Human impact on the environment in the pre-industrial period

Returning to the question of the history of the interaction of mankind with the environment, it should be recalled that the course of history is known periodization of the early stages of human development, based on the use of certain mineral natural resources: the Stone Age, Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age. Thus, the approach embodied in the periodization of the history of mankind, at its initial stages, already reflects the nature of their use of certain resources of the natural environment. The special literature presents the stages of the development of agriculture and the development of water resources.

A common feature in these approaches to the periodization of the use of certain types of natural resources is that they are based on archaeological finds belonging to different cultures, most often named after the place of discovery, and for later periods – links to found written sources. It should be noted that the periodization of the early stages of human development, based on the use of certain natural resources, is not universal – in different parts of the planet certain stages people passed at different times (with a range of up to several thousand years) or due to the lack of those or other resources, climatic conditions, or isolation, some steps may have been skipped.

The Stone Age was preceded by an epoch called the Pliocene, the beginning of which dates back about 5.3 million years ago. During the Pliocene and Stone Age, human activity was mainly focused on biological resources: plants and animals. People in this period were nomadic, engaged in gathering and hunting. The first people lived in small tribes, collecting seeds, nuts, roots, berries and other plant foods that they were able to find. When the food resources of the territory were exhausted, people were forced to migrate to a new place. The period of gathering and hunting is the longest period of human impact on nature. Depending on the terrain, various animals and plants turned out to be objects of hunting and gathering. About, which species were hunted and which minerals were used by people during the Pliocene and Stone Age periods can be judged by archaeological finds. For example, in the canton of Bern (Switzerland), flint mining sites were found in the form of vertical holes 60 cm deep. Dye mining mines were found in Balatenlovás (Hungary). In the cave of Moria (Spain) – the bones of bulls, red deer and horses. In the Crimea, judging by the findings, they hunted mainly wild ass and saiga.

At this stage of human development, the scale of the anthropogenic impact on nature was determined by biological needs. Occupying a niche of gatherers , people were constantly forced to do a great job of obtaining food and master a large forage area (of the order n • 10 2ha / person.). It was a period of natural regulation when people entered the systems of nature as a biological component. Any mistake in nature management could be “expensive”, up to often moving to less favorable places or to the extinction of the community as a result of the reverse impact of nature – its depletion as an object of use. The collection of the most accessible and favorite species of animals and plants led to a reduction in the number, destruction, first of all, of sedentary, mass species, the largest individuals. Human activities associated with the use of vegetation, already at this stage of human development made certain changes in the plant world. First of all, there was its destruction – trampling, pulling out, breaking out in places of human sites.

So, through nature management, man ensured his own survival. But gradually, in the process of mastering the methods of manufacturing devices that facilitate survival, primarily in food extraction and protection from natural hazards, the nature of the relationship between people and nature has changed: the manufacture of tools and hunting (and at the same time defense) is a process that depends on the person himself. which can be improved. The improvement of tools and hunting has led to a change not only in the nature of nature management as an activity, but also in a change in the scale of the resources being mastered, the impact on the environment.

The Stone Age is divided into Paleolithic (since the appearance of humanity to the Mesolithic), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), Neolithic (from the Mesolithic to the development of metal ores).

During the Stone Age, there was an improvement in labor tools. Primitive tools were a primitively processed natural material (stone, wood, bone). None of the activities was dominant, almost every occupation was seasonal.

The oldest stone tools in the world date back to 3.3 million years. The most primitive tools of labor – choppers [1] – gradually gave way to more complex two-sidedly processed tools of labor – hand-saws and cutters. Stone tools were used for processing wood and hides, planing, cutting and even drilling. Stone products were used both as a means of hunting and as a weapon, for example, in throwing spears. Small sharp fragments were glued with resin or asphalt to the bone or wooden base. Approximately 20-30 thousand years ago, people of the modern type began to adapt stone tools to the arms of wood, horns or bones. Wood and bone were also processed with stone tools.

Roaming, the tribes periodically had to visit areas where they met suitable for products stones. Widespread limestone and granite were not suitable for this. For the manufacture of knife-shaped plates, tips and axes, yellow flint, obsidian, quartz, jasper, jade and other suitable fossil mineral raw materials were required, depending on the place where the tribes lived. In the area where the necessary stone was abundant, and the tribes were sedentary, an adult hunter processed up to 40 kg of this raw material per year. In such places small quarries gradually emerged, which became one of the first examples of transforming the landscapes of anthropogenic impact, mining in the open way.

If the necessary raw materials for the manufacture of stone tools were not, people were looking for a replacement for them – broken shell, teeth of sharks and crocodiles, claws, etc.

Evidence of the use of fire by people as an element of the technology of processing natural materials is also associated with archaeological discoveries indicating heat treatment – roasting of mineral raw materials to make it hard. Judging by archaeological finds, in different regions of Africa and Asia, the time for mastering fire is different, for example, 1.5 million years ago – in East Africa, 1.2 million years ago – in the Caucasus. At different times, different groups of ancient Paleolithic people gradually mastered the fire and developed ways to mine it. Already from the beginning of the late Paleolithicalong with the predominant production of fire by friction, in some cases it was practiced to strike it with a blow of flint against pyrite. The predominance of one or another way of extracting fire was associated with the surrounding natural conditions, climate, humidity, the presence of suitable wood species.

For those who want to know more

A brief account of the history of anthropogenesis (the history of the emergence of a rational human being – Homosapiens) makes it possible to evaluate the extent of the development of territories by a modern kind of people – Homosapiens:

  • – 74,000 years ago, the appearance of the Homosapiensin Africa;
  • – 60,000–40,000 years ago, Homosapiensin Asia [2] ;
  • – 40,000 years ago, Homosapiensin Europe;
  • – 35,000 years ago, Homosapiensin Australia;
  • – 15,000 years ago, Homosapiensin America.

The dating of the Mesolithic varies greatly by region. In the Middle East, it began earlier, only about 15 thousand years BC. In most of Europe, the Mesolithic was replaced by the Neolithic about 6–5 thousand years BC, it lasted the longest in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. A number of Mesolithic cultures continue to exist now (Bushmen, Australian aborigines, a number of groups of Indians of Amazonia). During the Mesolithic period, hunters and gatherers mastered a highly developed culture of making tools out of stone and bone, as well as long-range weapons — an arrow and a bow.

The use of fire and the increase in production and consumption of animal foods increased the ecological space of people to niche hunting and fishing with area n • 10 3 ha / person. 1 After the invention of onions, the hunting of animals was considerably relieved. The flight distance of a spear thrown by a hand is 30–40 m, and an arrow shot from a bow is 100 m, and from a heavy bow is 450 m. The force of the bow strike is such that the arrow pierced through a person from a distance of 300 steps. With the use of onions, the impact of hunting on the environment becomes significant.

It is believed that it was primitive people who greatly contributed to the destruction of mammoths. The human sites were found, the main building material of the dwellings in which were mammoth bones, i.e. Mammoths were destroyed in large enough quantities. Increased and the scale of fisheries. In addition to the harpoon, onion, spears, nets and tops made of willow bark fibers and other plants have been used. The use of fire in hunting practice (set fire to a steppe or forest for animals pasture) led to the formation of pyrogenic landscapes. The inability to handle fire led to the destruction of natural complexes in vast areas. The result of such arson was the disappearance of birch and coniferous forests in the Paleolithic in large areas of modern Germany and Belgium. There were steady pyrogenic (caused by the action of fire) changes in individual sections. The environmental consequences of this activity can be represented in the form of a chain of causal relationships: the use of fire – depletion of vegetation cover – increased erosion – decrease in the level of groundwater – exposure of the sand massif – desertification.

Hunting led to the domestication of animals – there was a primitive livestock. The transition of human communities from hunting and gathering to agriculture, based on agriculture and animal husbandry, was called the Neolithic revolution. In the period preceding the Neolithic Revolution, relatively few human tribes were scattered over wide areas of the Earth. The population density at the appropriating farm was about 2 people. / 100 km [3] [4] in the tundra, 3 people. / 100 km [4] in the taiga and rainforest, 7-8 people. / 100 km [4] in coniferous-deciduous forests and in the dry steppe, 17–18 people. / 100 km [4] in the forest-steppe [4]. At the same time – at the end of the Stone Age – the use of clay (dishes, brick buildings, sculpture) spread. In the Far East, the earliest findings of ceramics date back to about 12,000 years. The period of the European Neolithic period begins in the Middle East with the pre-ceramic Neolithic. Fossil animals, such as mammoths, cave bears, cave hyenas, etc., died out to the Neolithic.

The birth of agriculture was preceded by the depletion of the resources of fishing and gathering available to a primitive person. A. Humboldt described the process of transition to agriculture as follows:

“When peoples, due to ever increasing numbers, being pressed to the coast … finally stop their nomadic life, they immediately start gathering useful animals and plants around them as food or clothing. These are the first beginnings of agriculture. ” The increase in the population of farmers and herdsmen, as a rule, was higher than that of hunter-gatherers due to the higher productivity of the producing economy. Accordingly, the same territory could feed significantly more people. Agrarian communities began to fill the Earth, as previously it was filled with hunters.

The end of the Neolithic dates from the time of appearance of metal tools and weapons, i.e. the beginning of the copper, bronze or iron age. Since some cultures of America and Oceania still have not completely passed from the Stone Age to the age of metal processing, the Neolithic is not a definite chronological period in the history of mankind as a whole, but characterizes only the cultural characteristics of particular peoples, unlike the Paleolithic, when there types of people (arkhantropi and other fossil people), all of them, except the last, died out before the onset of the Neolithic.

The first copper products are dated by archeologists of the 7th – 6th millennium BC. Nevertheless, the copper age most often refers to the period of the 4th — 3rd millennium BC. In some territories, the copper age lasted longer, and in others it was completely absent. Most likely, the first acquaintance of man with copper, and later of iron, occurred through metal nuggets, which were taken for stones and tried to process in the usual way, striking with other stones. From nuggets of copper, the ns pieces were broken off, but they were deformed, and they could be given the necessary shape (cold forging). Despite its softness, copper had an important advantage – the copper tool could be repaired, and the stone had to be redone.

The place and time of the discovery of methods for obtaining bronze is not known for certain. Bronze is an alloy of copper, usually with tin. It can be assumed that the bronze was simultaneously opened in several places. The earliest bronze products with tin impurities were found in Iraq and Iran and date back to the end of the 4th millennium BC. In general, the chronological framework of the Bronze Age: 35 (33) – 13 (11) centuries. BC, but they are different in different cultures.

The Iron Age is a stage in the history of mankind, characterized by the manufacture of iron tools; lasted from about 1200 BC up to 340Propulsion BC However, the earliest finds of objects made of meteoric iron are known in Iran (VI-IV millennium BC), Iraq (V millennium BC) and Egypt (IV millennium BC). In Mesopotamia, the first iron objects are dated to the 3rd millennium BC. Iron is inferior to bronze in a number of qualities: bronze tools are more durable than iron ones, and their production does not require such high temperatures as for smelting iron. Therefore, in the literature on the history of this issue, it is indicated that the transition from bronze to iron was not associated with the advantages of tools made of iron, but primarily with the fact that the mass production of bronze tools at the end of the bronze era quickly led to the depletion of tin deposits for the manufacture of bronze and common in nature is noticeably less than copper. Iron ores are found in nature much more often copper and tin. A lot of technologies are associated with the production of iron, which are difficult to arrange in chronological order.

The first step in the emerging ferrous metallurgy was to obtain iron by reducing it from oxide. The ore was mixed with charcoal and put into the furnace. At the high temperature created by the burning of coal, carbon began to combine not only with atmospheric oxygen, but also with that which was associated with iron atoms. Thus, the smelting of metals was accompanied by an additional load on ecosystems and, above all, on timber resources.

According to archaeologists, the domestication of animals and plants occurred during the spacing of time in 7-8 regions. The Middle East is considered the earliest center of the Neolithic revolution, where domestication began no later than 10 thousand years ago.

Agriculturebegan with the systematic cultivation and collection of plants that were previously collected in the wild. The initial stages of crop production were associated with both non-irrigated and irrigated agriculture on natural spills of mountain streams (“swamp”, liman farming). Archaeological and paleobotanical studies indicate that the origin of agriculture is associated with the zone of mountain valleys and plateaus located in the subtropical belt. Soviet scientist Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov singled out seven centers (foci), isolated in the 7th – 3rd millennium BC. and gave rise to agriculture and most modern cultivated plants: the tropical center (India, Indochina, South China and the islands of Southeast Asia) – from this center about 1/3 of the plants currently cultivated – rice, sugarcane, etc .; East Asian Center

Farming in America originated independently of other continents and is probably more ancient. Separate finds suggest that in Mexico people began to grow corn no less than 10 thousand years ago. Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, India, China, Syria, Egypt are considered the areas of the oldest agricultural culture in the world.

There are several periods in the development of agriculture [9] .

