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The Neolithic Revolution: Effects and Consequences of Global Warming for Modern Civilization


With the onset of fears pertaining to global warming pervasive throughout the world, it may be beneficial to explore how global warming has affected our past. In doing so, I look back to a period around 12–14,000 years ago when human existence was solely dependant on hunting animals and gathering the limited foods that were accessible to them for survival. Because this period the twilight of the Ice Age, such tasks necessitated a migratory lifestyle since cold, inclement weather forced animal migration, and thus human migrations in order to stay close to their food supply. Then an amazing thing happened—the earth’s surface warmed up. The global warming put an end to the Ice Age, making many more environments habitable due to livable weather and its effects on flourishing plants and crops. Those characteristics made it possible for the emergence of what is known as the Neolithic Revolution, which shaped civilization as we know it today.

With the present-day outlook on global warming as it is, could it be feasible that the very occurrence (global warming) that made the rise of civilization possible, also be the occurrence that leads it into future chaos and destruction? With the understanding that global warming made the Neolithic Revolution possible, in the following I will shed some light on what the Neolithic Revolution was, in addition to uncovering some of the consequences that were brought about in this evolutionary period of time. Furthermore, I will apply some of these historical occurrences to our present and future civilization with regard to global warming and evaluate the worldly consequences that may come about if our history is any indication of how our future may unfold.


What Was the Neolithic Revolution?

The Neolithic Revolution can be characterized as a slow, but the creative process that marked the beginning of civilization by way of the transformation from a nomadic hunter-gatherer to a settled, agricultural, and production-based means of living. This process began around 10,000 B.C.E. and lasted for thousands of years with each building block along the way shaping the way humans live today. It began when the Earth’s temperature made it possible for a wealth of grains, seeds, and plants to be able to grow and produce large quantities of food. As such, humans began to cultivate crops such as wheat and barley and farming began. Of similar importance, humans also acquired methods of irrigation and food storage. With it no longer necessary to chase their food, human settlements began in what are referred to as agricultural villages. The villages were comprised of a few dozen people. Settled means of living made it easier to bear more children than that of the hunter-gatherer, which resulted in a steep increase in population.

In conjunction with the agricultural development and settled living, another aspect of this period was the domestication of animals. Humans discovered that animals could provide several benefits aside from their previous traditional use. Animals began to be raised to produce meat, milk, eggs, leather, wool, and in many cases were utilized for their ability to transport and plow fields.

Creativity continued to take form in the agricultural village as technology took on a greater importance. People began crafting tools that would aid them in farming, building homes, and protection; however, it did not stop there. People began crafting tools for artwork, which they used to carve in pottery and stone. This eventually led to our first known forms of writing, records, communication and even the first calendar. Another common characteristic of the village were religious foundations based around some form of spiritual entity.

As a result of the vast developments taking part in early civilization, the villages turned into city-states. The first known city was Sumer (present-day Iraq) around 3700 B.C.E. Cities began to develop as an even more sophisticated lifestyle than that of the villages. As populations of cities grew into the thousands, trade began to flourish. An economic structure had been created and social classes began to form. Occupations such as farmers, metallurgists, artisans, craftsmen, priests, scribes, and merchants provided a key role in creating the first urban revolution. To govern these large social structures Kings came into power and developed laws for their respective territories and governments were established.

In essence, the Neolithic Revolution created a new concept of life called civilization that was defined by its diversified economies, writing/ means of communication, urbanized societies, and religious foundations. The significance for us today could arguably rival that of the Industrial Revolution of a few thousand years later. However, without the Neolithic Revolution, the Industrial Revolution almost assuredly would not have been possible.

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Consequences Derived From Global Warming in the Neolithic Age

Many would consider the previously mentioned direct and indirect developments resulting from global warming and the Neolithic Revolution to be beneficial as it relates to present-day civilization. However, it is necessary to examine the plethora of consequences that are attached to such a development and hope that they can serve as lessons for how to avoid such negative outcomes in the present and future.

One of the first problems that came about from this period was that of a rapidly increasing rate of population. The increased population meant that people living in closer proximity to each other, and thus made it easier to acquire and spread diseases. Diseases at that time were more abundant as the domesticated and wild animals, in addition to insects and possibly even rats (that came about as a result of a warmer climate) spread diseases such as measles, smallpox, and many others to the human population. Another negative aspect created in this period was that of social classes and inequality (including slavery).

Conflict, violence, and war were also ever-present realities of the Neolithic age amongst individuals, territories, and in the form of interstate warfare. All of which may have happened for numerous reasons: first, people who were settled made for easier targets, especially compared to the nomadic humans who were constantly on the move. Secondly, the inequalities created by the emergence of classes made the poor desperate, with little to lose, in order to attain the resources of the rich. Third, violence and war was a means of conquering territories and creating more powerful empires, city-states, etc. In this context, the weak also became easy targets, enabling the powerful to become even more so. In some cases, the powerful were killed off, creating even more chaos within the city-states. Fourth, and perhaps the most prominent reason for war was in the attempts to gain and protect resources. To some degree, this was an issue with over-population relating to supply and demand. When an individual and/ or city-state would not have ample resources to meet their particular demands, often times a war would break out to gain and/or protect resources. Finally, the paradox is created by the very technology that is meant to be an innovative means of making life easier. In order to protect themselves, humans developed blades, knives, arrows and even more sophisticated means of protection (also instituted armies); however, it is the innovation/ or diffusion of such methods that ultimately made themselves vulnerable as well.

Could History Repeat Itself? Current and Future Global Warming Consequences

According to experts, global warming could eventually result in changing diseases, flooding, drought, and other consequences. What could this mean for modern civilization? Well, if the world’s history articulated herein pertaining to the direct and indirect consequences of global warming are any indication, modern civilization may slowly be on a collision course with destruction.

Imagine the population of the Neolithic era, profoundly multiplied in today’s world and the damage that could be caused. In the last few years, we have had some small glimpses in our own nation of what can happen as a result of extreme weather with multiple hurricanes and the resulting floods that have hit Louisiana and the migrations of people, lack of food and water, order and the rioting that ensued from that. The wildfires on the west coast provide another example of more people forced to migrate and settle somewhere else.

On a larger scale, what happens when the global warming effects (droughts, floods, hurricanes) displace more people and force larger populations into smaller areas and there are not enough resources to meet the demands? We have learned from the Neolithic Revolution that mass violence and warfare break out when people are forced to gain and/ or protect their vital resources. The only difference however in today’s civilization is that the technology is thousands of times more advanced, and although the basis for the technology is to protect, it ultimately leaves us more vulnerable. In the Neolithic Revolution, it was the city-states doing battle. In this case, it would nations fighting a virtual nuclear holocaust (due to advanced weaponry) for resources and power against one another. This will come in addition to the interstate and city chaos that would be present in riots and crime, as people’s survival will rely on attaining the necessary resources.

Of course, there would also be massive pollution (as a result of large populations) which would escalate the rate of global warming, and accordingly, all sorts of new diseases that come from the change of climate and insects could also wipe out large groups of people. Existence would come down to survival of the fittest, as the poor and weak could either take desperate measures to attain wealth, or be taken advantage of due to their weakness and get pushed out of their settlements. The middle class could be slowly weeded out, as the wealthy would hold all of the power. Just as civilization was created in a slow process that was directly and indirectly derived from global warming, it could also be wiped out the same way.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2010 LakeShow T

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