Once there was the environmental stability of what is called ‘ The Holocene Period’ ; a time that exisited as the natural mix of physical and biological elements surrounding us and which serve now as the natural background to the human-formed, human-managed civilized environment; an extended fortification of connected cities, towns, villages, farms, ranches, reserves. Soon there appeared organized agriculture along with domesticated animals, then were added the urban areas and irrigated plains.
Pollution became a problem when the Romans introduced the environment to the uses of lead. The warming of the North Atlantic and the eventual expansions of the Vikings throughout Europe were responsible for a number of climatic variations which are now reflected in complex interactions of atmosphere and oceans. When the people of Asia began to settle throughout North and South America there were telltale signs of their migration in the environment, effects such as the extinction of many large mammals from hunting. They were joined later by waves of Europeans who settled alongside them bringing the New World population of the Americas to a number in the tens of millions, all affecting and being affected by the emerging environment. Gone the pristine wilderness. Gone the classic Mayan civilization. Deforestation and drought, soil erosion, depleted and devastated food production were the victors.
Throughout most of the 19th century mankind’s attitude towards the environment involved an irresistible and uncontrolled use of the planet’s natural resources. As the 20th century neared there appeared on the stage a number of loud concerned voices advising ‘ conservation and wise use.’ Artists and photographers were instrumental in initiating a new awareness of how necessary and crucial it was to preserve the natural wonders such as Yellowstone Park. It was believed that under the banner of ‘ scientific managenent ‘ there would result ‘ long-term sustainability ‘ although primarily for ‘ economic reasons ‘. No-one at that same time spoke or promoted the belief that the natural areas be preserved in their original states for non-economic reasons. One notable voice in what began to be called ‘ environmentalism ‘ a movement that advocated for a ‘ land ethic ‘ was Aldo Leopold. What followed was the establishing of The National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, The Clean Air Act in 1970 and The Clean Water Act 1972 ; all of which were in the United States. Other countries enacted similar laws until in the 21st century human behavior on the environment reached such a degree of concern and unrelenting debate that it falls upon all who love this planet to be aware of how ozone depletion, global warming biodiversity, soil eroison, waste disposal, and pollution are directly affected by each one of us.
Everyday our actions contribute to changes in the air everyone breathes; changes to the water everyone drinks; to the food everyone eats; discernible human influences. Are we each other’s environmental enemy?