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242 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
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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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
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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
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28 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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26 votes

Why was the Aeolipile not put to practical use in classical antiquity?

From the standpoint of the ancient Greeks, the aeolipile is a technological dead end. As an engine in its own right, it's useless for more than toys/temple wonders: it produces negligible torque, and ...
Mark'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

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
23 votes
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Why was the Aeolipile not put to practical use in classical antiquity?

Edit: the original question title was about Greece, which is what I've tried to answer below. Because it wasn't Steam Engine Time. It didn't coincide with an obvious need for locomotion, and the ...
Ne Mo's user avatar
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22 votes
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How was the linen weaving trade learnt in 18th century Scotland?

Weaving generally had been a fairly common occupation during the medieval period in Scotland. The skills were taught to apprentices, who may or may not have been related to the master weaver. This ...
sempaiscuba'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
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15 votes
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Was there a president that wanted to "Make America Farm Again"?

I don't know about "make America farm again" since it happened so early in American history, however Thomas Jefferson was a fan of having a primarily agrarian economy, seeing urbanization as a threat ...
Cody's user avatar
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15 votes

Why was the Aeolipile not put to practical use in classical antiquity?

This question seems to imply that the invention of steam power (in any form) is an automatic precursor to an industrial revolution. I don't believe that this is the case. The Industrial Revolution in ...
KillingTime'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
14 votes
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How did people apply for university in the 18th century?

Universities in Europe changed little during the early modern period and, in many respects, resembled the institutions of the late medieval period. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, ...
Lars Bosteen'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
  • 482
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
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13 votes
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What were "prison-bars" (some sort of "amusement" or "athletic exercise")?

A description can be found in The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland (Part 1 of A Dictionary of British Folk-lore), by Alice Bertha Gomme (1894): Barley-break, or The Last Couple in ...
justCal's user avatar
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11 votes

What percentage of the British Empire's economy was profits from the opium trade?

There is no doubt that opium and tea formed a "commercial nexus" that became an essential element of the British imperial economy. Although the British government wasn't directly involved in the opium ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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9 votes
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Were high wages the root cause of the industrial revolution?

I suspect that the podcast may be referring to published research by Robert Allen of Oxford University. In his 2006 paper Explaining The British Industrial Revolution From the Perspective of Global ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
  • 77.3k
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
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Was it widespread during the 17th and 18th Century for British country people to be evicted and replaced with more profitable agriculture?

Yes, the was a process called enclosure. It started in the 16th century in England, and picked up momentum in the 17th and 18th centuries. Prior to the enclosure times, farming had taken places in ...
Tom Au's user avatar
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8 votes
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What was the biggest shipbuilding centre in Europe during the Second Industrial Revolution?

Britain was by far the leading shipbuilder during this period. By the late 19th century, the two great centres of British shipbuilding, and by extension of the world, were the Clyde and the North East ...
Semaphore's user avatar
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8 votes

What do historians mean when they talk about "supply side" and "demand side" explanations of the industrial revolution?

For most of history, the economy was supply constrained. That is, people could manufacture goods at a slower rate than they were able to consume them. So if you could make more or better "mousetraps," ...
Tom Au's user avatar
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