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|The Environmental Effects Of Exploration And Conquest
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|Autor:||Pablo Edronkin [ Jue Dic 01, 2011 2:19 pm ]|
|Asunto:||The Environmental Effects Of Exploration And Conquest|
The Roman Empire reached as far as Kuwait, and the Chinese fleets of admiral Zhao He traveled as far as Africa, several times; the Vikings, Columbus, the British, Spaniards, Portuguese and the French developed fairly big areas of influence and empires, and even the United States joined the fray; all that indeed had and still has environmental consequences.
As explorers travel and empires grow, merchandise, goods, money, people and animals begin to move in new ways: the Chinese admiral of the fifteen century returned from one of his trips to the Zanzibar region with quite uncommon presents for the Emperor, including a giraffe. Of course, tons of good were transported too, and germs, seeds and small animals of all kinds such as rodents and insects made the trip along the seafarers.
It is a well-know fact that many Indians died after Europeans reached the new world because of apparently innocuous infections, and indeed crusaders found many new venereal diseases as they plundered the Middle East in their repeated attacks on Muslim-controlled territories.
The case of the Roman coliseum is proverbial: for centuries, a very special ecosystem thrived within it after it developed out of neglect and the existence of seeds and animals that were brought from the farthest reaches of the empire to excite the ever-thirsty crowds of spectators.
After WWII, many islands of the Pacific which were occupied by the U.S. military began suffering this problem as well: indigenous species fell prey to imported ones like snakes and rats, for which they had no natural defenses or adaptations. Even the extraordinary vegetation of the Hawaii islands is rather a fake: most really indigenous species have disappeared and were replaced by plants and animals that were intentionally or unintentionally transported into the islands by humans, beginning with the Polynesians that first occupied the region centuries ago.
Is this good or bad? It depend on how we look at such processes, but there are two possible and significant dangers involved in all this: first, biodiversity is always associated with locality, meaning that isolation is what brings variety and communication and movement tends to diminish it; thus, in this era of fast, mass transportation, we can only expect to produce yet more extinction of species just by traveling round, as a collateral effect.
Secondly, what may be innocuous in one place may become a plague in another ecosystem; there are many examples of this, and the degree of disruption that such organisms may cause is very difficult to quantify.
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