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Rice was extremely significant in the wake of the Colombian Exchange, not only serving as a
cash crop in the New World, but also being grown in Africa to feed captured slaves during the
Middle Passage. Furthermore, Judith Carney writes extensively on rices existence in Africa and
the ways in which previous racist Eurocentric scholarship covered up African slaves
contributions to rice-growing techniques in the United States, offering a clear example of the
ways in which environmental history can challenge previously established narratives.
2. Corn
Corn holds significance both as an agent of massive change in the African continent and as
the classic example of early human influence on other organisms. James McCann explains how
African agriculture has shifted since the introduction of corn towards the monoculture typical of
the New World and elucidates the potential harmful impacts of such a change. In respect to the
latter, corn holds great significance in its transformation from a grass with a small pod and
yielding little sustenance to the massive and global force that it has become today.
3. Kennecott
Kennecott exemplifies the capitalist drive of settler colonialism and its harmful impacts on
the environment through its desolation and emptiness. While the land around Kennecott formerly
abounded with wildlife and copper, William Cronon describes the ways in which white settlers
exhaustively hunted the forests and extracted copper until the local ecosystems collapsed and the
mines veins were completely drained. In addition, the impacts on the indigenous populations
were devastating, resulting in the ghost town it is today. Nevertheless, Cronon notes the ways in
which the environment has begun to reclaim the town, perhaps offering a glimmer of hope for
the future of the environment, despite the destruction brought to it in the past.

4. Megafauna
The mass extinction of megafauna at the end of the last Ice Age is indicative of the need for
organisms to constantly adapt to the changes around them, even those of other organisms as
indicated by human intervention. Peter Tyson analyzes the various extinctions coinciding with
the development of human civilization and demonstrates the ways in which human consumption
even predating the developments of civil society caused other animals to be outhunted, giving
the example of the Aborigines on the Australian continent, as well as climate change data from
elsewhere. J.R. McNeill also offers compelling evidence for the human involvement in this mass
extinction, suggesting something innate about homo sapiens internal drive.
5. Pangaea
The travel and virgin soil epidemics resulted in a functional reformation of Pangaea
whereas organisms and cultures have evolved separately for millions of years, globalization and
the mixing brought about by the Columbian Exchange created clear tension. Unintended
consequences of things such as diseases and invasive species caused massive amounts of change
and even new sorts of organisms and cultures as a result of mixing.
6. Virgin soil epidemics
This is the thesis proposed by Alfred Crosby, who argues that the native peoples of the New
World were thoroughly devastated by the spread of foreign European diseases that they lacked
resistance against, resulting in colonial dominance. Nevertheless, David Jones complicates this
thesis in a separate work, Virgin Soils Revisited, arguing that the natural human immune system
would have mitigated some of the devastating impacts of European diseases had not the
Europeans treatment of the Native Americans been so poor. As a result, the study of the diseases

themselves as well as the conditions affecting their spread and strength among the native peoples
serves as an excellent case study in environmental history.
7. Columbian exchange
Perhaps the most significant event of the past millennium, the Colombian Exchange refers to
the transfer of culture, crops and animals between the Old World and New World after the
landing of Columbus in 1492. The result of the Columbian Exchange was a massive shift in
ecosystems, agricultural systems and entire civilizations, resulting in the near-obliteration of the
populations of indigenous peoples in the New World, while yielding massive riches for the
western colonizers. The Columbian Exchange set the stage for the globalization and capitalism
that drive much of modern civil society, with Europeans immediately beginning to change
agricultural and resource extraction practices at unprecedented levels. Today, the question
remains whether any checks can be put in place on the drive for material that grew out of the
Columbian Exchange, and whether it was truly worth it to exchange sustainability for untold
8. Ecological determinism
Ecological determinism is the hypothesis that geographic location is the underlying
explanation for a given civilizations success or failure. Jared Diamond hypothesizes that the
technological developments in Eurasia were due to its east-west geographic alignment, allowing
for more free trade and dissemination of ideas, whereas the American peoples remained
generally isolated due to the north-south alignment of the Americas, restricting the same things
that allowed Eurasian peoples to flourish. This concept is an excellent example of the
possibilities in generalizing when taking a global environmental historical scope, yet at the same

