THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT & HUMAN CIVILIZATION
IN WORLD HISTORY
The natural environment is all around us. It is the air we breathe, the water we drink, the
food we eat, the resources we mine, the energy we harness, and the animals we keep. It is inside
us, too; it is the bacteria in our gut. In sources as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh, people have
understood the struggle between human civilization and the natural environment as the one of the
most important of their lives. For millennia, the natural environment shaped and set limits to the
growth and integration of human populations. Advances in technology in the last few hundred
years have enabled human civilization to overcome many of these limits and to shape their natural
environment in turn. Has world history seen the triumph of human civilization over the natural
environment? Or will the natural environment have the last laugh when we finally eat and pollute
ourselves out of a home? These questions are too big and too speculative to take on directly in
your paper, but they can and should inspire your thinking.
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