The first period – the formation and development of agriculture and cattle breeding refers to the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

In the second periodirrigated agriculture and other ameliorative systems appeared and reached high perfection in dry areas. The most studied centers of agricultural civilization of this period are Egypt, Dvorichie, China, Hindustan, Central Asia, Central America. In ancient Egypt, the inventory was developed, i.e. Land pricing by their area, fertility and profitability. In the states of the Buryatia, farming was complicated by soil salinization and their periodic flooding. Excess salts were removed by washing with irrigation. Giant irrigation systems were created that simultaneously served for irrigation of fields and as channels for navigation. In the ancient Indian treatise “Arthashastra” (“The Science of Benefit” – IV century. BC) reported on the construction and operation of irrigation ponds, penalties for irrigation disturbances and flooding fields[10] .

Also, types of farming, depending on local conditions, can be represented in enlarged form as a form of slash-and-burn; irrigated / irrigated / irrigated; non-alcoholic.

Let us dwell in greater detail on this form of primitive farming, like slash-and-burn .characteristic primarily for forest areas. In the forest, cut trees or cut them down, cut the bark to dry. A year later, the forest was burned and sown directly into the ashes used as fertilizer. The following economic cycle was characteristic of the forest belt of Eastern Europe: from 1-3 to 5-7 years, crops were sown on the cleared land, then it was used as hayfield or pasture (optional phase, up to 10-12 years), and after the termination of economic activity through 40-60 years restored the forest. The field after the burn gave a good harvest for the first year without cultivation; then it was required to loosen the site with handguns. Slash-and-burn farming was preserved in some regions of Europe, North America until the middle of the 19th century, and still remains in certain regions of Central Africa, South and Central America, and Southeast Asia.

Slash-and-burn farming, based on forest burning and planting of cultivated plants at this place, was, along with other forms of farming, a factor of significant change and transformation of landscapes.

Slash and Plow Farming and Irrigation Farming, along with other forms (forest farming – the plot is sowed again some time after overgrowing with forest; fallow farming – the virgin lands are developed, as they are exhausted, they are transferred to new plots, and old plots are abandoned; transient farming – the old plots are left for 8-15 years, and then reused), referred to as primitive forms of agriculture. In place of the primitive forms of farming and extensive farming practices (yield increase due to expansion of acreage) have at a later time it was intensive agriculture in involving the development and application of new technologies in tillage and the development of new, more productive varieties (selection), an increase in the number of products in the same area (yield), for example, through the use of fertilizers.

The time of active development of agriculture is characterized by a wide scope of land irrigation, for example, in the lower reaches of the Nile, Central and Asia Minor, India, China, South and Central America, and part of the Sahara. Irrigation farmingassumed the construction of hydraulic structures (the oldest of them were discovered in Mesopotamia and date back to the 6th millennium BC). Along with surface waters, groundwater is being used to irrigate lands and irrigate pastures, extracted by drainage galleries that intercept underground flows in the foothills of Central and Asia Minor and Azerbaijan ridges. The prototype of modern infiltration water intakes are wells dug on the clay bottom of flat depressions, takyrs. These wells accumulate and retain the water of spring and winter runoff, giving the opportunity to use them for watering livestock in the hot summer. Condensation wells and basins are more complex in construction, the production of water in which is based on the processes of natural condensation of vapor from the air. The construction of these unique structures belong to the IV — III centuries.

In Egypt, not far from Wad el Garawi, the remains of a dam built in the 27th century BC are preserved. It was a stone dam with a gravel core. Its height was 14 m, the length of the ridge – 113 m. Its surface was lined with carved stone.

The irrigation systems of the past amaze the imagination with the laconism and expediency of construction, high productivity of irrigated lands, as evidenced by the significant population density in these areas. For example, on the irrigated lands of Turkmenistan in the 2nd — Ist millennium BC she reached 80-90 people. on 1 km 2 .

The development of farming changed the primary forms of plants, expanded the ranges of one as opposed to the other, was a source of increasing their synanthropy (dwelling near human habitation). As a result, there was a depletion of vegetation and leveling of its species composition. A. Humboldt in his article “The Geography of Plants and Animals” wrote that agricultural peoples artificially increase the domination of social plants, extending the nature of the monotony of the breed to many places in the temperate and northern zones. However, they contribute to the extinction of wild plants.

With the development of agriculture, people began to create their own, different from the natural human ecosystem. This was an important turning point in their history. For the first time, people have the opportunity to more or less consistently provide themselves with food. Starting from the moment when a person appropriating the nature (gathering, hunting) of his relationship with nature changed to producing (cattle breeding, agriculture), people became a force capable of creating systems of a different order – agrocenoses, settlements – systems that require constant purposeful activity. maintaining sustainability. If this activity stops, the system dies.

