Earth, People & The Environment



  1. Let’s dust off our time machine and set it for a trip to East Africa! You visit three different time periods in Africa’s Great Rift Valley – first 3 million years ago, then 1 million years ago, and finally 80,000 years ago. Talk about the humans or human ancestors you’d meet at each stop. To what extent do you think you’d recognize them as human? Be able to communicate with them? Take these specific dates into account when answering.
  1. Author Yuval Harari calls the Agricultural Revolution “history’s biggest fraud”. His point is that almost every change that followed from this threshold event made the lives of most humans worse. Think about what we’ve learned about the changes that farming brought about to human society and the way humans live. Do you agree or disagree with Harari? Please explain why.
  1. We’ve all been deeply influenced by the Columbian Exchange, perhaps nowhere more surprisingly than in the foods we eat. Think about what you ate at a recent family gathering or holiday meal. Trace the historical path that 3 or 4 of the items on the menu took to your plate!
  1. What’s your take on Columbus, the man? Was he a great explorer and a brave leader, a cruel and racist conquerer, or simply a fool? Does he deserve to be celebrated 500 years later, and if so why?
  1. The story of the past 500 years can be largely told as the story of certain key commodities, and their movement around the planet. Examples include spices, sugar, tobacco, silk, cotton, even bat guano. Pick one and explain the route it took as well as the people who got rich – and suffered – because of its trade.
  1. What key events of the Industrial Revolution took place in these years?


1769 _________________________________________


1793 _________________________________________


1879 _________________________________________


  1. Here are two images from Victorian London (late 1800s). What are some ways that industrialization change the lives of people in England – for better or worse?


  1. Is there such a thing as “the American culture”, and if so, what’s it like?


  1. We have to imagine that early Homo sapiens had a basic language that they would build upon as they traveled to different parts of the globe. Use the chart below to imagine 3 things that words needed to be created for when our ancestors first populated the regions shown.


Northern Europe Polynesia American Southwest


  1. Answer the following short questions about the geography of language/religion:


  1. What’s an example that shows how North & South Jersey may have different dialects?



  1. The Line of Tordesillas split the New World between which two countries?



  1. Which early Christian missionary helped shape the modern alphabet of Russia?



  1. What popular European language is most closely related to English?



  1. The originators of Sikhism and Buddhism both came from which religious tradition?
  1. Which Roman ruler played a key role in the spread of Christianity across all Europe?
  1. Make a list of three things we as Americans can do to help end global poverty.


  1. Tim Marshall’s book Prisoners of Geography was the inspiration for Chapter 14 of our course. Discuss in detail a particular region (inside or out of the U.S.) that you feel has been a prisoner to its geography, and why.



  1. One of the most iconic TV commercials of the 1970s showed the reaction of a Native American to “modern” America – watch it here: As Americans what if anything of value have we learned from those early days of the environmental movement?


  1. Which do you think is the best description of human civilization today: two worlds, many worlds, or one world? Please explain your answer.




  1. Complete the following sentence, then briefly explain why you wrote what you did.


“Becoming aware that I am a person living during the Anthropocene makes me feel ________________________________.”

  1. Use the Earth Day Network Footprint Calculator (online) to determine your personal ecological footprint. Describe in detail the results of your survey. Then click “Explore Scenarios”. What is one recommended action you could take to lessen your footprint?




  1. If you could choose one person, company or entity to sit down with and explain to them the science of climate change, who would you pick?


  1. In the year 2050 you live in a “smart”, sustainable city. Use the boxes below to identify 6 things that help make your city achieve sustainability.










  1. What’s one way that you might contribute to the Big History of the 21st century?
  1. Check out the website Read a few of the articles written about the future – both the near future and the distant future. Discuss a couple that you found most interesting or feel most strongly about, positively or negatively.

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