PEOPLE 3000: Increasing population, social complexity, climate change and why societies might fail to cope with these interrelated forces

20.05 - 25.05.2018  
San Rafael, Argentina
Contact person:
David Byers, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Workshop report: 
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PAGES' PalEOclimate and the PeopLing of the Earth (PEOPLE 3000) working group will hold their first workshop from 20-25 May 2018 in San Rafael, Argentina.

The title of the workshop is "Increasing population, social complexity, climate change and why societies might fail to cope with these interrelated forces"


Centro Technological de Desarrollo Regional Los Reynos
University of San Rafael


This workshop will be open to 15-20 participants. This workshop will focus on both data synthesis and planning future research.


The PEOPLE 3000 working group focuses on integrating archaeological and paleoecological case studies with mathematical modeling. We seek to understand how co-evolving human societies and ecosystems can successfully cope with the interrelated forces of population growth, increasing social complexity and climate change, and why some societies subsequently collapse/reorganize when confronted by these processes.

Our first workshop identified that human societies experienced periods of social and economic development followed by major reorganizations in those systems during the climate transition to the Little Ice Age. Thus, we developed an explanation for what appears to be a wide spread and climate driven pattern. In this case, population growth, increasing complexity, and increasing energy consumption reduce variation in human subsistence economies. This, in turn, results in systems where individuals are well adapted to a specific range of climate variation, but where those same strategies are easily disrupted by climate change outside the range to which a society has adapted.

Our PAGES OSM poster presented evidence consistent with this hypothesis (Freeman et al. 2017, Past Global Changes Magazine), and a recent paper on energy consumption and the radiocarbon record provides a new way of interpreting the radiocarbon record that is relevant to testing this hypothesis (Freeman et al. 2017, Radiocarbon).

In this workshop, we propose to engage in further data synthesis and expand our case studies to provide a more robust evaluation of this diversity reduction-increasing vulnerability to climate change hypothesis. We also plan to expand our regional coverage to include Australia and SE Asia.

The proposed workshop will move our research forward by synthesizing the following datasets important to understanding the hypothesis posed above.

1) Radiocarbon data – these data document the timing of societal change.

2) Paleoecological data – tree ring, ice core, pollen, small mammal and sedimentological records provide data on paleoclimate change and subsequent ecosystem responses.

3) Subsistence data – faunal, botanical and stable isotope records enable the identification of shifts in subsistence strategies within the temporal and paleoecological contexts.

4) Technological data – lithic, perishable good, ceramic and infrastructure records can track shifts in social complexity within temporal and paleoecological contexts.

Key speakers/participants

David Byers
Molly Cannon
Jose Capriles
Macarena Cardenas
Judson Finley
Jacob Freeman
Adolfo Gil
Eugenia Gayo
Virginia Iglesias
Claudio Latorre
Gustavo Neme
Erick Robinson
Justin Derose
Ricardo Villalba

Planned products

We expect this workshop to lay the groundwork for the following planned products:

1) Submit a paper that compares and synthesizes the available case studies to Nature Communications
2) Submit a paper that compares newly compiled case studies to a journal such as PNAS
3) An open database template to aid in ensuring data consistency between researchers
4) A published database including the datasets outlined in our project overview.


Abstracts are due 1 March 2018 and should be sent to David Byers (see "Registration and deadlines").

State in your abstract how you would contribute to the group, the datasets you have available and to what extent those datasets would be available to other researchers.

Registration and deadlines

Email workshop organizer David Byers at Utah State University by 1 March 2018, advising your plans to attend: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The six-day workshop costs US$600, which includes food and accommodation for six nights/five days, starting the evening of Sunday 20 May. The conference finishes on Friday 25 May, with check out the morning of Saturday 26 May. The fees are to be paid when checking in to the hotel.

Financial support

PAGES has provided funding for a small number of early-career researchers and scientists from developing countries to attend. Please include your reasons for needing financial support in your registration letter.

Further information

Questions can be sent to meeting organizer David Byers: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

or go to the workshop website: