Our Changing Environment

Beginnings of agriculture

Early human intervention

The basic needs of early people were simple; clean air to breathe, untainted water to drink and sufficient food. A small hunter-gatherer society could usually find sufficient of all of these within a set region but a growth in numbers meant that a larger and larger area had to be controlled in order to produce sufficient food and this could mean (a) excessive travel to find all the food that was readily available, (b) clashes with other groups in surrounding regions or (c) ways of making more of the available flora into something edible and (d) means had to be found to increase the amount of food that a given area could produce. The discovery that abundant cereals could be processed into grain that could be stored and then into bread was probably one of the most gigantic steps forward that the human race has ever experienced; the move to clear land in order to grow more cereals was another. The realisation that land would become exhausted if the same crop was grown on it over and over again led to the discovery of the benefits of crop rotation; a realisation that adding waste biological matter back into the land could increase yields came at around the same time.

Hunting has always been an uncertain activity, game can be plentiful one day and impossible to find the next. When an animal was killed it's meat was very nutritious at first but after a while decay set in and it's consumation could become fraught with peril so a logical step was to capture the animals and keep them penned in until they were needed for slaughter - if they were kept for long enough they bred and animal husbandry developed. Ways of conserving food through freezing, salting or drying developed so that the fear of shortages at particular times in the year were aleviated. Finally individuals began to be able to produce more food than they needed and so others were freed to carry out different activities and numbers were able to increase substantially when there was enough food for everyone. A population explosion which is still continuing was unleashed.

 

Beginnings of industry

Climate change

What can we do?

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