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Human Cultural Changes Hunter-Gatherers Prior to about 10,000 years ago, humans lived in small nomadic bands that

spent each day acquiring the food and other materials they would require to meet their needs for that day. These people used fire to warm themselves and cook food, but the actual acquisition of the food was done with their own muscle power. Tools consisted primarily of pointed sticks; later flaked stone points were added which greatly increased their efficiency (and safety?) at acquiring dinner. The bands had to move with the seasons, following their food supply they could not be bogged down with personal effects as they had to carry everything in their hands or on their backs. They often traced the same routes years after year, returning to those places where they knew they could find food and shelter. In order to survive, these people had to have an extremely intimate understanding of their environment. They were a part of all the natural cycles around them. They could tell what the weather was going to be like for the next day or so, they knew what plants and animals were available in different places at different times of the year, they knew what plants were good to eat, good for medicine, and good for making cordage and pointy sticks. Are there still people who live this way today? Absolutely! Yet, how does 21st century culture describe them? Adjectives like backwards, primitive, stone age, and uncivilized come to mind, and none of them are particularly complimentary. We modern, supposedly civilized people look down on them and consider them inferior. Actually, nothing could be further from reality. It is very important to understand that todays hunter-gatherer peoples are not backward and savage; they are simply different. What they know is different. How they interact with their environment is different. In fact, we could learn a great deal from these peoples! Unfortunately, many of these people are threatened with assimilation into the modern world, and their vast knowledge of nature is rapidly being lost.

Agricultural Revolution Anthropologists suggest that about 10,000 years ago a new tool was discovered that radically changed human culture. One can imagine that, in what is now the region of Iraq, a group of hunter-gatherers were processing the days harvest of what many believe to be wheat. Perhaps some was spilled, and not all the grains were recovered. The next year the group returns to this area and the find that there is wheat growing where they had spilled it the year before. This might not seem like a big deal to us today, but back then someone made the connection between harvesting, relocating, and subsequent growing of the seeds in a place where humans placed it. Humans had figured out that they could place the seeds in a certain place and they would grow there! This represented a significant manipulation of the environment, and it did not stop there. Not only were humans deciding where the plants would grow, the began deciding which plants would grow planting seeds that gave a better harvest and not planting seeds that gave a poorer harvest (today this is called agricultural/genetic engineering). A new tool had been discovered: agriculture. Along with the discovery of agriculture a new energy source was developed as well draft animal muscle power. A single human could plant only so much wheat at any one time, but with a cow or ox that same human could plant significantly more. This lead to another new phenomenon: a surplus of food. With a storable surplus of food, people did not have to follow their food supply, so they began to settle down. Towns and villages became established, and the population began to increase. Not everyone had to be involved with the acquisition of food, so people began to specialize: artists, toolmakers, farmers, etc. The people who didnt grow the food need to get food somehow, so they traded their goods for it; thus was born the economy. Many people living in close proximity needed social rules of conduct, and these were the product of another new idea: government. Of course, government workers were not making goods to trade, so how did they get their food? Taxes! As you can see, human culture changed exponentially with the advent of agriculture, and human interactions with the environment changed as well. Because humans were no longer moving from place to place, the local environment was experiencing greater impact without any time to recover. Also, humans began competing with other animals, plants (weeds), and diseases for the food they were growing.

Industrial Revolution In 1763, James Watt of England perfected a steam engine that was reliable, efficient, and useful. Watts refinements truly ushered in the Industrial Revolution. With the steam engine replacing water power, factories could be located closer to population centers with their supply of cheap labor and transportation systems. With a steam engine, fueled with coal, production increased and prices decreased. This meant more people could afford more goods, which meant demand was high and profits soared. The potential to mass-produce inexpensive goods at a profit spurred more technological advances, and in just a couple centuries (about six generations) the way that humans lived and interacted with each other and their environment was changed more than in all the thousands of years previous. Human tools became extremely powerful, and our ability to manipulate the environment increased exponentially. Human underwent a very important shift in their relationship with the environment: now the environment was something to be tamed and conquered. Humans made the land and the water conform to their wishes. They consumed resources at faster and faster rates, with little regard for the waste products they produced. After several environmental disasters in the 1900s where many people were sickened, injured, or killed, people began to rethink their relationship to the environment. However, the Industrial Revolution mindset of profits and booming economies is often still the primary motivating factor in human society.

Characteristic Tools

Hunter-Gatherers Pointy sticks, stone points, fire

Agricultural Revolution Agriculture, plow

Industrial Revolution Steam engine, internal combustion engine, electric motors, mechanical equipment Coal, gasoline, natural gas, electricity Large; rapid increases High with individual transportation Often very many Very high to extreme

Energy Sources

Fire (warmth, light, cooking) and human muscle power Small High Few Low

Fire, human muscle power, draft animal power Moderate and increasing Low; long-term settlements Moderate and increasing Moderate and increasing

Population Size Mobility Possessions Local Environmental Impact Relationship to the Environment

Intimate knowledge of Less intimate; natural processes and beginning to work rhythms. against natural processes

Far removed from natural processes and rhythms; significant human manipulation and impact