The Controversial Relationship between Early Humans and their Environment

  • :: 1 Works Cited
  • Length: 909 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

The Controversial Relationship between Early Humans and their Environment

In the very beginning of human history, there was no clear separation between man and nature. Early humans’ way of living was in unison with their environment and it is likely that it was pleasurable as well. Humans supported themselves by hunting and gathering and due to their small population size and density, they were able to sustain themselves without too much effort. Thomas Hobbes claims that the life of early humans was “nasty, brutish and short”, but modern theories reject such viewpoint (Ponting, p.19).

Unfortunately, there is little direct evidence that shows what daily human life was like hundreds of years ago. Therefore, anthropologists and historians use studies on African tribes and Aborigines to build theories about the customs of early humans. Of course, such an extrapolation is not very reliable, but it is as close as one can get to the truth.

It would not be too flattering for early humans to claim that they had a very modest and conscientious way of life. The tropical climate was very benign toward all forms of life, so humans did not have to preoccupy themselves with storage or conservation of food. Fresh plants were available and plentiful all year round, so obtaining food was not the main human concern. Judging from the diet of the bushmen in Africa, early humans probably had more nutritious and balanced meals than modern humans. As Ponting points out in his book, Green History of the World, the African bushmen consume the nuts of the mongongo tree, which adequately meet their nutritious and energy needs. Since the mongongo nuts are abundant and easy to gather, the bushmen have a steady source of food which they can rely on for subsistence.

It can be concluded that early humans followed a similar pattern of behavior. They used gathering of plant material as main food source, because hunting was much more difficult and less efficient. According to Ponting, one out of ten attempts to kill an animal was successful, therefore hunting was used solely to complement the fresh provisions. Since early humans were completely dependent on their environment for survival, they carefully used the available resources without overstressing them. They took from nature as much as they needed, not only to protect it, but also to save time. Bushmen value food and leisure time equally, that’s why it is fair to suppose that early humans harvested only as much as they could consume, so that they can enjoy the rest of their time.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Controversial Relationship between Early Humans and their Environment." 20 Jun 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
The Benefits of a Vegetative Cover Essay - In the fields, the pollution can be finding in the crops and in the way of planting. Uses of chemicals products, such as pesticides and fertilizers, can be dangerous for the human and the nature. For humans, because of the contamination that some products, such as pesticides and herbicids (for weed control), can cause when it is apply, by the exposure to it. This products, because their are dangerous for the human health, has to follow rules of application and in restriction quantity (1). And when applied by a person, this has to own special clothes and accessories (like gloves and glasses) to their security, to not be exposure at the toxicity of the substance....   [tags: pollution and toxicity to humans]
:: 7 Works Cited
1159 words
(3.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Relationship between the Environment and Humans as Shown by the Native Americans and the English Settlers - The relationship held between the environment and humans is sacred and ever-changing. Both the Native Americans and the English settlers used the land to their advantage, but they had different goals in mind. The English Settlers were more interested in creating civilizations and killing animals so they could make a profit. Native Americans were more interested in using the land and the animals that they killed in an efficient manner. Native Americans were natural born warriors, they were not schooled and they suffered from a lack of farming abilities, but their capability to adapt to their surroundings was unmatched and gave them a greater appreciation for the land they lived on....   [tags: Environment, Humans, Environmentalism, Native Amer]
:: 3 Works Cited
752 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on The Relationship Between Economic Growth and Social Development - Economic growth and social development are complementary and close relationship constraints. However, with economic growth, it is clear that there are many environmental concerns in today’s society. Air, water, and land pollution have been worsening; the environment of wild animals and plants have been seriously damaged, many species are threatened with extinction, deforestation and over-exploitation of mineral resources give human survival and development a real and more serious potential threat....   [tags: Economics ] 1458 words
(4.2 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay about The Relationship Between Humans and the Environment - The Relationship Between Humans and the Environment Nearly everything that a human does is in response to the environment. Our lives are defined by what is around us and what we find in front of us, whether this means accepting, dealing with or changing it. This has been the pattern since primates first stood up and became Homo erectus, and has continued until we considered ourselves doubly wise. The shape of the land affected where humans moved. Weather was something with which to contend. Fire affected humans until they conquered it – and herein lies the core of the relationship....   [tags: Environment Environmental Pollution Preservation] 1367 words
(3.9 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay about The Relationship Between Early Humans and Their Environment - The Relationship Between Early Humans and Their Environment In television shows and textbooks, early humans are often presented as being an isolated force within their environments - that is, that they evolved with relatively little influence from their environment. This view often stresses the advances of human beings and their exploitation of the environment as a function of their anatomical development, particularly brain capacity. However, it fails to address the fact that human beings were not as we know ourselves to be today; that we were simply another large carnivore interacting with many different types of animals and environmental conditions, who happened to evolve into a social...   [tags: Environment Environmental Pollution Preservation] 983 words
(2.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Civilization and Its Discontents, by Sigmeund Freud Essay - “Civilization and Its Discontents” is a book written by Sigmund Freud in 1929 (originally titled “Das Unbehagen in der Kultur” or The Uneasiness in Culture.) This is considered to be one of Freud’s most important and widely read works. In this book, Freud explains his perspective by enumerating what he sees as fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. He asserts that this tension stems from the individual’s quest for freedom and non-conformity and civilization’s quest for uniformity and instinctual repression....   [tags: Civilization-Individual Relationship] 851 words
(2.4 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay about The Relation of Early Humans to Their Environment - The Relation of Early Humans to Their Environment The relationship early humans had to the environment that surrounded them is one that is shrouded in debate. As Thomas Hobbes said, and as every subsequent anthropological writer has quoted, life for early man was supposedly "nasty, brutish and short". Were hunter/gatherers lives before the development of agriculture ruled by the Darwinian whims of the environment that surrounded them, or were they able to raise above the toil of everyday survival to better control their own fates....   [tags: Environment Environmental Pollution Preservation] 1698 words
(4.9 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay about Early Humans and the Environment - Early Humans and the Environment Early humans were quite different from modern humans. Modern humans have many technologies and advances that we take for granted. In my lifetime (1982 - present) I have seen the five and a half inch floppy yield to the dvd, cloning of sheep and other advances in the fields of math, science, and engineering. Humans and Pre-Humans have always been developing, either intentionally or unintentionally, technologies that were either necessary for the continuation of life, or for the improved quality of life, thus changing the environment....   [tags: Environment Environmental Pollution Preservation] 915 words
(2.6 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay on Negative Impact of Humans on the Environment - The Impact of Humans on the Environment The human population on the planet now tallies in at over 6 billion. Many experts believe this population may double in the next half-century, as expressed in A Special Moment in History by Bill McKibben. Humans are undoubtedly the 'rulers' of this earth, but we have not been good rulers. In fact in our years of monumental growth as a species, our relationship to our kingdom, the earth, can best be described as parasitic. A parasite is an organism that is dependent on another for its existence without making a useful or adequate return....   [tags: Environment Pollution Litter Littering] 1668 words
(4.8 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Early Humans and their Environment Essay - Early Humans and their Environment Humans have been present on this Earth for nearly 3.5 million years when “Homo erectus” first evolved with an upright posture enabling the use of hands (Ponting). “Homo erectus” evolved into “Homo sapiens” one hundred thousand years ago and both lineages lived in small, mobile groups. For nearly two million years, their way of life was based around hunting and gathering food until ten to twelve thousand years ago when agriculture evolved. Early humans depended upon their knowledge of crops and seasons in order for survival....   [tags: Environment Environmental Pollution Preservation]
:: 3 Works Cited
1124 words
(3.2 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]