time highlights geography and environment themselves as potential agents in human history,
despite the fact that historical scholarship has focused exclusively on humans to this point.
9. Neolithic revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the transition of the human population from hunting-gathering
modes of living to agricultural ones. The switch to agriculture holds significance because it
allowed for the foundation of modern civilization due to a more stable food source that could
feed more people but also set the stage for humans to exact a much larger toll on their
environment than any other organism to this point. J.R. McNeill points out that humans that
switched originally suffered from nutritional deficiencies and generally had lower quality of life
than those who kept up a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, yet is forced to acknowledge the development
of civilization in the wake of that switch. The stratification of society and the drive to accumulate
resources really only developed after the transition to agriculture, which also resulted in human
dependence upon crops and domesticated animals, allowing for a dramatically larger role for
these organisms in human history. Thus, the Neolithic Revolution remains an essential point of
study in any analysis of early human history.
10. Farming
Farming is the technique employed by humans to grow crops for food, dating back to roughly
10,000 years ago in the Middle East. The transition to farming from hunting and gathering forced
humans to be reliant on their crops as well as the environmental factors essential to production of
these crops, causing human history to become also the history of human surroundings. Farmings
mixed effects including the stratification of human society, the development of modern society,
and the vulnerabilities of the produce itself remain central to historical studies, forcing a

reevaluation of any human history without realizing the agency that environments themselves
11. Ecological imperialism
Ecological imperialism refers to Alfred Crosbys theory that European colonization was
inevitable due to the combination of animals, diseases and crops that they introduced into the
New World, having devastating impacts on the native peoples. Indeed, perhaps the most
significant feature of the Columbian Exchange was that of European diseases to native
populations, which when combined with harsh European colonization practices, new methods of
resource extraction and invasive species caused massive harm to the New World. Overall, this
hypothesis outlines the importance of environmental factors in a narrative that traditionally had
been perceived as the triumph of superior Europeans over inferior natives, a view that
completely omitted the agency of the natural world, and highlighting the need for a global
environmental historical lens.
12. Pristine myth
The Pristine Myth refers to the narrative forwarded that America before the arrival of
European colonizers was a completely balanced environmental paradise, with humans only
taking as much as necessary and even ecosystems. In recent years, investigation into Native
American burning practices and agriculture as well as discoveries in other areas have led to a
new hypothesis that the New World actually was more wild in 1750 than in 1450, due to the
rapid decline in human population due to European colonization. This narrative had its
foundation in the Romantic poets of the 19th century who yearned for a time in which the
environment was treated better than it was during the age of massive industrialization and the

early days of modern capitalism. Nevertheless, advances in technology and researching methods
have at the very least muddled the idea of a pristine New World pre-Columbus.
13. Easter Island
Easter Island is the particular case study employed by Jared Diamond as well as other
authors, including Hunt and Lipo, in order to examine the impact of human resource extraction.
Diamond hypothesizes that the Easter Islanders cut down trees in order to construct the massive
statues that make the island famous, thereby causing extreme landscape degradation and a huge
drop in population. Hunt and Lipo counter that destructive colonial practices and invasive
species caused the downfall of the population, but either way, the necessity of looking towards
the environment in a place where no humans have survived to tell the tale reveals the importance
of a global environmental lens even in human affairs.
14. David S. Jones
Author of Virgin Soils Revisited, David S. Jones work forced a revisiting of traditional
narratives of the deaths of the native populations in the New World. Traditional notions of
ecological imperialism allowed for the removal of blame from the Europeans for their awful
treatment of the natives, whereas David Joness new arguments allowed their readers to see that
the simple scientific arguments that previous historians had passed off as fact in fact held more
nuance that granted a deeper understanding of European colonialism. Joness expansive
comments on the strength of the human immune system and analysis of specific diseases show
the interdisciplinary nature of environmental history as well, lending to the studys strength as an
analytical tool.
15. Agency

