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HIST364: Environmental History

Unit 1: Human Beings and Their Environment   *One of the defining characteristics of humanity is the ability to make and use tools.  From the earliest uses to provide shelter, safety, and food to organized and cooperative efforts that are hallmarks of human society – horticulture, husbandry, domestication, and agriculture – humans shape the physical world they live in.  Differing and changing environments have always shaped human society in complex and subtle ways.  Environmental historian Timothy Silver claims that environmental history is history “with the animals left in,” but it is a great deal more than that.  Environmental history is the story of humans as biological creatures who interact with ecosystems on the planet.

In this unit, you will examine how humans interact with the environment from pre-history (pre-writing) while pursuing a definition of environmental history.  You will also explore Malthusian population theory, an influential theory discussing the relationship between population growth and limits of natural resources that may be in play in human populations, even though humans have insulated themselves from other environmental pressures.  Finally, you will discover how some early civilizations manipulated the natural world to their advantage and how disasters might have contributed to the civilizations’ decline.*

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 20.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 7.5 hours

 

☐    Introduction: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.1.1: 1.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.1.2: 3 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.1.3: 0.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.1.4: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.1.5: 1 hour

 

☐    Subunit 1.2: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 2.75 hours

☐    Subunit 1.4: 3.75 hours

☐    Subunit 1.5: 4.25 hours

 

☐    Sub-subunit 1.5.1: 0.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.5.2: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.5.3: 1.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.5.4: 1.5 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Define environmental history as a sub-discipline. - Examine environmental history in relation to other disciplines. - Develop an understanding of human beings as part of the natural world. - Explain the ways in which early human societies impacted and were shaped by the environment. - Identify prehistorical societies as agents of environmental change. - Differentiate the environmental impact of horticulture, agriculture, and husbandry. - Explain how natural disasters have shaped human history.

1.1 The Environment and Human History   - Reading: Professor Bill Kovarik’s “Environmental History Timeline” Link: Professor Bill Kovarik’s “Environmental History Timeline” (HTML)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, and browse through each of
the sections listed in the tabs along the top of the page to gather
an introduction to overall environmental history. For each era
discussed in this course, revisit the timeline and click on the
appropriate dates.  This resource is applicable to all units and
subunits.  

 Studying this resource should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.1.1 What Is Environmental History?   - Reading: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “What Is Environmental History?” Link: Environmental History Resources: K. J. W. Oosthoek’s “What Is Environmental History?” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article, which will help you further understand the podcast by
Oosthoek.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: iTunes U: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “What Is Environmental History?” Link: iTunes U: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “What Is Environmental History?” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and scroll down to the lecture titled “What Is Environmental History?”  Click on “View in iTunes” to download the free audio podcast.  Please listen to the podcast in its entirety (18:28 minutes).  In this short lecture, historian K.J.W. Oosthoek discusses the origins and focuses of the environmental history discipline.  He describes environmental history as the study of “human interaction with the natural world.”  Oosthoek characterizes environmental history as inherently interdisciplinary and looks at how contemporary historians, scientists, and scholars have approached the subject.  This resource also applies to sub-subunit 1.1.5 below.

    Listening to this podcast and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: iTunes U: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “Themes in Environmental History” Link: iTunes U: K. J. W. Oosthoek’s “Themes in Environmental History” (iTunes U)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and scroll down to the lecture titled “Themes in Environmental History.”  Click “View in iTunes” to download the free audio podcast.  Please listen to the podcast in its entirety (23:51 minutes).  In this lecture, Oosthoek continues to discuss what environmental history is and gives an overview of the major themes in environmental history emerged in the past decades.

    Immediately following Oosthoek’s lecture, Professor David Moon, a guest speaker from the University of Durham, talks about his research on human impacts on the Russian steppe from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries.

    Listening to this podcast and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.1.2 Understanding the Human-Environment Relationship   1.1.2.1 The Human-Environment Relationship   - Reading: Encyclopedia of the Earth: Schimel et al.’s “Evolution of the Human-Environment Relationship” Link: Encyclopedia of the Earth: Schimel et al.’s “Evolution of the Human-Environment Relationship” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire entry.  Pay special attention
to the section of “further reading,” which gives you a guide of
important academic works if you wish to explore deeper in certain
topics.  

