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Combining Of Old World Animals And The New World Environment

3377 words - 14 pages

Combining of Old World Animals and the New World Environment

On the morning of October 12, 1492, as Columbus and his fleet of three ships approached the majestic shores of the new world, it marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. Until this historic moment, the two continents had lived separately from each other, unaware of the other's existence. However, as Columbus and his crew set foot upon the New World, the flood gates were suddenly opened as the country now known as America, fell into the hands of its European discoverers. With their arrival to the virgin lands, the Europeans encountered a world different from their own and quickly sought to "Europeanize" it as soon as possible. In essence, this meant transforming it into something which more closely resembled their home lands (Crosby 64). By manipulating the new environment to better reflect the surrounding of their home country, the explorers and later the settlers, began to break down the fragile ecosystem of the New World. With little regard for their impact on the environment, the progressive destruction of the natural habitat continued at an unprecedented rate. The mass devastation of the virgin forests and woodlands shattered the natural balance which had been in place for centuries. Little was spared from the invasive methods of Columbus and his fellow Europeans, including animals. As if the destruction of the native land was not drastic enough, the introduction of Old World species into the New World environment added another factor into the story of the conquest of the New World and its inhabitants. In the years following 1492, an onslaught of European species were introduced into the New World in an attempt to Europeanize the newly discovered lands. Thus, as Old World and New World species converged on one continent a new and distinct environment suddenly developed from the mixing of two separate biotas.

One can only imagine what Columbus and his crew thought as they set foot upon the New World. Certainly, they were at a loss to describe the natural beauty surrounding them. Back in their home country, Europeans had systematically destroyed the forests and woodlands of their country. They had little respect for the natural environment and the destruction was based on ignorance. As Kirkpatrick Sales states, "Europe's fear of most of the elements of the natural world [was] a fear based, as it always is, on simple ignorance. . . " (Sale 75). The wilderness of the New World was something untamed and beyond their control, therefore their reaction was naturally to put it within their power, many times by destroying it. Their attitudes towards the lush surroundings of the New World were no different. However, this initial fear did not prevent them from finding ways to manipulate and exploit the newly discovered continent. Suddenly there was an entire country which was made to be subject to European ideals, or so they thought.

The European invasion of the New...

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