The growth of the population was very slow. Someone suggested that at their peak there were 100 million bison worldwide, but it seems to have taken most of human history to catch up with the bison -- we seem to have hit that number only when we began agriculture. As late as the year 1300, the historian Fernand Braudel estimates a world wide population of only 500 million people. We became one of the most successful species in the history of the planet, so why wasn't there faster growth, for such a long time?
That question interests me, so it also interests me that a family, living alone, with fanatic Christian fundamentalist beliefs and no access to contraceptives, still only ends up having 3 surviving children -- not a whole lot in excess of the replacement rate.
Something similar to this must have been going on for many thousands of years.
Add in subsistence existence with poor food storage and little means to store surplus, and life was tenuous. Civilization and the formation of cities helped get around the food store problem, but introduced disease, particularly with poor management of human wastes and garbage.
Improving available food, energy, sanitation, acute medical care, obstetrics, decreased criminal and military violence, all contributed to an explosion of population beginning in the 19th century, and rapidly accelerating through the 20th.
It was not actually true historically, most of the time people did not have poor nutrition. Sure during "events" like war etc, things got bad.
But most of the time it was not so.
Fanatic Christian fundamentalists are everywhere, and this family fits the stereotype we have perfectly.
I probably misused the fundamentalist label. I'm sure there are differences between them, but they look all the same to me, and I try to avoid them all.
Another factor is that crops have changed vastly since the start of agriculture, which is also a major factor in the relative growth rate of human population (along with disease, which arose hand in hand with agriculture, of course) - see Teosinte vs. Corn, and Emmer Wheat vs. Durum. Same plants, shaped by man's hand since time immemorial by selective breeding.
So, yeah. These guys actually had it really well off compared to historic humans, as they had agriculture, but it doesn't function well in isolation, particularly in such a harsh environment as the taiga - don't forget the place used to be inundated with hunter-gatherers before everyone migrated for the cushy disease and war-ridden life agriculture offers.
Survival was a bitch until we figured out farming and trade - and it's improved over the last 150 years or so due to modern medicine (lower infant and adult mortality), improved crops (green revolution), improved productivity (industrial revolution), and all the rest.
Cushy unless youre a peasant.
>Survival was a bitch until we figured out farming and trade
I think this is a misconception leftover from earlier eras. But I don't think it is the commonly accepted scientific viewpoint anymore. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society
I think carrot seeds can survive more than a year if you don't plant them. Wiser methods of conservation might have prevented them from losing their carrots and almost rye.