 Studying this material should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.1.2.2 Malthusian Population Theory   - Reading: Rogers State University: Dr. Frank W. Elwell’s “T. Robert Malthus’ Social Theory” Link: Rogers State University: Dr. Frank W.  Elwell’s “T. Robert Malthus’ Social Theory” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select the
“Malthus’ Social Theory” hyperlink to download the PDF.  Study the
entire presentation.  Take notes on the key points of Malthus’
theory.  Then, from the main webpage, click on the hyperlink
“Reclaiming Malthus,” and read the entire article.  Malthus’
Population theory discusses the danger of overpopulation and its
pressure on limited natural resources.  The theory was and still is
a powerful interpretation on the relationship between humans and the
environment.  Though criticized for its fallacies, Dr. Frank W.
Elwell reinstates the significance of the theory.  

 Studying the presentation and article should take approximately 1
hour and 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Khan Academy’s “Thomas Malthus and Population Growth” Link: Khan Academy’s “Thomas Malthus and Population Growth” (Flash)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the video (approx. 8 minutes), which further expands on Malthus’ theory.

    Watching this web media and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.1.3 How Do Humans Shape Environmental History?   - Reading: William Cronon’s “An Environmentalist on a Different Path: A Fresh View of the Supposed ‘Wilderness’ and even the Indians’ Place in It” Link: William Cronon’s “An Environmentalist on a Different Path: A Fresh View of the Supposed ‘Wilderness’ and even the Indians’ Place in It” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, locate the title of
the article, and click on “PDF” to open the document.  This article
originally appeared in *The New York Times* on April 3, 1999. 
Cronon argues that indigenous peoples, like the Native Americans who
occupied the land prior to European colonization, interact with
their environment in the same ways that all humans do.  As Cronon
explained in his landmark *Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists,
and the Ecology of New England,*  Native Americans were or are
somehow more “natural” than more technically advanced societies,
though those societies tend to deny, as a group, the  unique
humanity of Native Americans.  This resource also applies to
sub-subunit 1.2.1.  

 Studying this material should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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1.1.4 Ways of Studying the Interaction between Humans and the Environment   - Web Media: Vimeo: Michael Soulé’s “Can Creation Be Saved? Knowledge Finds Fulfillment in Compassion” Link: Vimeo: Michael Soulé’s “Can Creation Be Saved? Knowledge Finds Fulfillment in Compassion” (Flash)

 Instructions: Please watch the linked lecture.  The lecture begins
at time mark 8:09.  

 Viewing this lecture should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.1.5 Changing Perspectives on the Environment and Human History   - Reading: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “Environmental History: Between Science and Philosophy” Link: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “Environmental History: Between Science and Philosophy” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article.  Building on the previous reading (see sub-subunit 1.1.1),
Oosthoek explores the idea of the environment in human thought.  

 Studying this article should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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1.2 Fire   1.2.1 Preindustrial Uses of Fire   - Reading: Wildandfire.com: Dr. Gerald W. Williams’ “References of the American Indian Use of Fire in Ecosystems” and Primitive Ways: Norm Kidder’s “Some Uses of Fire” Link: Wildandfire.com: Dr. Gerald W. Williams’ “References on the American Indian Use of Fire in Ecosystems” (HTML) and Primitive Ways: Norm Kidder’s “Some Uses of Fire” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the articles linked above by Williams and
Kidder to accompany the reading from sub-subunit 1.1.3  in learning
about preindustrial uses of fire.  One distinguishing character of
humans is the ability to make and use tools in order to shape their
environment.  Note how Native Americans used fire to shape their
ecosystems.  

 Studying these articles should take approximately 30 minutes.  

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1.2.2 The First Firestarters   - Reading: Dichotomistic: John McCrone’s “The Discovery of Fire” Link: Dichotomistic: John McCrone’s “The Discovery of Fire” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article.  In this essay, the author examines the contested origin of
fire in the hands of Homo erectus and its implications for the
mental “big bang” around 40,000 years ago, characterized by the
development of grammatical speech.  