Related Searches

Early humans did not lead a sedentary way of life judging from the fact “the Gidjingali Aborigenes of Northern Australia have a clear seasonal round of varying exploitation” (Ponting, p.22). They moved several times a year within short distance, adjusting to the location of the plants that were ripe or in season. Such a behavior suggests that early humans had a deep and detailed knowledge of their natural surroundings. It was through careful observation that they were able to adapt to the environment. Adjusting their needs to what is available helped them survive without too much effort or inconvenience. Ponting concludes that “these groups lived in close harmony with the environment and did minimal damage to natural ecosystems” (p.32).

Another theory about early humans, which contradicts the above statement by Ponting, is put forward by geologist Gilford Miller from the University of Colorado. He believes that the activities of early humans resulted in an irreversible climactic and ecological change in Australia. While studying 50,000 years old sediments in Wolf Creek Crater in Western Australia, Miller encountered fossils from extinct megafauna. His data shows that large marsupials and lizards inhabited Australia before humans conquered the continent. The geologist claims that it was humans that drove these large animals to extinction. He believes that early humans set fires which destroyed most of the vegetation in Australia and doomed the existing fauna to starvation. Reduction of vegetation affected rainfall patterns as well. Miller concludes that early humans’ activity caused a negative cascade effect on the environment which was responsible for the extinction of large mammals.

Miller’s theory is not very well substantiated. The fact that two events happen at the same time does not necessarily mean that one is a result of the other. There is no direct evidence to prove that the appearance of humans caused the disappearance of the megafauna, besides the fact that they take place in approximately the same time. Miller is “speculating” that early humans set fires deliberately, thus altering the vegetation and depriving the large mammals of food. There is no clear evidence why and how humans set fires. Besides that, it is unlikely that a small number of settlers would set so many fires as to affect the vegetation of such big piece of land as Australia.

Given the above hypotheses, the relationship between early humans and their environment is controversial. On one hand, early humans did not exploit more resources than they could use, so they were preserving nature. On the other hand, it is inevitable that their actions had some kind of impact on the environment, but not to the extent to which Miller believes. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle, but it is hard to find the middle in piles of dust.


Ponting, Clive. 1992. A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations. St. Martin's Press: New York.

Return to