in some way” ( By the standards of the day (before conservation or the environment were of widespread concern) California truly was becoming better as well as bigger. The infrastructure it created in the 1960s to support the growth made it a more attractive place, which led to more growth, etc. Now, in 2015, the state continues to prosper in many ways but it is also facing a drought of unprecedented severity and the likelihood of long-term water shortages linked to global climate change. The current governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. (Pat’s son) is working to manage those shortages and has instituted restrictions on water usage for some segments of the population and economy. A recent news analysis points out that, more than fifty years after the “aggressive growth policies advocated by his father,” Governor Jerry Brown and the state of California are now “confronting fundamental questions about its limits and growth” (Nabourney 2015). The California political dynasty is just one well-known example of a basic issue: The intergenerational and other tradeoffs inherent in growth. In today’s world, informed by everything from The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al. 1972) to recent work on global food (in)security (Ash et al. 2010; FAO 2014), it is easy to see the problems engendered by growth. A recent analysis has even revisited the anthropological concept of “limited good” to describe the uneven benefits and unsustainable trajectory of growth in the contemporary world (Trawick and Hornborg 2015). Yet many people in the world today want growth so that they too will have running water, electricity, and internet. Curbing growth in order to help the future may further disadvantage the already disadvantaged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Give and Take of Sustainability
Subtitle of host publicationArchaeological and Anthropological Perspectives on Tradeoffs
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781139939720
ISBN (Print)9781107078338
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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