 Reading this essay should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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1.2.3 The Bronze Age   - Reading: University of California, Davis: Richard Cowen’s Essays on Geology, History, and People: “Chapter 4: The Bronze Age” Link: University of California, Davis: Richard Cowen’s Essays on Geology, History, and People: “Chapter 4: The Bronze Age” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire chapter, which explains the
history, metallurgy, and geology behind the shift from Copper Age to
the more complex, “major innovative period in human history,” the
Bronze Age.  Obtaining the minerals required in the smelting of
bronze initiated a Euro-Asian trade economy, which also allowed
shipping of completed objects.  This reading is also applicable to
sub-subunit 2.5.2 below.  

 Reading this chapter should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.3 Water   1.3.1 Transportation   1.3.1.1 Polynesian Exploration and Colonization   - Reading: PBS’ Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey Link: PBS’ Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey (HTML)

 Instructions: Read each entry (8 webpages total), beginning with
the “Introduction.”  Click on the hyperlinks for “Polynesians: An
Oceanic People,” “European Explorers,” “Linguistic Evidence/Oral
Traditions,” “Heyerdahl and Sharp,” “The Archaeological Response,”
“Experimental Voyaging,” and “Hokulea: The Rediscovery.” 
Prehistoric Polynesians were able to build water craft that allowed
them to travel thousands of miles across the open Pacific Ocean and
to colonize much of the island land mass in the Pacific Rim.  

 Studying this resource should take approximately 1 hour and 30
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.3.1.2 North American Water Transportation   - Web Media: Museum of Underwater Archaeology: Francois Rothan’s “Building a Birchbark Canoe” Link: Museum of Underwater Archaeology: François Rothan’s “Building a Birchbark Canoe” (Flash)

 Also Available in:  

[YouTube](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27VZtSl02B8&feature=player_embedded)  

 Instructions: Please watch the entire video linked on this blog
(about 8 minutes).  Although François Rothan is building a canoe
 with modern tools, he demonstrates how easily such heavy, stable,
and necessary crafts were constructed.  Native Americans traveled
extensively over what is now the Northeast U.S. and Canada in the
rugged craft.  

 Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.3.2 Importance of Water in Human Civilization   - Reading: Wiser Earth: Steve Solomon’s Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization: “Epilogue” Link: Wiser Earth: Steve Solomon’s Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization: “Epilogue” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read Solomon’s
epilogue in its entirety.  Journalist Steve Solomon examines what
freshwater availability has meant to the idea of civilization from
ancient times to the present.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.4 Land   1.4.1 Development of Agriculture   - Reading: HistoryLink101: “Story of Farming” Link: HistoryLink101: “Story of Farming” (HTML)
 
Instructions: As you read, consider the following questions: Where are the two earliest known settlements and what evidence have archaeologists found there? Who are believed to be the earliest settlers in these regions and what enabled permanent settlements to develop? What is the consistent geographical feature present among the earliest civilizations?
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license

  • Reading: Nature News: Amanda Mascarelli’s “Mayans Converted Wetlands to Farmland” Link: Nature News: Amanda Mascarelli’s “Mayans Converted Wetlands to Farmland” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire article.  Pre-Columbian Mayan farmers carved canals through the enormous swamps in the area that now run through Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala to drain areas and have access to crops planted in the dense vegetation.

    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

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1.4.2 Horticulture and Domestication of Wild Animals   - Reading: Ohio State University: Department of Horticulture and Crop Science’s “From Hunter/Gatherer to Horticulturist to Agriculturist” and “Domestication” Link: Ohio State University: Department of Horticulture and Crop Science’s “From Hunter/Gatherer to Horticulturist to Agriculturist” (HTML) and “Domestication” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the links above, and read both
articles in their entirety.  Please follow the links in the text to
read about horticulture and domestication.  

 Studying these articles should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

1.4.3 Impact of Human Activities on the Environment   - Reading: National Humanities Center: Nature Transformed: Shepard Krech III’s “Paleoindians and the Great Pleistocene Die-Off” Link: National Humanities Center: Nature Transformed: Shepard Krech III’s “Paleoindians and the Great Pleistocene Die-Off” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article.  Shepard Krech, noted environmental historian, comments on
the theory that Native American nomadic communities hunted large
mammals to extinction.  New scientific discoveries regarding the
history of human habitation in North America have altered some of
the facts relied upon by Krech, but this article is beneficial for a
basic understanding of this theory.  Please see sub-subunit 1.4.4
for an important March 2011 discovery.  

