New Jersey and the Disasters that Devastate the Land

James K. Mitchell’s essay “American Disasters during the Twentieth Century: The Case of New Jersey” is an intriguing piece which analyzes a number of different types of natural disasters within the state. Throughout the piece, Mitchell argues that “natural disasters” are a result of humans interacting with dangerous environments, leading to the destruction that ensues (327). At the start of the piece, I was a little skeptical about this idea, but by the end, Mitchell has swayed my opinion through his specific examples.

One example that Mitchell drew heavily on, which inevitably influenced my decision to conform to his school of thought, was his description of fires within New Jersey. Though New Jersey’s climate is not the most ideal for the spread of a wildfire, the dryness in the environment that occurs during the summer months does create favorable conditions for this type of disaster. Even so, it still takes a spark to create the fire in the first place, which Mitchell attributes specifically to human hand. Whether it was locomotives creating sparks with the tracks which sparked a flame or a person purposefully lighting something on fire, Mitchell attributes a majority of wildfires in New Jersey during the 20th century to humans (340-341). Due to humans, for a lack of better term, “playing with fire” in a region that tends to get pretty dry; they sparked the flames which created the massive devastation that we attribute to natural disasters. In this manner, it was humanity’s choice of acting in a hostile environment which created these disasters, which supports Mitchell’s argument regarding natural disasters.

Along with his claims about wildfires, Mitchell also analyzes humanity’s hand within droughts as well. Being from upstate New York and formerly living close to the New Jersey border, it was a little shocking at first to read about New Jersey suffering from droughts. Yet, after some thought on the matter, I realized that I was conflating my definition of a drought to a much larger scale, like something one might face in Arizona. After reassessing this definition, I noted that New York went through similar dry spells during the summer months, often resulting in the grass withering and browning. With this similar type of region in New Jersey, Mitchell noted that most registered droughts were a result of human use of the water supply (347). Again, within a region that tends to get dry, by humans using the water supply for x amount of things, like swimming pools, watering their lawn, etc., they create their own disaster through their actions. In a region that has a more abundant water supply, this type of natural disaster would be less likely, but because humans chose to inhabit this environment they are left to deal with the repercussions.

Manish makes some incredibly interesting comments about the lack of respect for nature by the people of Southern of California. Initially I was shocked to read his post about these people turning a blind eye to nature’s supremacy, instead creating their infrastructure with little concern to environmental threats. However, this mindset is something we have witnessed throughout our course with numerous people believing they could overcome nature. For example, our discussion on the Union General trying to shape the Mississippi and failing is a perfect portrayal of humanity continually believing themselves above nature’s power. Yet, with the devastation caused by natural disasters all over the country, we are reminded that humanity is simply another part of the ecosystem, with nature’s power reigning above all. Recognizing our place under nature’s power is important though for humanity’s growth in technology. As Manish references in his post, other people respond to natural disasters by improving their society in terms of safety and various forms of technology. In a backwards manner, one can almost view natural disasters as a good thing for society, as it sparks ongoing innovation.

Nature’s Place as a Product

William Cronon’s Parts II and III of Nature’s Metropolis analyze the commodification of various goods which became national commodities through Chicago as a major trading center. Through these two sections, Cronon describes the standardization of grain production, the significant rise in the trade of lumber,  as well as  the development of the intercontinental meat packing industry, all of which passed through Chicago as a bridge into the national market of the USA.

One of the most interesting chapters of Cronon’s Part II is his work on the growth of the lumber industry in Chicago, specifically in the way humans used natural forces to their advantage. In describing the seasonality of the lumber industry, Cronon indicated that loggers often flooded skidways with water, which then froze, allowing them to easily move the enormous loads of logs from point A to B (156). This tactic seemed incredibly innovative to me and represented both humans “using” their environment, as well as shaping it. In terms of using it, the loggers knew that water naturally froze when cold enough, which it often is during the winter months of Chicago, so they took advantage of this natural occurrence for their benefit. Meanwhile, they also altered their environment by flooding and freezing a region that would not have faced these conditions without human alteration. Though Cronon does not mention any negative effects of this change, it would be interesting to see how the transportation methods of the Chicago logging industry in the 1870s effected the environment and its natural inhabitants (outside of humans).

