Monday, June 9, 2014

The Columbian Exchange - appreciating impacts

In a previous post I shared the video "America Before Columbus" which was based on Charles C. Mann's 2005 non-fiction "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" I did it because I believe too many folks are unfamiliar with where we come from and all we have changed and destroyed on this planet we depend on.  

In this post I share a talk Charles Mann gave about his followup book "1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created" I've included some time-marked notes for easy reference.

To me it seems a tragedy that Republican/Libertarian types actually believe nothing significant has changed and that we can blithely go on another few centuries following the same old habits.  Unfortunately that's pure fantasy based on willful ignoring evidence from every corner of the world.

It would be hoped that reflecting on how radically we have altered our life sustaining planet these past 500 years would give some pause about the sanity of continuing to believe the world was there only to be plundered for our comfort.

Thus it seems worth sharing this exploration of the Columbian Exchange and what that meant for the world. 

Charles C. Mann: 1492 Before and After

Published on Nov 5, 2012
No name seems more inextricably linked to the grand hemispheric experiment of "America" than Christopher Columbus. Seen alternately as explorer and conqueror, hero and villain, Columbus endures as an essential character in America's national story: his "discovery" of America in 1492 changed the course of history. 

Who better to interpret this undeniable influence than author Charles C. Mann? A correspondent for The Atlantic, Science, and Wired, Mann authored 1491, an award-winning study of the pre-Columbian Americas, and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Both of these books take a riveting look at the earliest days of globalization, introducing a new generation to the conundrum of the "New World." 

Mann shares an expansive and compelling vision of the "ecological convulsion" of European trade practices that continues to shape our world. 

0:15  Mann starts at "the beginning" {traditional understanding of the past}
2:30  The basics when Mann when to school
3:00  Today's research
3:40  Tenochtitlan, Aztec capital, 1520 A.D. pop. est. 220,000
Most American Indians lived in cities - 40/80 million est. continent wide total
4:45  Outside St. Louis -  Cahokia, 1250 A.D. 
Genuine urban conglomerations
5:35  Chan Chan, 859-1470 A.D.
6:35  Nations throughout the Americas
8:00  The Columbian Exchange - {the most biologically revolutionary moment since the Dinosaurs died out.}
8:55  Medieval living conditions, 
Old World - co-habitations of humans and farm animals with humans
New World - rare domesticated animals - no animals within dwellings
11:00 The Microorganism Exchange and cascading results
11:30  Between 2/3s and 90s of original inhabitants of the Americas 
died out between1493-1650
12:30  Forest cover and grasslands, fire managed landscape, open forests <1492 span="">
14:05  East Coast side by side 'Land Cover Maps' 1493 and 1650
"(1650) What you are looking at is not a wilderness, it's a cemetery."
15:00  Cascading impacts ...
depopulation; massive forest regrowth; large quantity of CO2 gets sucked out of the atmosphere, becoming a driver of the Little Ice Age

[evidence - Charcoal concentration, four lakes in Mexico and Central America]

16:00  Homogenization of ecosystems
16:40  Potosi, Bolivia - biggest silver strike in history 1545 - {cascading consequence to world trade}
17:00  Global trade consequence of Europe's new found riches
19:00  Impact of the potato on Europe, from Ireland to Ukraine
20:00  Potato suitability map
21:00  impact on famine and population
21:45  "Potato is the fuel that feeds European empire."
22:15  Agricultural Reform, discovery of Nitrogen - then guano,
Chincha Islands 1862-1865
23:00  Chinese slaves, exchanged for Silver, mine the guano, to ship to Europe for fertilizer for farms
23:25  Guano carried Phytophthora infestans... potato blight >1845 and it's cascading consequences
25:10  China, no lakes, dry country, only two large rivers, not much flat land
25:45  "The crop that everyone wants to eat has to be grown in swimming pools" (rice)  The empire's perennial challenge: "with no water, little flat land how do we grow rice."
26:25  1600, 2 productive dry land crops introduced to China - corn, sweet potato
27:10  Population growth in Europe and China
27:30  Cultivation, Yellow river, erosion... and deposition, 
Huang He delta, Shandong province, since 1850, 3,000 kilometers land added
by the land loosened by cultivating these dry land crops.
29:30  Chinese meteorological records, 1848 flood map, China's century of extreme weather, devastating the empire, cascading consequences.
31:50  Another "gift" sent to the Americas: Malaria
34:20  Considering slave societies and forced migration numbers and by malaria driving the slave trade
37:00  Humans also being "homogenized"
38:30  Chart of migration, sea crossing - cumulative to 1820
"Slave Voyages" David Eltis, Emory University
The demographics of this homogenization was driven by slave trade - with Europeans playing a peripheral role.
Europeans didn't become a demographically dominate presence on the continent until the 1900s.

39:30 Q/A

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