Agency is a concept that traditionally within the study of history has been lent exclusively to
humans. However, in the global environmental history classroom, the notion of exclusively
humans having agency becomes deeply flawed, with arguments such as ecological determinism
suggesting the land itself possesses a sort of agency over human existence while also certainly
constraining human agency. The ability of crops to spread and create massive human dependency
also lends credence to the concept of certain kinds of plants also having agency within the
historical realm. Analysis of human interaction with the environment in any manner requires a
reevaluation of the meaning of agency, something global environmental history can certainly
help to define.
16. Dogs
Dogs were the first organisms domesticated by humans, demonstrating the ways in which the
human species has changed the natural world. The original relationship stemmed from mutual
benefit dogs acted as an alarm system to humans gathered around a fire while humans gave
dogs the scraps from their hunts. Over time, dogs have been selectively bred for desirable
characteristics, a process repeated by humans with many other species over the years,
contributing in great part to humans dominance over the natural world. This shift also marks the
beginning of mankinds attempt to master the natural world rather than simply exist in it, as it
had for a long time previous, and aiding the formation of modern civilization.
17. Fire
Fire as an agricultural tool and a source of warmth contributed in great part to the
establishment of modern civil society. In a global environmental historical context, traces of fires
from long ago can yield key insights into the landscape modification practices of indigenous
peoples, as David S. Jones reveals in Virgin Soils Revisited. In addition, humans gathering

around fire shortly after its discovery gained the ability to cook meat, thereby killing bacteria and
also allowing for the domestication of dogs drawn to the flames. Fire allowed for better
survivability and more capabilities of expansion by burning down forest, but also promoted the
beginning of the human practices of resource extraction seen today.
18. Neoteny
Neoteny refers to the way in which domesticated animals take on characteristics of their
young, i.e. docility, decreased intelligence, etc. Karl Jacoby creates an interesting parallel in the
ways in which humans fostered neoteny in domesticated animals and attitudes towards human
slaves, whom they often treated in much the same way. Neoteny as a reversal of natural
evolutionary processes is important in global environmental history. Further, neoteny is a good
example of human attempts to dominate the natural world around them, while Jacobys analysis
of the parallels between human domestication practices and enslavement of other humans
highlights potential consequences of such an anthropocentric attitude.
19. Gaia
Gaia is the spirit of the Earth in native religious traditions. While not many still literally
believe in the life force of the Earth as an actual spirit, in an environmental historical context,
considering the world as a single agential organism can certainly be more useful than traditional
interpretations of a static world. For example, considering the interactions between ecosystems
or the response of the global atmosphere to local phenomena such as pollution suggest a complex
understanding of the world is necessary, rather than simply considering humans as the agents of
all change.
20. The Statues that Walked

This title was given to the statues on Easter Island by Terry Lipo and Carl Hunt, who suggest
that the native people of Easter Island were killed by European colonizers rather than resource
exhaustion as Jared Diamond suggests. The tension between these two interpretations also
highlight the contentious nature of environmental history as an interdisciplinary field while
Lipo and Hunt did manage to move a small statue using their suggested technique, carbon dating
seems to be on the side of Diamond, and much of the other evidence requires careful study and
still can yield multiple possibilities. Nevertheless, the interpretation of the environment is still
essential in understanding the mysteries underlying these statues, and makes clear the importance
of global environmental history, including the intersections of extraction, environmental
degradation and colonialism in understanding a local phenomenon.
21. Paul Martin
Paul Martin was an archaeologist who developed the hypothesis that overhunting by humans
caused the extinction of megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene era. Martins hypothesis is
significant in understanding that humans have had the ability to cause mass extinctions for long
periods of time as well as in offering an explanation for the deaths of these megafauna. His use
of comparative climate change data as well as archaeological evidence makes clear the
importance of considering the environment when forming sweeping hypotheses.
22. Middle Passage
The Middle Passage was the transport of slaves across the Atlantic in order to be used in
forced labor growing cash crops in the New World. This transport is significant in a review of
global environmental history due to the fact that African agricultural practices and crops being
transferred from the Old World were vital to the success of the slave-based operation in the New
World. In addition, the generation of demand for high-energy crops such as yams and rice in