Again on the topic of water, Cronon makes similar claims compared to Theodore Steinberg regarding the pollution of water through its usage to dispose of waste. In his description of the waste from the Chicago pork packers, Cronon indicates that they used the water to dispose of these materials, taking on the perspective of “out of sight, out of smell, out of mind” (249). Steinberg, in his work of Nature Incorporated indicated that New Englanders also took on this ignorant perspective regarding their effects to the environment. The similarity between the ideologies of these two areas provided an answer for me regarding our question in class about country wide claims we could make about water politics. It seems that across the country, Americans in the 19th century viewed water as their tool for whatever they deemed fit, instead of a natural resource that could be destroyed. Through their negligence, both the purity of the water in New England and Chicago was diminished through the dumping of waste.

I believe Chelsea’s comment about capital dominating human life defines my comments about the way both Cronon and Steinberg indicated American perceptions of water. Rather than water as a natural commodity, something for everyone to enjoy, it seems that people only saw it for the benefits it could provide them in terms of financial gain. With the Chicago Meat Packers, water for them was an easy and free way to dispose of waste, saving them money but costing the environment. Similarly in New England, the industrialists also took on this ideology, while also viewing the water as a controllable energy source to provide them power for their factories. Though I agree with Chelsea’s description, I believe her statement about humanity’s priority of financial gain only sometimes effecting nature needs to be expanded in order to truly incorporate all the effects that human monetary decisions have had on the environment, specifically in the 19th century. The killing off the buffalo for robes and leather, the laying of the railroad throughout the land, and the establishment of cities into the west all were based off economic growth, each effecting the environment in a number of ways. I would love to be wrong about this, as it would reflect a better humanity, but our past large scale economic decisions seemed to have affected the environment in a number of lasting ways.

Water: The Source Behind New England’s Industrialization

Theodore Steinberg’s Nature Incorporated is a compelling piece that offers a detailed analysis of the development of water as a source of power within 19th century New England. From the outset of the piece, Steinberg frames 19th century New England’s Industrial sector’s view on nature as “new sources of energy and raw materials” (11). Through this ideology, companies within New England, like the Merrimack Company and Hamilton Company, persisted to exhibit their control upon the nature of the region, most notably the extensive rivers and streams. In this manner, rivers like the Merrimack River were economically transformed into that of a commodity rather than a piece of nature (16).

One of the most compelling arguments from Steinberg’s book is the chapter titled “Fouled Water,” which details the effects of the growth of industry on the rivers within New England. Steinberg describes the effects of industrialization on New England’s water systems as creating “a new ecology of its own with far reaching effects on the water quality of the region’s rivers, and ultimately human existence itself” (206). The rivers in New England became a quick and easy way to dispose of the pollution from various industrial plants, such as paper mills, as well as the overall waste products of the growing population (209, 211). Though some amount of pollution is inevitable, it eventually reached the point in 1870s where the Merrimack River was so polluted from factories along it that it was unfit for domestic purposes, thereby human consumption (224). In fact, due to the enormous amount of waste this river was carrying within its waters, by the 1880s it also became the source of an outbreak of Typhoid Fever within the cities of Lowell and Lawrence (233). These examples, along with many others are the backbone of Steinberg’s argument regarding the negative effects of industrialization on the New England Rivers. Through them, it is easy to see how drastic of an effect industrialization brought upon these waters, as they were transformed into sources of disease and contamination.

Similar to the rivers and streams of New England, I have seen the effects of human pollutants on a water system with the Erie Canal. Though a man-made water system, the Erie Canal has been devastated by human hands through the dumping of waste into its water. I cannot speak for how it was at its start, but after years of trash being thrown into the water, it has a persistent murky brown if not greenish look, a red-flag regarding its level of cleanliness. As I often run along the canal when at home, I view the water as symbol of 19th century perceptions on nature and its resources. They were not something to be preserved for their purity, but rather exploited as a commodity for industrial growth. Some might argue that the Erie Canal being man-made removes it from nature, but the water that fills it and the fish that inhabit it are both indicate of this waterways place within the environment.

