WGE cological Imperialism by dN5O7g


									Ecological Imperialism
       Ecological Imperialism
• This is the story of how a few Europeans…

 C. Columbus              Hernan Cortes
      Ecological Imperialism
• …with some nifty but basically cheap
      Ecological Imperialism
• …were able to conquer a powerful empire
  of 10-12 million people in a few years.
       Ecological Imperialism
• It is the story of diseases like smallpox that
  killed more Indians than any Spanish gun…
       Ecological Imperialism
• …and it is the story of plants…
      Ecological Imperialism
• …and animals that transformed the
  American ecosystem and undermined
  Indian society and resistance.
I. The Role of Geography

         Plate tectonics
         Continental drift (massive boats on a
         slow moving sea) + earthquakes +
         volcanoes (“Ring of Fire”)
Sea Turtle Migration
Divergent Evolution + Climate Zones
World Biomes
       Weather is not Climate
• Cold winters do not disprove climate
  change (actually predicted by model)
• World climate regions: tropical wet, tropical
  wet and dry, semiarid, desert (hot/cold; rain
  shadow), Mediterranean, marine west coast
  (CA + Europe), humid subtropical (east
  coasts), humid continental, subarctic, tundra
  (permafrost), ice cap, highlands (Andes)
A Giant Heat Pump
30-12,000 BC, Ice Age
Global Warming in reverse
          A. Invaders from Mars
• When the “Indians” arrived in
  the Americas they might as
  well have been from Mars:
  biologically the two worlds
  had been separated for
  millions of years no
  competition, stupid prey
  early success and pop. Growth
   – Irony
B. The Environment Strikes Back
• Global warming (hot, starving mammoths)
• + Hungry and effective hunters (high-tech
• = Pleistocene overkill (extinction of almost
  all megafauna)
 transition to agriculture (less healthy
  Indians, complex societies + class divisions;
  developed + spread by women) + no
  domestication of animals (wait for it)
              C. Adaptation
• Indians adapt to diff. climate zones (diversity
  between groups)
• Trade between groups individuals
  specialized on talents (diversity within
     D. Examples of Diversity
1. Mississippian societies: trade societies
  built around rivers; dominate Wisconsin to
  – Urban centers
  – Mound builders
  – Tied to Great Lakes (Algonquian + Iroquois;
Cahokia (30,000 in 1200 AD)
Animal Mounds
• Cahokia collapses from over-farming,
  drought, competition from neighbors
  disperse to plains and prairie villages
  – Replaced by Coosa metropole (GA)
  – Rise + fall of metropolis-based societies:
               2. Anasazi
• Ancestors of Hopi and Zuni in Southwest
• Some of most populated areas in the world
  at their height: Chaco Canyon and
  Bandalier Mountain
Chaco Canyon
Bandelier Mountain
          Anasazi: Collapse
• Chaco Canyon collapsed in part because of
  a sustained drought inadequate food
  surplus unable to mobilize labor,
  religious ceremonies, trade dispersion to
  smaller villages nearer water (Pueblos)
 II. Europeans: How did they do it?
A. The Traditional Explanations:
  – 1. Superior technology:
     • Steel weapons (swords and armor)
     • Guns (flintlock muskets, cannons)
  – 2. Written language
     • Superior communication abilities
  – 3. Conquest Religion
     • Catholicism motivated the conquistadores to
       conquer in the name of God
   Problems with the Traditional
• Spanish armor was as much an obstacle as an aid
  in the dense forests and heat of Mexico; Aztec
  swords could decapitate a horse
• Spanish guns were inaccurate and often misfired
  (no rifling)
• Cannons were dramatic but ineffective against an
  enemy that did not fight in tight formations
• The Aztecs had very effective communication
  systems developed over hundreds of years of
• Many of the conquistadores were not particularly
  religious men and were in it for the gold, not God
B. The Socio-Cultural Explanation
             1. Aztec Confusion
Cortes and his men seemed to fulfill the Aztec
   prophecy of the return of Quetzalcoatl,
   the Aztec feathered serpent god
• Cortes used this misperception to his
  advantage. The Aztec emperor,
  Montezuma, upon hearing that
  Quetzalcoatl had returned, actually invited
  Cortes into the capital city of
             2. Divide and Conquer
• Perhaps more importantly,
  Cortes used the Quetzalcoatl
  myth to recruit Indians to help
  the Spanish.
• The Aztec empire, like all other
  empires, was built by
  conquering other peoples. The
  Aztecs demanded tribute from
  these conquered peoples,
  sometime in form of human