order to maintain survivability on board the ships that crossed the Atlantic caused those crops to
be grown in greater numbers than previously. In addition, Karl Jacoby highlights how demeaning
practices used to propagate slavery in the United States link to the ways in which domestic
animals are bred for neotenic qualities such as docility, emphasizing the importance of
considering natural parallels for human phenomena, necessitating global environmental history.
23. Invasive species
Invasive species are significant in a global environmental historical study because they have
the potential to cause massive amounts of damage to the places in which they are introduced: in
Australia, cane toads eat many native species and devastate prey sources for others, while the
tangible example examined by Jared Diamond as well as Terry Lipo and Carl Hunt is the
introduction of rats into the Pacific islands which at the very least severely harmed native tree
populations. In addition, the globalization brought about by the Columbian Exchange resulted in
untold numbers of invasive species, making this analysis extremely important in understanding
the ways in which the world changed after 1492.
24. Anthropocene
The Anthropocene is the current geological age in which humans have begun to make a
major impact on the rest of the globe. However, understanding the Anthropocene Age in a global
environmental history classroom requires careful analysis of the ways the changes in the
environment have also shaped human development in addition to humans various environments.
Tracing out the changes that have resulted from the Anthropocene is significant in global
environmental history due both to the magnitude and the speed of the changes occurring in the
environment as a result of human developments.
25. Environmental history

Environmental history refers to historical study involving an analysis of the impacts of the
environment in addition to the traditional study of human agency and action. Gabriella Coronas
panel on the meaning of global environmental history in the classroom yields interesting
interpretations of the glocal nature of study, and the need for both specific case studies and
global trends due to the mixed scope of impacts that may stem from various phenomena.
Environmental history is also specifically an interdisciplinary field, while other histories may be
based heavily in general sweeping claims, the need for hard data and facts is inescapable in
global environmental history. However, the lack of data also can be a limitation on this field of
study, since without data on long ago it becomes difficult to draw conclusions, but the value
inherent in this separate scope is still apparent in the ways in which it can shed new light on
human developments alongside the environment.
1. How does global environmental history change our notions of history? As an analytical
tool, what are its strengths and weaknesses?
a. Gabrielle Coronas dialogue talk about glocal focus and interdisciplinary nature
b. Jane Carruthers diverse environments still can share much through things like
colonialism, resource extraction + capitalism, etc.o
c. Richard C. Foltz talk about nature as an agent of change
2. Textbook
a. Alfred Crosby virgin soil epidemics, basic thesis, got some things right
b. David S. Jones virgin soils revisited, immune system discussion, etc.
c. Denevan pristine myth: specific examples include burned forests + vast
stretches of savannah in North America, dense forest required it, overkill hunting,
large native populations
d. Peter Tyson death of the big beasts according to overhunting according to Paul
Martins original thesis
3. Agricultural Revolution
a. J.R. McNeill original shift towards agriculture resulted in shorter lifespans,
nutritional deficits, etc.

b. James McCann corn allowing for the development of civilization in Africa

mention carbohydrate source fuel of civilization
4. Easter Island
a. Jared Diamond
b. Lipo + Hunt
5. Ecological Imperialism
a. David S. Jones virgin soils revisited
b. Alfred Crosby original thesis okay, but more information necessary
c. Crosbys ecological imperialism; invasive species
6. Columbian Exchange
a. Judith Carney various rice species + developments
b. Karl Jacoby brutality of modern slavery practices parallel to domestication of
c. Crosby/Jones death and destruction