In addition, residency and agriculture allowed them to move to the division of labor: some continued to peasantry, while others were able to devote themselves to other activities. Guaranteed support for the impoverished and the division of labor allowed the creation of permanent settlements — first villages and then large cities. People were able to engage in the production of additional material goods and other matters, which ultimately led to the formation of a modern, complexly organized society.

Purposeful transition from the appropriating type of economy (hunting, gathering) to producing (cattle breeding, farming) is a long process that stretched for two or three in the Old World, and for three to four millennia in the New.

The destruction of nature in the name of high yields of agricultural crops led to an ecological crisis of primitive agriculture.

  1. Marsh so vividly describes his manifestations: “The huge forests disappeared from the mountain slopes and peaks; the fertile soil of upland pastures, the chernozem of upland fields — all this was washed away with water: where there were magnificent floodplain meadows, now barren plains; the rivers famous in history, celebrated in songs, turned into miserable brooks ” 1.

Related environmental problems of bygone civilizations and environmental management problems can be illustrated by the following examples.

“The civilization of the ancient Sumerians flourished for more than two thousand years in the area of ​​the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the territory of present-day Iraq. The terrain was full of forests and meadows. It was built the first eight cities in the world. By the III millennium BC The population of the city of Uryuk, which numbered about 50 thousand people, created an intensive irrigation system using the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. However, the hot climate promoted intensive evaporation of water, as a result of which salinization everywhere occurred. By 1700 BC the Sumerians could no longer feed themselves and were conquered. Sumerian civilization collapsed, and all the cities turned to dust. Most of the once puffy lands turned into barren deserts, which to this day occupy a significant part of the modern territory of Iraq.

The ancient Mayan civilization, which flourished for three millennia in areas located in the south of modern Mexico and Central America, has ceased to exist, as scientists believe, because of the deforestation on its territory.

The fate of the ancient civilization on Easter Island, which functioned safely for 1 thousand years, is also instructive. Civilization has disappeared due to the fact that its population has exceeded the anthropogenic potential of the nature of Easter Island ” [11] [12] .

In the Colosseum (circus in Rome) at Titus 5 thousand animals died daily: lions, tigers, elephants, even giraffes and hippos. In Plutarch’s day to taste the meat of animals to improve their subjected to cruel tortures: trampling and burning the udder of cows that had calve, sewn eyes swans and cranes, pierced with red-hot skewers of live pigs 1 .

On the territory of the Old World in the Middle Ages, humanity continues to actively influence wildlife. Since the equivalent of material values ​​at this time again are products of the animal world, harvested in the wild, humanity is actively exterminating wild animals. In order to overcome the crisis of primitive farming in the Middle Ages, more and more lands were being developed. Great geographical discoveries further contributed to the active development of new territories .

At this time, colossal land resources were involved in production activities. The expansion of agriculture was due to the destruction of forests and the conversion of vacated land into agricultural land. They formed the material basis of production in the Middle Ages. Began draining the marshes.

Earlier, the entire forest was destroyed in Western Europe – the wooded continent was turned into almost completely treeless. In addition to farming, the cause of the destruction of the forest was a significant need for wood for the construction of houses, and mainly ocean-going ships. Improved sailing fleet. For the construction of a ship capable of crossing the ocean, it took about 4 thousand oaks. The forest reserves were depleted earlier and more thoroughly in Spain – so they paid for sea power. The Invincible Armada [13] [14] alone cost half a million ancient oaks.

The destruction of the forest began in the colonies. Spanish Bishop Bartolome Las Casas wrote that in the XIV century. in Cuba, it was possible to drive through the whole country without leaving the shadow of the trees. Later, it became mainly a treeless island.

A distinctive feature of the Middle Ages is the growth of cities. In the cities handicraft production was concentrated , which significantly intensified the technical activity of people [15] .

Comparing data on the nature of farming (assigning or producing) and mainly used energy sources and technologies used, the following historical stages of environmental management can be identified :

  • – nature management of appropriating nature in the era of muscular energy;
  • – environmental management in the era of mechanical energy with renewable resources;
  • – environmental management in the era of chemical heat and power engineering on non-renewable energy resources;
  • – environmental management in the era of nuclear power engineering on non-renewable resources.
by Abdullah Sam
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