• Just as the Algonquians in the
  Great Lakes region eventually
  joined with the French for
  protection against the Iroquois
  (who then sided w/the English),
  thousands of conquered Indians
  joined Cortes in attacking the
• Among those who joined Cortes
  was a woman named Malinche
  who served as guide and translator
  for Cortes.
   – Mayan princess, enslaved by Aztecs
   – Bears Cortes’ children; believes saving
     Indians from Hell + disease via
  C. Biological Warfare: Invaders
         from Mars Redux
Unlike peoples in the Old World, Native
 Americans did not domesticate very many
 animals (Pleistocene overkill); in particular
 they did not have pigs or chickens.
• Big germ killers—influenza, tuberculosis,
  measles, smallpox—originally animal
  diseases that mutated and got picked up by
  humans who lived close to their food
  – Swine flu, HIV, SARS
• Europeans eventually got immunity (after
  Black Death); Indians did not have the
  time virgin soil epidemic
• 1580, Thomas Hariot, Roanoke: “[The Indians]
  began to die very fast, and many in [a] short
  space; in some townes about twentie, in some
  fourtie, in some sixtie, & in one sixe score, which
  in trueth was very manie in respect to their
  numbers....The disease also was so strange that
  they neither knew what it was, nor how to cure it;
  the like by report of the oldest men in the countrey
  never happened before, time out of mind.”
• 1663, New England colonist: "it pleased God to
  visite these Indeans with a great sickness, and such
  a mortalitie that, of 1000, above 900 and a halfe of
  them dyed, and many of them did rott above
  ground for want of buriall."
                  Impacts of disease:
1. Aztec leaders overwhelmed by 1) confusion of
    Quetzalcoatl myth, 2) “treason” of tributaries,
    and 3) massive deaths from disease
2. War on the Beaver: historian Calvin Martin
    argues near-extinction beaver Great Lakes result
    rejection of taboos as inexplicable disease,
    conversion, and loss of elders undermined
    Micmac society kill beavers as enemy
    bringing on devastation
3. Expansion of Indian wars: some tribes largely
    unaffected prey on weaker need for new
    alliances (e.g. Iroquois + Algonquians or
    Powhaten (Virginia) or Squanto (Mass.))
Important Note about Biological
Because this devastation was unintentional
 (they wanted slaves and converts), the term
 genocide does not technically apply, even
 though the results were essentially the
Upwards of 90+% of all Native Americans
 pre-1492 killed by Europeans (upwards of
 tens of millions of people)
    III. Ecological Imperialism
Q: How did a small number of Spaniards hold
   on to their conquest?
A: With a little help from their friends
               A. Weeds
Any plant that spreads rapidly and out-
 competes others on disturbed soil.
Native plant life had no resistance to the
 plants—especially weeds—that the
 Europeans introduced to the New World.
Example: Kentucky bluegrass, introduced by
 English around 1685 now covers entire
What’s the problem with weeds?
  Weeds replace native plants less
    food for native animals (toxins)
    less food for Indians starvation
    and further Indian population
    decline (vicious cycle)
  (20th Century San Joaquin Valley: introduced
      plants 63% of grasslands, 66% of woodland,
      54% of chaparral)
              B. Animals
Europeans brought barnyard animals with
   them to the New World: horses, sheep,
   goats, domesticated dogs, chickens, cows,
   pigs, and worms
Europeans let animals forage free for food
   compete w/native animals (Indians
   severely punished for harming) + tear up
   the soil more weeds (see above vicious
          C. Shock Troops
• Animals, weeds, and disease traveled ahead
  of Europeans clearing the way: Europeans
  often discovered empty lands because
  Indians had died/moved away
• Europeans (esp. English) used emptiness to
  justify further conquest: Indians didn’t use
  the land, so why should they have it?
  – False assumption about the “wilderness”
        D. Keystone Species
• Indians manipulated environment (fire) in
  ways necessary for native eco-system to
  thrive Americas more a garden than
• Weakening of Indians further disruption
  of eco-system vicious cycle
• Europeans were able to conquer the New World
  and maintain control over it in large part because
  of certain environmental advantages—disease
  immunity, opportunistic plants and animals—that
  increased the limited cultural and technological
  advantages that the Europeans brought with them.
• Neo-Europe
   – Proof: Africa
• Columbian Exchange

To top