After reading Emily’s post and comments on Steinberg’s neglect to differentiate “using” and “controlling” water, I would have to say I completely agree with her concerns. Though I did not initially realize his neglect until reading Emily’s post, looking back at the book, this appears as a significant shortcoming in the otherwise diligently constructed book. I see a major difference in the two verbs, as we today all use water for various purposes, such as drinking, cleaning, etc., but I doubt any of us claim to control the water in which we use like Steinberg argues 19th century New England Industrialists did. If he had differentiated this within his work, I believe his argument would have come off as stronger, for he would indicate a clear cut difference in the way Industrialists controlled the flow and power of water vs. your average Lowell citizen using the Merrimack River to wash their clothes. Without a differentiation and clear definition in terms, he almost groups these people together in the way they “used” water, but it is clear from his argument that he perceives their usage as drastically different.

Lisa Brady’s War upon the Land is an excellent piece of environmental history which analyzes the various ways in which nature shaped the course of the Civil War, specifically when cast as the “enemy” of the Union Army. Brady notes from the start of her piece how another historian, Linda Nash, describes nature in a somewhat conscious manner, indicating that it has the power to shape human decisions (6). Throughout the piece, Brady references this idea through her analysis of military strategy, noting how the weather and environment of a region could significantly alter the army’s direction. One such instance of this is through her description of the Mississippi River as a great theatre for war. Due to the placement of the Mississippi within the confines of the United States and the importance of this waterway as a centerpiece for trade and travel, this area was destined to be a focal point which both armies lobbied to control (26). We see in this description how nature shaped the course of human action instead of humans themselves. As a result of this river being so important to trade and travel, the region for conflict was chosen by nature and not by military strategists. Though the leaders of both armies chose to attack/defend this region because of its importance, this was a predetermined decision based off the environment’s natural design.

Though the environment often shaped human decisions, Brady notes throughout the piece, but specifically in her chapter about Sherman’s March how actively humans fought to control it. In describing the tactics behind Sherman’s March, Brady states how its goal was to gain “control over the landscape,” specifically the natural aspects of the region (95). Yet, Brady also notes how nature was an incredibly hostile force towards either army, but specifically the Union forces in this situation. She notes how the “terrain, weather, and disease” were as threatening or more so than any force that Sherman’s army met on the field of battle (95). Through this perspective, Brady indicates two characteristics of nature and its relationship with humanity. First, like Nash did with her comments on nature shaping human decision, Brady places some human characteristics onto nature, as she casts it as an enemy to Sherman. Though not conscious like in Nash’s interpretation, Brady’s perspective describes nature as much more than a stagnant figure within human interactions.

Secondly, Brady indicates the power of nature against humanity, as she references it as stronger than any army Sherman faced. Nature’s ability to kill thousands with disease or disasters is significantly stronger than any bullet or cannon ball, as it remains an unrelenting force which cannot be killed. Brady references this seeming immortality of nature towards the end of her piece, which indicates humanity’s insignificant amount of power in relation to nature’s own. Quoting John Muir, Brady describes how even after all the natural devastation as a side-effect of war; nature continues to regenerate from the wastelands, thereby displaying its eternality (136-137). Though many people might argue that this does not happen today, we have noted in class how buildings are often taken over by nature within a few years, further indicating nature’s supremacy.

I completely agree with Manish’s points about nature being something beyond human control. As is clear through my previous comments about Sherman’s efforts to annihilate the southern landscape, no matter how much he destroyed, nature inevitably reclaimed its hold on the area, displaying its superiority to humanity. Though I agree with this definition, I believe it needs to be expanded to incorporate humans living in harmony with nature, as we have seen this theme exist in countless works this semester. Whether we agree with human ecological alteration or not, it is evident that humans have and will for the foreseeable future remain a part of the natural ecosystem of the world, indicating their place within it. As a result of this, though humans may not control nature, there exists a place within the “wilderness” for them to coexist with their surroundings, offering a different perspective than the more hierarchical relationship that Brady presents.

The Literature of the Environment

The Fatal Environment by Richard Slotkin takes an unconventional approach to analyzing environmental history, using the lens of 19th century myths in literal works and newspapers to hone in on what the frontier truly was. Through his analysis, Slotkin references the debate that we are continually having in class, what is nature and the sub questions that have come with this ongoing debate? Using the Western Frontier as his study of nature, he says “it is divided between two realms: the “Metropolis,” the civilizational center; and the “Wilderness,” into which the heroic energies of the Metropolis are projected (41). In breaking down Slotkin’s definition, we can see his position in that humanity does in fact exist in nature, as human heroics are allowed to tread there. But, he also seems to clearly state that the more sophisticated and advanced members of society leaving the more “primitive” to extend their travels into the unknown and resource filled wilderness, which for him is somewhat synonymous with nature.

