Monday, August 15, 2022

A brief history of humanity

 In the year 1800, about 90% of the United States population was needed to produce enough food through farming.  In the early 1900s, it was about 35% and in the year 2000 it was 3%.  Six decades ago when I was very young, farmers were held with some regard.  These people worked the land to produce the food that we need.  Today, farmers are considered rednecks.  It is not too surprising that many early cartoons from almost a hundred years ago mostly took place on farms involving farm animals.  In the 1960s there were many popular TV shows nostalgic for a more rural time, perhaps a simpler time compared to life in the big city, such as The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry RFD, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and The Real McCoys.  By 1972 all these shows were obsolete and canceled.

The Earth has been cooling down for about 50 million years.  For at least 40 million years the atmospheric CO2 level has been in steady decline.  The two go hand in hand since the temperature affects the vapor pressure of CO2 on the surface of the ocean.  As it gets colder, the oceans absorb more CO2.  Calcifying marine organisms learned to take calcium carbonate, which is made from calcium and CO2, and turn it into shells, which later get sequestered as limestone.  This is where the CO2 has been going.

Climate change over the last 9 million years affected human evolution, forcing arboreal apes to come down from the trees and cross on foot the newly formed grasslands to find food.   We entered the Pleistocene ice age about 2.5 million years ago which continues to the present because we still have ice at the poles.  Also around 2.5 million years ago, in eastern Africa, a half-ape early human named Homo Habilis, meaning "Handy Man",  learned how to make a stone hand ax.   This remained the highest level of human technology until about 50,000 years ago.  It is thought that early humans engaged in persistence hunting, where the human ability to sweat allowed them to chase an animal in the hot sun for a couple of hours until it collapsed from heat stroke.  Then they could kill it with their stone ax and have a meal for their tribe.  However, 50,000 years ago mass glaciation in Europe caused Africa to dry up.  What was left of the human race was about 7,000 humans living on the southern coast of Africa.  For the first time, they learned how to build permanent dwellings, much better tools and weapons, and how to fish.  This was the beginning of the Upper Paeleolitch Period or the third stone age. 

For about 90,000 years we had mass glaciation across the northern hemisphere.  Due to changes in the Earth's orbit, in what are called the Malankovich Cycles, we get a warm period roughly every 100,000 years, and the last one started about 10,000 BC.  We are currently in the year 12,022 in what some people call the Human Period.  This was the beginning of the Neolithic Period or "new stone age."  It is no coincidence that all of human civilization arose during this brief warm period.  The Fertile Crescent, a region that follows the Nile River and extends over to Iraq, blossomed with grains even more so than today, and humans learned how to make use of those grains.  Roughly 12,000 years ago humans learned how to make bread.  Roughly 500 years later they learned how to make beer, and the world would be forever changed.

The Sumerian Kingdom, which started around 4100 BC in Iraq between the Tigres and Euphrates rivers, invented farming, although roughly about the same time that it got started along the Nile River.  They also invented civilization, writing, clay pottery, and money.  Although called a Kingdom, it was more like a collection of powerful city-states, which is how most power structures worked in the ancient world.  They persisted for an amazing 2,400 years until they were overthrown in 1,700 B.C. by roaming nomads called the Amorites, who built a new powerful city-state called Babylon.

The era of the Pharaohs started around 3100 BC when the northern and southern kingdoms along the Nile were united by force.  They would be conquered by Rome in 30 BC.  

The Egyptians were expert beer makers, and beer was a regular part of their diet. The pyramids were built by workers who were paid in beer.  For a day's labor, they were given a clay chip worth a gallon of beer.  The chip could be exchanged for other goods.

Rome was founded in 753 BC, and it was such a powerful city-state that it would conquer most of Europe, but it would be conquered in 476 AD by the Barbarians, which were groups of Germanic tribes.  This period is referred to as Ancient Antiquity, where Rome was the military power, but Greece was the intellectual center of the world. 

Roman militarism was brutal, often killing or enslaving the people they conquered.  Sometimes soldiers would be rewarded with land from the conquered territories because most people survived by farming.  Around 146 BC, in the Third Punic War with Carthage, a city-state of a million people in ancient Tunesia, the Romans killed 750,000 people and burned the city to the ground.

The fall of the Roam Empire lead to the dark ages that lasted 900 years until the 1400s.  The Christian religion dominated Europe and took a negative view of science.  Much of the old manuscripts by the Greek Philosophers had been lost until some of them were rediscovered and printed thanks to the invention of the printing press.  This helped lead to a more enlightened era.

During the middle ages, Italy continued to be a few powerful city-states constantly at war with each other.  The country wasn't united until 1861.

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