Humans have been drastically changing the environment around them since before the industrial revolution. This has been known for quite some time, with many scholarly sources claiming that humans were responsible for the extinction of large parts of the mega fauna that roamed the Earth after the Ice Age. But we’ve apparently also been up to no good regarding the flora as well, as scientists claim humans burned down Madagascar forests for grazing.
Burning woods for cattle
According to a new study performed by researchers from MIT, humans have been going about changing their environment way before the Industrial Revolution. By analyzing a long lost forest in Madagascar, the team ascertained that humans arrived there some 3,000 years ago.
As they went about their business, their civilization eventually gave way to an agrarian lifestyle, which required a large number of cattle. But the area was heavily forested, so not that many cattle could survive in the tight confinements of the woods. Doing what every man would do when drunk and confronted with a situation, the humans of roughly 1,000 years ago thought it would be a good idea to burn down the forests.
And they did go through with their plan, burning down countless acres of woods in order to make room for grass to grow so that the cattle could graze. But this seems like a far-fetched idea, so could scientists be sure that this happened the way they’re insisting it did?
How could they tell?
Well, by analyzing two stalagmites in a cave in Northwestern Madagascar, the researchers were able to pinpoint the exact time and nature of the forests’ disappearance. Of course, the rest is speculation, but speculation of the scientific kind – based on accurate data and knowledge of the mentality and level of civilization of the culture in that particular area.
The slash and burn method, as it is called, was used extensively during the period, and there is clear evidence behind it. By analyzing the stalagmites in the cave, the team was able to detect a sudden and total change in the calcium carbonate from which they were composed.
Carbon isotope ratios very suddenly changes from those typical of trees and forests, to those typical of grasslands. The simultaneous lack of change in the oxygen isotopes signaled that no natural signs that could change the environment so drastically were involved.
This doesn’t really mean anything in the long term other than the fact that humans were never hesitant to drastically impact their environment in order to improve their state of living, regardless of the possible consequences.
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