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Human Impact On The Environment Essay

1491 words - 6 pages

"It ever was, and is, and ever shall be, ever-living fire, in measures being kindled, and in measures going out"
-Heraclites

Without Man, the flow of energy across the earth is organic and uninterrupted. The Sun warms the plants, the plants grow, animals eat the plants, animals eat the animals, and the animals die and melt back into the ground. The sun warms that ground again and the next generation begins. Although 10% of the sun's original energy is expended with every transaction between organisms, enough energy is conserved to feed the secondary consumers.

Enter man. At some point in the history of hominids man leaned back from the natural rolling of the earth and the ecological wheel, and saw the flow of energy as something to be harnessed. He took this energy into his own hands as something that could be manipulated with his discovery of fire and tools. When man tamed fire and made tools he inaugurated the process of resource utility. He rose above the organic cycle because he was able to manipulate the flow of energy. The use of fire, specifically, allowed creation and destruction to be controlled by man directly. Until this point, the handling of energy had been left to 'mother nature'.

According to Clive Pointing the four distinguishing features of mankind as illustrated in his Green History of the World were: a large brain, ability to walk upright on two feet, use of speech, and the adaptation of technological means to overcome hostile environments (p. 24). It is commonplace to consider the first use of stone and rock tools to cut meat and later to hunt, which is dated back to 2 million years ago, as the first instant of technological industry. After all, anthropologists assert that other animals use tools, but man is the only species to manufacture them. When man began to use and manufacture tools, he simultaneously invoked the ability to create and was able to articulate his hunting skills. Although this may have affected some change over man's surrounding environment because his increased hunting ability could have devastated local populations of megafauna (as explored in the NPR broadcasts about megafauna in Australia), dramatic environmental change was not affected directly by man's own hand. While this invention was critical in the evolution of early man, the use of fire is similarly significant. When man discovered the use of fire, he stumbled upon a force that could be utilized to directly alter the environment around him. He tapped into an energy that had been otherwise reserved for the creator. Fire was able to both create and destroy. It provided warmth and light, but could also transform the living into ash. Thus, the invention of these two new technologies initiated mans new role and a species that was able to affect dramatic change over his environment by selectively creating and destroying what was needed in order for his more convenient survival. This role has only magnified exponentially, and today man's main...

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