Slotkin’s ideas on the west, and thereby nature, being more primitive are further represented in his piece when referencing the classic captivity and hunter narrative that are so prevalent in many 19th century literary works. In describing this narrative, Slotkin indicates that the frontier was one of “regression” civilized men and women leave contemporary society, and enter- willingly or as captive- a primitive, primal world (63). Though nature under Slotkin’s school of thought does contain a human hand, it also represents a digression from the promise of industrialization in the cities into the dangerous and often Native American inhabited frontier.

For some though, this journey into the frontier and away from the “civilized” society of the city was not a bad thing, but something of a rebirth. Slotkin indicates through the narrative of Sam Houston that the frontier often offered a renewal to men who had suffered “moral or material ruin” in the struggles of the metropolis (163). For Houston, this is exactly what happened, and after living with the Cherokee Indians and learned “Nature’s truths” he emerged from his journey to embark upon his most memorable feats in the war for Texas’s Independence from Mexico. Though he may have entered the “primitive land” to live with Native Americans, Houston never lost his more sophisticated teachings, continuing to read literary works, thereby displaying his status what Slotkin coins as a “natural aristocrat” (163).

As this is the first post for this week, I thought it would be a good idea to connect Slotkin’s work to one of the overarching questions of our class, that being about nature as an “actor.” Through Slotkin’s usage of literature as a lens to analyze environmental history, I believe he does a great job of framing nature as an actor in the cultural development of the United States, specifically as the antagonist of the story. Throughout the piece, Slotkin identifies the frontier, thereby the most “natural” part of the United States as an uncivilized and primitive environment. Under this understanding, the natural landscape of the United States becomes not only the antagonist of the story, but something that must be overcome and conquered in order for society to blossom. Through his descriptions of nature being an entity that must overcome and conquered, Slotkin casts the natural environment of the West (the frontier) as somewhat of an organic creature, one that actively fights against the progressions of American culture.

The Buffalo: A Tool Against Native Americans

The Destruction of the Bison by Andrew C. Isenberg is a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the relationships between both Native Americans and Euroamericans on the bison within North America. In his work, Isenberg provides a number of different arguments for the decline of the bison, such as the growth of the fur trade, their presence in the way of American progress, and many others. Yet, he also indicates that the destruction of the bison was a directive by the United States military and pioneers to help rid the land of the Native Americans. Isenberg describes how a fellow historian, David D. Smits, argues that the United States Army was primarily responsible for the destruction of these creatures. The support for this position rests with the evidence that indicates how American soldiers would often destroy the Native American’s natural resources to push the Indians onto the reserves after various defeats to them in battle. General Sherman, most notably known for his work in “Sherman’s March,” was an advent supporter of this philosophy, for he believed if you removed their resources, the Native Americans would be forced to retreat to the reservations (128).

The army was not the only political body that held this idea either, as members of the House of Representatives also supported this directive in the light of American progress. During the Delano vs. Fort debates regarding a humanitarian and animal preservation bill in the 1870s, Columbus Delano expressed his side’s position on the matter. He stated in reference to the bison “The rapid disappearance of game from the former hunting-grounds must operate largely in favor of our efforts to confine the Indians to smaller areas, and compel them to abandon their nomadic customs” (152). His words clearly articulate how members of the United States Government were openly in favor of the destruction of the bison as the means of a weapon against the Native Americans to control their actions. Avoiding the ethical questions that arise within this position, as there are many, it is evident that many members of the United States Government saw the bison as merely a side-effect of progress, a creature that was in the wrong place as the wrong time. Though there were many others who did not take this position, such as President Roosevelt moving into the 20th century, it remained a common perception of the time.

