September 4, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

No New Human Influence Under the Sun

Scientists trying to measure the damage done on Earth by humans need to look way back.

Ancient civilizations were already messing up the planet (Science Daily). A study from the Field Museum of Chicago finds a surprising thing: despite centuries of civilization’s rise, the industrial revolution and modern tech, there is nothing really new about human impact on the planet.

As issues like climate change, global warming, and renewable energy dominate the national conversation, it’s easy to assume these topics are exclusive to the modern world. But a huge collaborative study in Science reveals that early humans across the entire globe were changing and impacting their environments as far back as 10,000 years ago.

The conclusions do not imply that human impacts are less rapid or serious now. Rather, they imply that humans have always been modifying the environment.

While today’s climate change and environmental destruction are happening more quickly and on a far larger scale than the world has ever seen, Feinman notes that this study helps provide a historical context to today’s problems.

A while back, for instance, CEH relayed news that large geoglyphs in the Amazon Basin showed that people were modifying that ‘pristine’ jungle long ago, before the rise of modern times (18 Feb 2015, 2 March 2017).

No consistent effects of humans on animal genetic diversity worldwide (bioRxiv). Endangered species, extinctions, habitat desolation – we hear about this all the time. How recent is it, though? Six scientists looked at tens of thousands of species and found that the human imprint on biodiversity has not changed all that much much over 35 years.

Human impacts on genetic diversity are poorly understood yet critical to biodiversity conservation. We used 175,247 COI sequences collected between 1980 and 2016 to assess the global effects of land use and human density on the intraspecific genetic diversity of 17,082 species of birds, fishes, insects, and mammals. Human impacts on mtDNA diversity were taxon and scale-dependent, and were generally weak or non-significant. Spatial analyses identified weak latitudinal diversity gradients as well as negative effects of human density on insect diversity, and negative effects of intensive land use on fish diversity. The observed effects were predominantly associated with species turnover. Time series analyses found nearly an equal number of positive and negative temporal trends in diversity, resulting in no net monotonic trend in diversity over this time period. Our analyses reveal critical data and theory gaps and call for increased efforts to monitor global genetic diversity.

The phrase “critical data and theory gaps” is code for reality not fitting expectations.

The late Jack T. Chick, a Christian illustrator, had some fun with the iconic progression, pointing out flaws in the interpretation.

Anthropocene? Humans Have Been Changing the Planet for Millennia (Live Science). The human impact on the planet has been so extreme, some geologists have coined a word for a new geologic era: the Anthropocene. But that has caused a debate on the start of the new era: the industrial revolution? The invention of the atomic bomb? By crowdsourcing data from over 1,300 archaeologists, and getting 250 replies, they concluded that you have to go way back thousands of years.

Global archaeological data show that human transformation of environments began at different times in different regions and accelerated with the emergence of agriculture. Nevertheless, by 3,000 years ago, most of the planet was already transformed by hunter-gatherers, farmers and pastoralists.

To guide this planet toward a better future, we need to understand how we got here. The message from archaeology is clear. It took thousands of years for the pristine planet of long ago to become the human planet of today.

This kind of research cannot be done accurately by natural scientists like geologists. The human element is important.

And there is no way to fully understand this human planet without building on the expertise of archaeologists, anthropologists, sociologists and other human scientists. To build a more robust Earth science in the Anthropocene, the human sciences must play as central a role as the natural sciences do today.

Evolutionary anthropologists, though, claim that hominids were around for millions of years, and Homo species were around for over 300,000 years and quickly spread through Africa and Asia. What happened so suddenly that modern humans began transforming the planet “thousands of years” ago?

Maybe it was a mutation in the brain. Isn’t it interesting that archaeologists cannot account for the sudden rise of agriculture and civilization longer than a few thousand years ago? According to the Bible, humans were farmers and ranchers nearly from the start, after the expulsion from Eden. With upright posture, nimble hands, and big brains, it makes sense that humans would use good sense and figure out easier ways to live. The achievements of Egyptians, Babylonians and Romans are astonishing, considering they had no electrical power and no “scientific method.” What makes no sense is to imagine our ancestors, capable of making tools and using fire, living in caves for up to 300,000 years without ever learning how to plant a farm, keep animals or ride horses.

Humans have also been corrupting the planet since the beginning in another way: ever since sin entered the world. The world was “filled with violence” before the Flood. After that judgment, it didn’t take long for corruption to rise again. Even in our “enlightened” era, the capacity for human evil is shocking. Without turning to God’s offer of salvation, human influence on the planet will proceed from bad to worse, Paul said in II Timothy 3:13.  The book of Revelation, describing the last days, declares that it is only right and just for God to punish sinners: “The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation 11:18).

But that’s not the end of the story. After the judgment at the end of a great tribulation, Christ ushers in His millennial reign, during which people will prosper, have long lives and enjoy good health – as if to show how a King of Righteousness can produce bounty without destroying the earth. After the last judgment at the Great White Throne, the King of Kings will reign forever in a new heavens and new earth, as the “New Jerusalem” joins heaven to earth. The new earth will easily satisfy myriads of people and animals. No good thing will be lacking.

The secret to a bountiful ecosystem is not fewer humans. It is the absence of sin.



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