World History and the Meaning of Being Human – Physical and Geographical Features and Impact on the Environment – by Kasey Kalthoff. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
Geography, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a delineation or systemic arrangement of constituent elements” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). I would like to pick apart this idea of arrangement and how it is seen in our past, present, and future. In our history, I will be comparing the Han Dynasty and its location on the Eastern side of the Asian continent with Greece which sits just inside of the European continent. In our textbook Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, the Greeks were lightly discussed in Chapter 4 and I most recently read about the Han Dynasty in Chapter 7 (Tignor et al., 2018). Currently, I live in Duluth, and I have for the past four years. I will be comparing the geography and arrangement of Duluth with Eastern Asia and Greece.
The Han Dynasty settled itself in what we now know as China. Our textbook indicates that the Han Dynasty was “a remote and barren country” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 251). As a result, oases became popular settling spots for many (Tignor et al., 2018). Oases were essentially water holes in the desert where a more fertile ground could be found. The Han Empire, due to its vastness, also had many forests that unfortunately were taken down (Tignor et al., 2018). According to Tignor, “China’s grand environmental narrative has been the clearing of old-growth forests that had originally covered the greater part of the territory of China” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 252). As a result of the mass deforesting of China, the Han Empire experienced a great consequence in the form of flooding (Tignor et al., 2018) Due to the fact that there were no trees to help prevent the erosion of soil, the river levels were raised causing many devastating floods (Tignor et al., 2018).
The Greeks were spread across many smaller islands as well as on the mainland of Greece (Tignor et al., 2018). Being surrounded by water had its advantage in the form of power. Our textbook states, “Athens was becoming a major sea power” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 140). Tignor is describing the war between the Persians and the Greeks and how Greece owes its successes to the sea. The Athenians were able to call upon “their long experience of sailing on the Mediterranean” to have victory over the Persians (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 142).
The similarity between the Greeks and the Hans is that they were able to adapt and arrange themselves in a way that made them benefit from the geography of their respective continents. The Hans settled themselves around oases in order to agriculture food and have access to water. The Greeks were expert sailors due to being surrounded by water. They used this to their advantage when challenged by neighboring foes. I found that the biggest differences between the Hans and the Greeks are the actual geographical attributes. A large amount of China is actually a desert and greatly lacks water. In comparison, Greece is surrounded by water which they were able to use to their advantage.
I believe that a big part of why humans choose to settle in certain geographic locations is due to the ability to survive. The Hans peoples settled near oases because the water and fertile soil enabled them to eat and drink (Tignor et al., 2018). Similarly, Athenian warriors were able to call upon their skills due to the environment that they were used to in order to survive a war with the Persians (Tignor et al., 2018). It all comes down to survival. We value and prioritize our ability to live and prosper; I believe that the environment and geography have a lot to do with that.
A big lesson comes from the impact that humans have on the planet. Currently, there is a lot of talk about how humans treat our planet and the negative results that come from using excessive amounts of resources. Ironically, this has been going on since the beginning of the Common Era (CE). One example is the Han Empire and its massive deforestation campaigns to make room for farming (Tignor et al., 2018). I quote, “As the Han peoples moved southward and later westward, filling up empty spaces and driving elephants, rhinoceroses, and other animals into extinction, the farming communities cleared immense tracts of land of shrubs, and forests to prepare for farming” (Tignor et al., 2018, p. 252). Sadly, animals are still being driven into extinction due to deforestation, hundreds of thousands of years later. This is the lesson that I want current humans to know; we almost always have a negative impact on the environment, but we should now be using our current technology to find a solution for this.
As I said earlier, I have lived in Duluth since September of 2015. The most striking geographical attribute that Duluth has is Lake Superior, one of the biggest bodies of freshwater in the world. We most definitely use the lake for our benefit, just as the Greeks did. And like the Han people, we settled in the area because of the lake and the nutrients it provides us with. In contrast, we are not using the lake as our only source of food or to win wars as the Greeks and Hans did.
In conclusion, studying geography and how civilizations have used its attributes has been interesting for me. It was challenging to look at history from an environmental standpoint. I felt that I was having to read the textbook differently. I was so much more focused on the geography and studying maps rather than on the content. It was very surprising to find that section on deforestation and pollution so long ago in our history. I hope our future holds an improvement on environmental impact. Geography, its arrangement, and the environment are invaluable to the human race and should be held highly moving forward.
Geography. 2019. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved April 19, 2019, from https://merriam-
Tignor, R., Adelman, J., Brown, P., Elman, B., Liu, X., Pittman, H., Shaw, B. (2018). Worlds
Together, Worlds Apart (Fifth Edition). New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
From Professor Liang’s Spring 2019 World History I [Online] class, Kasey is a Nursing student.
