Pre-Agricultural Human Environmental Impact

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Pre-Agricultural Human Environmental Impact

In the two million years it is believed that humans have populated the Earth, they have displayed the remarkable ability to adapt to any environment. Archaeological evidence has proven that the earliest humans were able to occupy and control every terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. Human impact on the environment has increased progressively through time from the earliest hominid hunters to modern city-dwellers. A fundamental expression of early humanities ability to control the environment occurred during the birth of agriculture. While the ecological impact from this feat has allowed humanity increased control over its environment, the earliest hominids were able to survive nearly two million years without this invention. Although the interaction between humans and their habitat before the rise of agriculture may be subtle, this era beginning at the inception of the human race is no less important to the history of human environmental impact.

It is believed that the most primitive ancestor of modern humans were Homo erectus. "The distinguishing characteristic of Homo erectus is a large brain size of about 1,000cc (about three-quarters of modern human capacity).1 "With the beginning of this species may well have come the limb proportions (short arms, long legs) that characterized modern humans."2 Scientists have concluded that Homo erectus originated during the early Pleistocene era (representing the last two million years) and were the only hominid species to survive this period of time. Eventually Homo erectus evolved into Homo sapiens, and finally into modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). These early humans originally lived in small groups that were spread throughout a myr...

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...anet that was able to inhabit and dominate every type of environment they populated. Relying on a mobile hunter-gatherer existence, they managed to cause significant alterations to their habitat. Even subtle modifications to the environment lead to considerable repercussions. Even though humanities relationship with nature was undeniably changed by the adoption of agriculture, early humans still found numerous methods to affect their ecosystems during the two million years before they learned to domesticate plants.


1. Ponting, Clive. A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1992. Pg. 18.

2. Marks, Jonathan. Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race, and History. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. 1995. Pg. 42.

3. Ponting. Pg. 19.

4. Ponting. Pg. 24.

5. Ponting. Pg. 32.

6. Ponting. Pg. 35.
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