Geographic and Anthropogenic Influence on Ecosystems

“Why does the white man have so much more cargo?” This was the question Jared Diamond set out to try and explain, all whilst giving analysis of the world’s inequality. His studying led him to believe that they first types of human groups that were traceable were considered “hunter/gatherer” combos (which ironically were the same type of people who inhabit New Guinea, where he was studying this inequality). This led to the gathering, and ultimately domesticating of certain crops, and thus the world’s first farmers were born.

By natural selection, the humans involved in farming subconsciously domesticated crops, by choosing the healthiest of the fruit, the best looking seeds, etc. But it was where these farmers were located that ultimately decided the area’s economic and population growth. According to Diamond, it was just plain “geographic luck” as to where the prosperous nations were located, due to fertile soil. For example, rice in Asia became and is still the most grown crop, and along with the rice came cities like Hong Kong, Seoul, etc.

But how about domesticated animals? The first domesticated animals were sheep and goats, around 9000 years ago. Again, due to the antropogenic influence, humans chose the strongest and highest yield animals to keep, thus possibly altering the animals we have domesticated today. And again, due to the geographic influence, certain areas with high fertility, such as the Fertile Cresent (which had fertile lands for crops AND animals) was inhabited and civilizations were born.

But how did the idea of domestication become? Was it pure luck, that someone found a neatly planted field of “wild” crops? No, we evolved. We took the idea of planting seeds in a plowed field, and growing enough food to fend for the winters. Humans realized plowing fields all day hurt their backs, so they domesticated animals large enough to pull plows. In Russell’s article, he states, “By changing the environments in which organisms live, we have changed the selective regimes in which they evolve.” Isn’t this completely true in this sense? By planting seeds in plowed fields, by feeding and containing animals, haven’t we as humans been changing the environment for these organisms, either plant or animal, thus having them evolve differently? You wouldn’t find a square mile field of crops like you do now, or a barn full of thoroughbred horses all dressed up for the next event at a horse show. Crops wouldn’t be able to survive like that without human help, nor would half ton animals be so susceptible to humans braiding their manes and tails if none of this domestication happened.

And yet, how far is too far? Humans have a hard time at stopping something they love. For example, there will always be a demand for oil, until of course the world is dry. The exploitation of the world’s resources has become the largest flaw of the human population. Stiner says in her Energy and Ecosystems chapter that  hoarding behaviors occur within the entire animal kingdom. Well aren’t humans just the prime example of this? Yes they are, as proved by the essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” by Garret Hardin. We all know we don’t want to deplete the oil of the world, but we all need to look out for ourselves don’t we?

So syncing that up with the domestication of animals, how does this stat sound to you? The US alone euthanize more than 4 million cats and dogs every year! If that’s not hoarding, I don’t know what is. Having so many animals that we just kill off the ones we don’t want? The demise of so many animals has come at the hand of the human. Examples are large cats, whose body parts are literally flaunted as wealth and power in our society. Stiner says, “domestication has become one of the main vehicles of the expansion of the human footprint.” Maybe if we didn’t domesticate these dogs and cats in the first place, we wouldn’t deal with having to kill 20+ million of them back in the 70′s like we did. Then again, this is all hypothetical, and maybe the domestication of these animals was inevitable? Ultimately, the human impact, as well as the geographic location, were the 2 largest factors in developing ecosystems and the economies that followed.

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