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9 responses to “World History and the Meaning of Being Human – Physical and Geographical Features and Impact on the Environment – by Kasey Kalthoff. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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I really enjoyed your take on the environmental aspect of these two civilizations. When reading about the Hans in our textbook, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, I never really focused on how the Hans impacted the environment. But, as I look back on the chapter, one quote stands out to me. Tignor writes, “Like many empires, the Han’s expansion was based on an expanded agriculture and brisk trade, but expansion came at a major environmental price: deforestation, flooding, and the destruction of the habitats of many plants and animals (Tignor, 252). Do you think the Hans had any idea of the true environmental impact of what they were doing? Do you think that the cost of the environmental impact was worth it considering the positive effects that it had for the development of humanity?
You did a great job looking at the environmental sides to geography from our textbook. The Hans and Greeks adapted well to their land. I think that they settled there because of the resources the land and water provided. I think that was the same reason why people settled in Duluth. Recently Harvard claimed that Duluth will be the ideal location for people to settle from global warming in the next few decades. The fresh body of water and cold climate is perfect for our changing world.
Great job with this post, I really enjoyed reading it. I completely understand with where you are coming from. I too, agree with almost everything you have mentioned to us. Ability to survive, is also what I believe is why people choose to settle in certain area’s One example from the text that I always think about is the Vedic people and how they constantly move area’s to give them a better chance to survive and learn new ways to enhance there survival. With Duluth being right on the lake, we use the resources and really use that big lake to give us a competitive advantage on other area’s. The roman and Greeks also did the exact same thing, because people started to realized its easier to survive when you live by a body of water. It also gives you that competitive advantage over other places. I totally agree with what you said about the endangerment of animals and how we don’t always realize the negative results of not being environmentally clean. A big thing now a days is the use of straws. Lots of companies have cut back on using plastic straws and I believe we need to keep making steps like these to give animals a better chance of survival.
I really enjoyed reading your post. It is so relevant to today’s modern world. I think it is interesting how humans are programed for survival. However, I feel that sometimes humans forget that our survival is dependent on the survival of Earth. In “Worlds Together Worlds Apart,” Tignor et al. continues and states, “Both the Han and the Roman Empires had significant, if unintended, impacts on the environment” (2018, p. 252). I believe people don’t purposefully intend to harm our environment, such as the Han and Roman Empires. Perhaps during this era people were unaware of the negative environmental impacts on the environment, but our modern day world fully understands. Today, we continue the destruction of our planet Earth but fully know the lasting impacts. I think mankind is always focused on current survival and we aren’t always focused on long term sustainability.
My initial response when reading your article was remembering back in 2012 when Duluth itself flooded. It was so bad that, if I remember correctly, even Target had something like a foot of water and the surrounding roads up on the hill were definitely not drive-able, man holes were erupting downtown, the lake walk was decimated, and people were even kayaking/canoeing/boating around the streets. I can’t imagine what the environment of Duluth would’ve looked like without the immense amount of trees on the hill- the mudslides would’ve been one-hundred times more devastating, I’m sure. With Duluth’s growing population and tourism, (especially now after that New York Times article Natalie commented on above, probably) I have seen various hotels/inns and apartment complexes popping up, and unfortunately the deforestation that precedes this. Tignor’s “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” states the effects of this clearly: “… but expansion came at a major environmental price: deforestation, flooding, and the destruction of habitats of many plants and animals” (p. 252). I sincerely hope, not only for the sake of animal habitat and clean air, that we remember how important Duluth’s woods are should we ever flood so severely again, and look back in history to see the full effects of deforestation. .
Thank you for sharing your post. It is so interesting that humans were able to adapt and change to the new environments. We discussed a lot about this throughout our class. Tignor et al. (2018) discussed a lot about the Han and the Roman Empires. They had a significant impact on the environment (p. 251). We continue to see deforestation issues in our world today as well! Nice post.
This is an extremely interesting article to read especially in todays society, with how immigration is seen as such a negative thing. When it comes down to it humans will always settle in the environment of which they see themselves thriving to the fullest extent. This can be seen within the Greek society as well as the Hans. This is something that is innate within all human beings, which is why I find it so interesting that in the eyes of the government immigration is always seen as something that needs reduction or at times even elimination. How can we just simply tell humans to go against their better judgement and stay in unfavorable environments? In my opinion it is quite inhumane. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and sparking many thoughts within my mind.
Such a powerful and interesting article. One important idea I gravitated towards was the notion that “being surrounded by water had its advantages in the form of power. It is interesting how humans and civilization saw as a form of power or the type of resources that can help them gain power. For instance, water, whereas some cultures saw it as sacred other, viewed it as a means of navigation to explore different land looking for various natural resources. This makes me think of oak trees, there is a city in Northern Ireland called Derry and this derives from a Gaelic word ‘Doire’ meaning oak. Historically Derry was full of Oak trees and the people adored the place for its trees, however, a different group who moved to the area saw it differently. They viewed it as a source that can increase their power. By cutting down these trees, they were able to make long-lasting ships that will sail to distant lands, expanding its territories or protecting its borders. So what was once nature, adored by its beauty became good to another. Which brings me to another point you make, how we the impacts we are experiencing due to the exploitation of the land. So historical and modern actions that benefited some people are coming back to affect people. Thank you for such a thought-provoking article.