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243 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

History is fact littered with civilisations engaged in unsustainable practices. Some of the worst offenders have long since collapsed, but the ecological damage they caused or contributed to often ...
Semaphore's user avatar
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98 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

It is difficult to be completely sure because of the lack of written records, but some claim that the collapse at Easter Island was rather brutal. But it seems clear that: By that time [of the ...
SJuan76's user avatar
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86 votes
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Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

Most ancient agricultural practices deplete soil to some degree, but are just fine when population does not exceed certain limits. There are some examples of ancient cultures exhausting natural ...
Danila Smirnov's user avatar
62 votes
Accepted

How did Italy and Germany get rubber in WWII?

Short answer For most of the war, the main supply of rubber for Germany and Italy was synthetic rubber. They were able to obtain some natural rubber from Japanese controlled Southeast Asia via the ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
54 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

For the list, read Collapse by Jared Diamond. The short answer is that yes, premodern cultures definitely experienced man-made environmental disasters. Perhaps the number one cause of these was ...
Ne Mo's user avatar
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44 votes
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Has there ever been anything like the oil boom we see today?

SHORT ANSWERS In terms of impact, the influx of precious metals into Spain (and then to the rest of Europe) from South America from the late 15th to the 16th century is hard to match. For a while, ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
34 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

When Iceland was first settled at the end of the ninth century, much of the land on or near the coast was covered in birch woodlands. “The people that came here were Iron Age culture,” Dr. [...
sam's user avatar
  • 441
30 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

Already in prehistorical times, it seems that the arrival of Human was the cause of major changes in ecosystems. Even before the rise of agriculture, the use of fire is supposed to have had a huge ...
Evargalo's user avatar
  • 5,873
29 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

The first immigrants in Northern America killing all the horses and other large fauna. Shame, it could all have turned out entirely differently if they hadn't. Supporting evidence: archaeologists ...
RedSonja's user avatar
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25 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

There is a bunch of information available about deforestation problems in Japan. See this article for an introduction: Japan - How Japan Saved its Forests: The Birth of Silviculture and Community ...
Astor Florida's user avatar
25 votes
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In the first half of 20th century, how was gold inspected for authenticity?

As Denis observed in the comments above, for many countries, gold would have been traded through securities in the first half of the twentieth century. In those cases the physical transfer of the gold ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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25 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

The Loess Plateau was flat and densely wooded as recent as less than 2000 years ago. The massive deforestation and the resulting soil erosion was entirely caused by human activities. Nowadays the ...
George Chen's user avatar
25 votes

Has there ever been anything like the oil boom we see today?

Sugar cane in the Caribbean comes to mind. The islands were sporting single purpose economies for all practical intents, much like a number of OPEC countries do. It was extremely valuable, too. In ...
Denis de Bernardy's user avatar
21 votes
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When and how did the West lose its dependency on the USSR for titanium?

In the 1950s and 1960s titanium was a very exotic metal which few had the know how to make or use at the quantities and qualities required for a high tech military vehicle. Titanium is a notoriously ...
Schwern's user avatar
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21 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

It's arguable whether it's "unsustainable" (any extraction of non-renewable resources is), but the common ancient mining technique of hushing resulted in near-complete destruction of landscapes, or at ...
llama's user avatar
  • 311
19 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

A lot of good answers- nearby me there is an example of a Native American culture whose unsustainability probably contributed to their collapse. The Cahokia Indians built a city near modern day St. ...
David's user avatar
  • 397
19 votes

Why did the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal take a much longer route to the Des Plaines River?

The answer is there in the name: Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Notice "Sanitary" comes first -- the primary purpose of the canal was sanitation, and shipping was only secondary. As Chicago ...
Spencer's user avatar
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16 votes
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At the start of Barbarossa, what was the state of Germany's oil supply?

Some of this research gets much easier if you can search in German. ;-) All translations are my own. The German WP article on synthesized coal gives the following numbers on Germany's fuel supply: ...
DevSolar's user avatar
  • 14k
16 votes

Has there ever been anything like the oil boom we see today?

I would posit that such booms and rushes are not the exception but the norm, and there is more to be learned from the study of them than from mere war and politics. The effects of the latter are ...
pokep's user avatar
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15 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

Yes, absolutely. It's a bit hard to proof for real pre-historic influence, but humanity as such has definitely changed things on the planet even before the industrial time. Extinct species Humanity ...
Oleg Lobachev's user avatar
15 votes

How many people worked to build one Liberty ship?

Looking at one specific ship yard, the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company: Nine shipways were constructed, producing 126 Liberty's and 117 larger ships between Dec. 6, 1941 and the end of the war. ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
14 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

I'd recommend 1491 by Charles Mann for anyone interested in this topic. Humans have extensively engineered their environments even before adopting agriculture. East Coast North American tribes ...
user27942's user avatar
  • 141
14 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

How Aboriginal burning changed Australia’s climate For thousands of years, Aboriginal Australians burned forests to promote grasslands for hunting and other purposes. Recent research suggests that ...
RonJohn's user avatar
  • 490
13 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

According to Russian scientist Sergey Zimov, the disappearance of grasslands in Siberia was not due to Climate Change, but due to overhunting in prehistoric times. The theory is that humans killed ...
gerrit's user avatar
  • 3,754
11 votes

Circa 1940, what was the oil production of each nation?

Here is a link with annual oil production in metric tons (Mt), 1936-1948. The US is by far and away the world's largest oil producer (over 180 million MT in 1940), followed by the Venezuela and the ...
Tom Au's user avatar
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11 votes
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What was the significance of ball bearing factories during the World Wars and in the economy at the time in general??

It was a vital item for just about anything mechanical. All engines and most weapons/weapon system need ball bearings. You need ball bearings to rotate a turret, no matter if this is an aircraft ...
Jos's user avatar
  • 22k
10 votes
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What was the first fossil fuel pipeline in the Soviet Union?

Strictly speaking, first fossil fuel pipeline in USSR territory would be the the Balakhanu-Black City pipeline, built in 1878 by Vladimir Shukhov, renowned for his innovations in oil industry and in ...
Danila Smirnov's user avatar
9 votes

How many trucks did Russia and Germany have at the start of Barbarossa?

To answer your side questions about paucity of information about Soviet industry: having established a superb intelligence network in the West, USSR was understandably paranoid about the symmetric ...
sds's user avatar
  • 27k
8 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

No, of course not. The ancients were completely in touch with their surroundings, living lightly upon the land, and never, ever, EVER did ANYTHING which would negatively impact their Druidic karma. ...
Bob Jarvis - Слава Україні's user avatar
8 votes

How many hours did Andrew Carnegie's steel workers work per week?

It is unlikely to be possible to offer an "average" for the number of hours worked per week by Andrew Carnegie's steel workers (or anyone else's steel workers, for that matter). The primary difficulty ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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