The meaning of Ecological History pangea

The depopulation & repopulating of the Americas

 as a consequence of

 European hegemony from 1492 -1550.

Themes | Thesis | Model | Summary | Outline | Lesson

Oral presentation of Crosby selections
your selections & questions, in light of Crosby, pp. 180-200.

“Wild oscillations...commonly follow upon contact between previously isolated ecosystems....”


“such epidemics transfigured the history of humanity in the Americas, oscillations similar in magnitude were sweeping other species.”


“Europe entered Africa, and the ecological disruptions were severe.”


“Brining previously isolated ecosystems together is much like flicking a cigarette lighter near open containers of gasoline. Sometime nothing will happen. Some of the time the fumes will ignite and blow your head off.”

p. 198.


“Put as simply as possible, the problem is this: we can shake loose from our home planet, but we most assuredly cannot leave our DNA behind us.”

p. 200.

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Model of how conditions may change
creating dynamic stasis:

loss of territory
rise in population


decline in population
gain in territory
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“We have crossed the oceans and both benefited and suffered the consequences.”

p. 191.


 “Every ecosystem is in danger of being smothered by the reproductive excesses of its members, but is usually saved from this fate by the appetites of its members--that is, the participating organisms obligingly eat up each other's excessive offspring.”

p. 192.

Time is a significant, and not well understood factor, because the concept is imprecise.


“The results are perhaps the most awesome example of the influence of technology of all time.”

p. 195.


The last two million years of geologic changes.

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Ecology defined
Time and space defined


Adaptiveness defined as a product of tool use and technology:
Technology related to naval exchanges and naval intrusions of one ecosystem on another:

Age of Exploration was the product of three traditions in Eurasia

The Crosby Thesis: On the Columbian Exchange

Importance of virgin soil epidemics in the outcome of the exchange:
Impacts of the European disturbance of the Americas and the West Indies:

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detailed outline

means paragraphs
related text selections



Implacably hostile environs
humans themselves
and the irrepressible organisms they will carry with them.


Professions view the world very differently:

Engineers   Biologists

Thus, the predictions made by each differ dramatically because they are constrained by vastly distinct variables.


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Ecology defined

The internal adjustments creatures make to external conditions; social ecology focuses on group or species behavior while the individual's reactions to the surrounding conditions is the focus of autecology.

Surrounding conditions are defined by two tandem sets of interactions:

interactions one two
  non-living living systems
name Habitat Biocoenose
description field situation biotic community
conditions inorganic, abiotic organic, biotic
meaning never alive living or once living
examples water, wind, sun, slope, depth detritus, humus, vegetation, animals, fungus


What will happen to life forms in the hermetic hermitages of space?

Kindergarten ecology

“The depend largely on one another even for death, which is necessary for the continued health of the system.”


“...reproduce many times more than is needed to simply replace the parents numerically.”


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“A matter of SHIFTING BALANCES among its participants"

homeostasis or dynamic stasis

stasis is defined as a state, status or condition in which some factors may change but these factors fluctuate around a mean; the mean is a set of average circumstances that alter within a set range of changes that people, organisms and vegetation adjust to over short and longer periods of time.

In the West Indies, the Arawakan speaking peoples were a wave of migrants from the Amazon basin and Guiana plateau who altered a preexisting condition of the Ciboney peoples who preceded them into the Greater and Lesser Antilles.

Time and space are dimensions.

Dimensions: the degree to which something extends or is measured.

X is the magnitude or extension of length.

Y is the vertical extension

Z is distance perpendicular to the length.

area means the extent of any two, 2 dimensions.

volume means the extent of any three dimensions

What if "time" is yet another magnitude, or dimension of space?

Etymology of dimension.

Time and space defined

“An individual organism does not exist in space and time in general, but in a specific space and a specific time.”

Time is the duration that elapses, or the frequency between repeated events.

short vs long terms contrasted

The time frame for organisms is different between:

short-run (individuals) {a life time}
compared to

long-run (species) {several generations}

4 ¶
Henry 8th of England as a time traveler


“history is full of examples. We have, you see, done all of this launching into space before.”



Adaptiveness is defined as a product of complex tool use and technology:

Humanity taught itself to live in environments for which it was not and still is not genetically adapted -- first by learning how to make tools....”


Adapt meant, and still refers to the act of becoming accustomed to, acclimated to, or "going native" in a new situation in which a person, group, or their allied plants and animals must make a living.

cultural evolution and adaptation of tools and human migration

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Technology related to naval exchanges and naval intrusions of one ecosystem on another:

“Three great naval traditions:”
Arabs 1000-1500
Chinese 1410-1433
Europeans 1450-1850

“Chinese navigation right up to the sixteenth century was at least as good as European.”
Wider sleeker hulls
bamboo sails
1000s of ships
sailed to Japan, Indonesia, India and East Africa by 1433

Europeans lagged behind, but played catch-up

Age of Exploration defined as the coming together of three naval traditions in 1400s

“Age of Exploration” 1400-1900


1291 Genoese Vivaldi brothers circumnavigation, disappeared rounding Africa
1519-1522 Magellan's circumnavigation of the planet

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The Crosby Thesis:

The events associated with the Columbian Exchange of biota, diseases, people, nutrition, and domestic animals and plants may be the most revolutionary, if not formative experience in recent (modern) history.

Comparable only to:

In modern history it represents the dawn of the Homogecene Period (recent geology)
  1. characterized by a blending of once separate species
  2. spread of invasive, nonnative (or exotic) species
  3. the loss of endemic species (restricted to certain locales)
  4. the decline of biological diversity:
      1. loss of species richness
      2. genetic differences declined

“The ecological facet of this reunification was by far its most spectacular.
Guanches perished 1400-1490 on the Canary Islands

“These happenings were omens what was to follow.”


Importance of virgin soil epidemics in the outcome of the exchange:

virgin, is a politically loaded term.

It refers to an unspoiled condition, cherished more in Latin and Anglo societies when referring to young women, than when referring to young men. Thus its use with respect to land and resources is a disturbing, or less than descriptive term.

What is needed is an accurate descriptive phrase for a previously isolated agrarian condition where the introduction of foreign, invasive elements disrupts a preexisting balance, or indigenous equilibrium among, fungus, plants, bacteria and animals.

“While such epidemics transfigured the history of humanity...” “virgin soil epidemics”


“SImilar events mark the histories of Australia and New Zealand.”

“Such biological spectaculars are not restricted to humans...”


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Impacts of the European disturbance of the Americas and the West Indies:

“Europe entered the Americas and the ecological disruptions were severe.”


“interstellar space travel...”
“viral DNA can lurk unmanifested in the nuclei of cells.”


Optimists overlook the biology and the isolation bred endemism.

Endemic means confined to, and thus found only in one place, such as species unique to Jamaica, or Cuba, found only on those islands.



Engineering is not enough to understand the outcome of technology driven changes in ecological balances, instead biology is an essential ingredient in history.

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