Social changes can be affected by a variety of influences, including exposure to other cultures, available resources, and environmental conditions. Some changes may impact the sustainability of a society and the environment on which it depends.
Mongolian herders make up one of the world's last remaining nomadic cultures. For 3,000 years they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the relatively lush grasslands, and moving their camps several times a year in search of the best pastures. Their traditional dwelling, the ger, is constructed of a wooden frame covered with felt, making it incredibly warm and also easy to dismantle and move. Horses play a prominent part in Mongolian culture; a good horse is a family's prized possession. Herders also raise sheep, cows or yaks, goats, camels, and reindeer.
For multiple reasons, the herders' traditional way of life is now at risk. A rapidly changing economy means extreme fluctuations in the wool market, making it difficult to earn a living. In addition, climate change and desertification of the land are causing more severe winters and poor pasture, and are literally killing herds. For example, brutal conditions during the winter of 2009–10 led to the deaths of over 9 million animals. As a result, many thousands of herders have moved to mining towns and urban areas—including the capital Ulaanbaatar—in search of employment.
Connections to National Standards
Common Core English Language Arts. SL.9-10.1 and SL.11-12.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 [or 11-12] topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. D2.Geo.6.9-12. Evaluate the impact of human settlement activities on the environmental and cultural characteristics of specific places and regions.
Next Generation Science Standards. HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.