Technology, Population, and the Impact of Ancient Humans on the Environment

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Technology, Population, and the Impact of Ancient Humans on the Environment

In recent years, humans have become increasingly concerned with their effect on the planet and its ecosystems. In the popular view, these problems are new and unprecedented in human history. While it is probably true that our impact on the environment on a global scale has never been as great, the difference is simply the scale on which our actions are being taken. Situations that previously were local or regional in scope have now become global, owing to the increasingly sophisticated technologies that we have developed and our ever-increasing population. As an examination of the impact of ancient humans on the environment illustrates, however, the current
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Although we have recently tended to see any human caused change in ecosystems as "destructive" to the ecosystem, our survival as a species has been possible because we have changed the world around us. Thus I would like to suggest that whether ancient humans' effects were positive or negative depends which species' point of view one measures from. An action that helps one species almost certainly harms another. Ancient humans were acting within and co-evolving with environments that were also being influenced by climate changes and other natural phenomena, and thus it is difficult to say what the "natural" state of the environments were before humans started "degrading" them. (Note 3) I believe this must be kept in mind while discussing ancient humans' impact.

The way in which peoples have influenced ecosystems has been largely determined by the technology available to them. Defined by Merriam-Webster as "the practical application of knowledge," (Note 4) technologies are human inventions such as ideas, techniques or tools which have been used by humankind to increase the likelihood of survival. Technologies have co-evolved with cultures, in turn influencing and being influenced by changes physical environment and societal structure.

One of ancient humans' greatest effects on their environments was the result of using fire. Though it is not clear when humans first learned to use and control fire (Note 5), it is certain that the use of

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