Nearly everything that a human does is in response to the environment. Our lives are defined by what is around us and what we find in front of us, whether this means accepting, dealing with or changing it. This has been the pattern since primates first stood up and became Homo erectus, and has continued until we considered ourselves doubly wise. The shape of the land affected where humans moved. Weather was something with which to contend. Fire affected humans until they conquered it – and herein lies the core of the relationship. The earth affects humans, and humans affect it back, viewing characteristics and patterns as problems and challenges, and finding a solution.
This is why it matters: we don’t know where we should go unless we know who and where we are. We don’t know either unless we know where we’ve been. We need to know where to go.
The earth and its inhabitants make up a system, and a change to a part of it affects the rest. What we do at one point in time will affect what we have later. As such, it’s important to look at the way that humans have affected the environment in our history (and before), and to try to figure out the results of such changes. (It’s necessary to keep in mind that not all impact by humans has been negative impact.) Some of the ways humans have changed the environment have been with fire, agriculture and hunting, and for the purpose of making energy useful.
“Permanent occupation” of humans in Europe did not occur until 80,000 years ago, when the continent was no longer covered in an ice sheet (Ponting). Even then, however, the climate was harsh and though it supported life, it was not an easy life. To survive this environment,...
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...we do, we’re a part of a system. We may be strong enough to dominate the system, but not to avoid affecting it. As is showed dramatically by the story of Easter Island, potentially by the story of Australia’s fires, and obviously by a look at any urban area or at the ozone layer, what we do now affects us later. At some point, there will be no more oil and no more gas, and we will look for something else. But there will also be a lot of toxins floating around as reminders of our past. Maybe there will be a tech-fix to save us from our own problems. Maybe the time for it is now.
Fire and Ice
By Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
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