The relationship early humans had to the environment that surrounded them is one that is shrouded in debate. As Thomas Hobbes said, and as every subsequent anthropological writer has quoted, life for early man was supposedly "nasty, brutish and short". Were hunter/gatherers lives before the development of agriculture ruled by the Darwinian whims of the environment that surrounded them, or were they able to raise above the toil of everyday survival to better control their own fates? In relation, what specifically was early human's relation to their environment? Did early populations of humans rampantly destroy their surrounding environments, causing mass extinction and climate change wherever they migrated? Or rather did early humans co-exist with their environments in as near to natural harmony as the race has come so far?
Were early humans controlled by, or controllers of their immediate environments? It is indeed true that human tribes wandered from place to place, following herds of animals or simply searching for the most plentiful copse of berry bushes. As Clive Ponting points out in his Green History of the World, early human tribes practiced what we would consider today to be barbaric forms of population control, killing twins, the very elderly, and any child or person with disabilities of any kind. As "nasty, brutish and short" proponents would point out, this population control strongly suggests an inability by early humans to scrape out more than a threadbare existence; any member of the tribe that could pull their own weight was an unacceptable liability. In addition, it should be noted that many advances early humans made to survive and adapt might not necessar...
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...s. The view that humans have always advanced through the manipulation of the environment is somewhat better supported. I at least have seen no evidence that humans large advances have not come without the expanded use or destruction of some part of the natural world. Many academics could rightly point out that this has always been the case, and we seem to have done pretty well for ourselves as a race. Why not continue in the same vein? But if it is indeed true that we are as intelligent and advanced as we believe ourselves to be, isn't it far past time that we demonstrated our superiority not through the imposition of our will on the world that surrounds us, but rather through our harmony with it, our struggle to not only ensure our advancement but the advancement of the environment we live in as well?
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