"What are the most relevant social questions to the Paleo community?"
Depends on what kind of tack you want to take with your studies. The nutrition/physiology stuff absolutely fascinates me, but I've also found myself quite taken with so many of the non-food aspects of this "movement," or whatever you want to call it.
This is why I like Mark Sisson so much -- he's one of the few prominent voices out there that talks about a lot of these lesser considered variables:
- NDD - what I think of as Nature Deficiency Disorder. I know some people hate the outdoors, and that's cool, but I gotta tell you, when I get into a forest, hiking trail, or other wooded area, I can honestly feel a change inside me. Literally the energy in the air all around me is different, and I can feel it doing something to me. A little woo? Yeah, maybe, but don't try to convince me I don't like that better than sitting in my cubicle under artificial light for 9 hours a day. Same goes for a coastal area, watching and listening to the tides go in and out. Heck, even a big garden makes me feel better! And I find it a shame of epic proportions that I have to drive about 30 miles away from my house just to be able to see some decent stars at night! What is with all the porch lights on all night long? My neighborhood is bright as day in the middle of the night. Eek. (Yes, I know...it's not the neighborhood, it's me. I don't belong in the city, and do have a long-term goal of getting away from it when I can.)
- Social ties - tons of psychology books written about this -- we're more connected than ever before, yet many of us are more isolated than ever. 250 Facebook friends? Fabulous. How many of them will be physically by your side and holding your hand when there's a crisis?
- Child rearing - Extended vs. nuclear family - now we have moms & dads who both work full time and have strangers caring for their children. Used to be that grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles, and trusted family friends/tribespeople would look after everybody's kids. How much does this have to do with adrenal burnout now that most people are on their own when it comes to the huge demands (both physical and emotional) of raising children?
- Joy - seems like many of us spend a lot of time just sort of muddling through. We merely "survive" until the weekends, which always pass too fast. Monday morning, coworkers are like, "Only 5 days 'til Friday!" I dunno...maybe some of it is keeping up with the Joneses. Some of it, I think, is feeling like we "have to" have a certain kind of life. Whether that means live in a certain area, have a certain "kind" of job, or even have kids because it's "expected" of us. How many of us are truly living our dreams? How many of us have daily routines we enjoy? (Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying every day for your entire life should be perfect and happy and filled with magical unicorns that poop gold coins, but you know what I'm getting at. How many of us are surviving, but not thriving? Just sort of making it from one day to the next, and all of a sudden, 5 years have gone by and you don't have much to show for it? I think sometimes we feel like it's supposed to be a struggle. You're supposed to put in as many hours as you can. (If you don't, the next guy will, and he'll get the promotion.) I think this is a difference between the U.S. and a more European work ethic -- the sense of pleasure, balance, and not being defined by your type of employment.
- Self sufficiency -- other people have already touched on this, so I'll keep it short. I think that aside from the food safety/security issues, there's a great deal of pride and sense of accomplishment in raising or growing your own food -- particularly because so few of us do it. What's more "Paleo" than providing for yourself with the resources you have around you? (Hehheh...looking at it that way, I guess going to the supermarket and loading up your cart with meat and veg counts here, but you know what I'm saying!) I'm a born and raised city girl, but I worked on a small farm for about 6 weeks a while back and freaking LOVED IT. I LOVED being in the country. (Central PA...tiny town outside State College.) Not only were we growing and raising a lot of food, but there were so many other farmers, artisans, and craftspeople in the area, and a lot of food and other items were bought/sold via barter or just plain exchange. No written contracts, no lawsuits...just honest people sharing their wares and trading fairly. And there was so little waste. A lot of food scraps went to the pigs and chickens, what could be recycled was, and they had a beautiful fire pit on the property where we had bonfires and got rid of some more paper waste. It was a whole different perspective for me on sustainability, local food, and commerce.
- Community -- with email/Twitter/whatever, we have instant contact with people all over the world. We can import the fanciest, most pristine foods from wherever we want. In many ways, this is GREAT. But in some ways, I think we might do well to turn more insular - focus on building better resources and food/socially connecting infrastructure right in our own zip codes. I live in Northern VA, and I guarantee you some of the city dwellers here have NO IDEA that there are a ton of amazing farms within a 40 minute drive. Drive west out of DC and you have some really fantastic grassfed beef being produced right here. (Now again, instant connection is great. There are a lot of Paleo meetup groups forming, and these like-minded people probably never would have met otherwise. So I'm not saying we need to be Luddites. The technology has its place. But there's also so much potential to do things in our own backyards.
Sorry for the long answer. Just wanted to add some of the things that are outside the n-6/n-3 nitty gritty food stuff.