 Studying this article should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.4.4 Impact of the Environment on Human Activities   - Reading: The Washington Post: David Brown’s “Dig Solidifies Evidence that First Americans Were Here 15,000 Years Ago” and About.com: K. Kris Hirst’s “Pre-Clovis in Texas: the Debra L. Friedkin Site” Link: The Washington Post: David Brown’s “Dig Solidifies Evidence that First Americans Were Here 15,000 Years Ago” (HTML) and About.com: K. Kris Hirst’s “Pre-Clovis in Texas: the Debra L. Friedkin Site” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the linked articles, and click on the
embedded hyperlinks and images to explore the media.  For the first
article, make sure to click on “next” at the bottom of the first
webpage to read both pages of the article.  The evidence recently
discovered by archaeologists in Texas (and older evidence discovered
in Chile) suggests that the original human inhabitants of North
America may have navigated along the coast of what is now North and
South America even before the people named “Clovis” crossed the
Bering Land Bridge.  The pre-Clovis people traveled south, below the
ice sheet that covered most of North America.  Inhospitable climate
determined the path of their migration and settlement.  

 Studying these articles should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

1.5 Natural Disasters   1.5.1 Drought   - Reading: Climate History’s “Drought and the Collapse of the Mayan Civilization” Link: Climate History’s “Drought and the Collapse of the Mayan Civilization” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article.  The Mayan civilization presents a puzzle to historians. 
Mayan cities were already abandoned when the Spanish conquistadors
arrived in what is now Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala in
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Drought is one hypothesis
for the collapse of the Mayan civilization.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.5.2 Volcanoes and Floods   - Reading: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “Volcanic Eruptions and European History” Link: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “Volcanic Eruptions and European History”(HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article.  Several volcanic eruptions (and attendant earthquakes)
have been recorded in the writing of European history.  The most
notable is the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. that entombed
and preserved the Roman seaside resorts of Pompeii and
Herculaneum.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: PBS: Jacqueline S. Mitchell’s “The Truth Behind Noah’s Flood” Link: PBS: Jacqueline S. Mitchell’s “The Truth Behind Noah’s Flood” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read the linked article (4 pages total).  Make sure to click on the link to each page number to read the entire article.  Natural disasters in antiquity were often seen as the act of the gods or a god.  Notable among disasters that caused widespread destruction and were recorded in human history was a great flood that was mentioned in Babylonian texts and the Book of Genesis.

    Studying this resource should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.5.3 Recovery   - Web Media: iTunes U: Duke University: Kevin Rosario’s “Catastrophes of Progress: Disaster and Innovation in America” Link: iTunes U: Duke University: Kevin Rosario’s “Catastrophes of Progress: Disaster and Innovation in America” (iTunes U)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and locate the title
“Catastrophes of Progress: Disaster and Innovation in America.” 
Click on “View in iTunes” to download the free video lecture. 
Please view the lecture in its entirety.  

 Viewing this lecture and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.5.4 Long-term Environmental Reasons for Civilization Collapse   - Reading: CBS: Clark L. Erickson’s “Neo-environmental Determinism and Agrarian ‘Collapse’ in Andean Prehistory” Link: CBS: Clark L. Erickson’s “Neo-environmental Determinism and Agrarian ‘Collapse’ in Andean Prehistory” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please note that this reading is optional.  Please click on the above link, and then select “Download” to access the article as a PDF.  The article was published in Antiquity Vol. 73 No. 281 (September 1999).  In his article, Clark L. Erickson reevaluates the hypotheses of the collapse of the Tiwanaku State.
 
Studying this article should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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  • Reading: Archeoscience International: Chris J. D. Kostman’s “The Demise of Utopia: Contexts of Civilizational Collapse in the Bronze Age Indus Valley” Link: Archeoscience International: Chris J. D. Kostman’s “The Demise of Utopia: Contexts of Civilizational Collapse in the Bronze Age Indus Valley” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire webpage.  This article investigates the factors that contributed to the end of the Harappan Civilization, one of which was the environmental degradation and climate change.  Think about how you evaluate the environmental factors in the disappearance of ancient civilizations.

    Studying this material should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.