The History of Burning Behavior – Part 2


The Second Phase of burning behavior or fire usage was literally an amazing passage from a period of unintended discovery to purposeful discovery. Think about it. Above and beyond keeping you warm, producing light at night and cooking, fire, at first glance appears to have no other useful purposes! I know from a modern humans viewpoint that is a ludicrous statement, but in the eyes of early humans that was miracle enough. The idea that fire could do WORK for them surely did not immediately occur to them.



It is not hard to image that someone tossed a used clay dish in the fire thinking to burn it up or at least to sanitize the campsite. It is not hard to imagine the amazement of whomever retrieved that dish that not only was it intact but it was much harder, and somewhat water proof. So modern pottery was born. It is not hard to imagine that someone noticed after many days of burning fires in a cave campsite that soot (pollution) was building up on the wall and that if you ran your finger through it your finger would turn black. More intriguing though was the fact that whatever you touched also turned black. This discovery provided the basis for both modern art and modern writing. But it also showed that there many things that a human can do with fire. By at least 7,000 years ago the last Human competitor, Neanderthal, had gone extinct, and the other Hominids had evolved into various species of monkeys to join us in the primate family. Early Humans could do most of the things that we do today. They were capable of  sailing flawlessly over the seas, building big buildings when they wanted to, forging metals, communicating over long distances, and early work in china had begun on explosives. They could leisure travel, rapidly travel on the ground and they had advanced forms of government.



But wait you say. OK, here is where the pitch for lifestyle change comes in? NOPE don’t want to change your lifestyle. Or, aren’t you idealizing these folks? Nope just using broad general language to describe what the Persians, the Chinese, The Egyptians and the Greeks, the Russians, the Aztecs, and the British were capable of up until about 400 years ago. Would I like the world to go back to being “like then”? Absolutely not, though I confess that I would love to go back for a day or two just to see them in all their glory. But they did not have 2 things I absolutely must have, the scientific method, and steel. I could never live in a world that could only advance knowledge through observation and comparison. That’s way too frustrating and most of the governments were religious in nature. Who needs that?



And let me quickly add this is no Ph.D. thesis or even a term paper that a high school teacher would accept. No footnotes, no sources sited, no Authority added, and plagiarism abounds but the fact of the matter is that all of the civilizations up to roughly the European Renaissance in the 16-1700’s by most western calendars were low burn or no burn societies. Plus there were not a lot of people around doing the burning. World population estimates for 1,000 A.D. are 275 million people with probably about 15 million people in America. 500 years later there were only 200,000 million more people at 450 million. By the heart of the era that I am talking about there are estimates that in 1650 there were only 500 million souls. That would be the current combined population of the U.S. and Canada. And had birth rates stayed the same in 1800 there would have been 550 million people, in 1950 there would have been 600 million people, and in 2100 there would have been 650 million people. That is nearly 600 million less people than exist in China right now.



So what happened? The answer is simple from 1700 we burned stuff up to support more people. And frankly with out all that burning there would not be 2/3 rds of the people that are alive today. But in addition to that, in the process, we have broken down a lot of the earth’s defense mechanisms as we have grown and multiplied. More on that in the next blog.


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