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Essay about Human Impact on the Environment

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"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, bu...


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... society.

Thus, we may now find ourselves in the position were the same industrious and inventive nature that separated our ancestors from other species and caused us to lean away from the uniform motion of the ecological wheel of life, has caused the wheel to topple out of control, bringing us down with it. The power that we acquired for ourselves in the ability to affect our environment so that it pleased us, also required that we consumed what we made. We drank up the pond in which we swim. The question is whether we will be able to invent our way out of this situation, or if that would be like fighting fire with fire. And essentially, that is exactly what is happening. At the point when we began to control fire, and symbolically the natural creative and destructive force of Mother Nature, we relinquished her care. Now we might have to deal with her justice.


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