I would say I have to completely agree with Sean’s points regarding Isenberg’s ideas on the definition of nature. By noting how the buffalo were actually devastated by other factors outside of human hand, it offers a perception that humanity’s alteration of the environment is a natural progression of the world. Though many people would deny this, offering a definition that places nature outside of human contact, if we look at contemporary movie examples for images of the future, we potentially can see Isenberg’s perspective at work. The first movie that comes to mind is “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” In the film, both futuristic London and San Francisco are portrayed, displaying a completely technologically based society almost entirely void of “wilderness.” Portrayals such as this somewhat indicate that the natural steps of ecological evolution are allowing for humanity to shape the environment as it can, for every other creature we interact with does the exact same within their capacity.

America: Stepping Up in the World

Richard L. Bushman’s The Refinement of America offers a very thorough and diverse analysis of the various manners in which American culture blossomed into more of a “gentilian” based society borrowed from Europe. As Bushman describes in his work, starting in the early 17th century, American people, specifically in the South, began to covet the “high society” lifestyle and culture that existed with numerous European countries. One such way that Americans began to acculturate themselves to this style of life was through “conduct books.” As Bushman describes, these pieces “codified polite society” by giving discrete steps on how to portray respect, bodily restraint, and correct emotional expression (38). Generally reserved for those of the upper echelon of society, these books targeted those who would never appear in a European Court, but dreamed of the life style (38). Through the lessons of these books, the status quo of the gentile based hierarchy was reaffirmed, as individuals were taught to heed way to their superiors, continuing the dynamic through the generations (41).

Honestly, when reading about these books I had to laugh a little bit, because they seemed so unnecessary and ridiculous. Through my laughter and perception of our cultural superiority compared to 17th-19th century America, I came to the conclusion that my humor was actually in vain, as our own society institutes similar works. Though not as direct, the “X for Dummies” series of books is a perfect example of “how to manuals” that we ascribe to when we need to learn how to act in a certain environment. These works may not be as corrective in terms of our everyday life as the conduct books, but they are indicative of our continued reliance on this genre of literature to guide us in our daily ventures.

Though this book extremely diverse, portraying aspects of gentility from discussions on artwork to the addition of gardens to one’s house for visual perception, there was minimal analysis of humanity’s interaction with the environment. One of the only instances that nature played a significant role in Bushman’s argument on the gentrification of American Society was in relation to the West. Surprisingly, it was believed that the West was a threat to gentility, as it promoted the primitive lifestyle vs. the cultured one of the East (383). One would think that as Western expansion was a prime directive of the United States that it would fit within the upper echelons views on expanding their culture. However, as many believed that gentility was actually a threat to republican ideals, promoting a class based society instead of an egalitarian; it makes more sense why this goal of the United States threatened those who perceived themselves as the aristocracy. Bushman acknowledges this tension in the closing remarks of his piece, noting the culture of gentility was not and never would be strong enough to overcome that of republican idealism (447).

As no one has posted yet this week, I thought it would be a good idea to tie in last week’s reading of Nature’s Metropolis to Bushman’s piece. As we discussed in class this week, many Anglo Americans believed that Native Americans were below humanity, which made their removal that much easier in terms of morality. This perception that Cronon expresses offers a possible explanation for the West’s threat to gentility that Bushman acknowledges in The Refinement of America. The West was where the Native Americans prominently resided during the 18th and 19th centuries, which would be considered a primitive environment if these people were so inferior to humans. This “primitive” society resided within close proximity to the more genitilian orientated Eastern half of the United States which created an understandable tension. As more people pushed West during the 18th and 19th centuries into these unknown lands, resorting to extreme measures to survive, it was not clear if the gentility of the East would follow them or be overrun by the believed less sophisticated cultures of the West.

Chigaco: Another Forest of the Wilderness

William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis Chicago and The Great West he introduces an interesting set of theories referred to as “booster theories.” These ideas comment on the fact that Chicago would become a great city because of its natural resources, thereby making it the center of trade for the region, its extensive natural routes of transportation, and finally, the global climatic forces that mysteriously made great cities (36). The existence of these theories and the way they are framed by Cronon illustrates an interesting argument for cities being a part of nature. Through these theories, it seems as though it was pre-destined for a city to inhabit these regions, alluding to an idea that God or some other force(s) crafted the region for this specific purpose. It all falls back to the question of if cities are a part of nature, just another “natural” development, or if they are something alien? Through Cronon’s descriptions of these theories, further elaborating on the perfect natural setting for a city, it seems as though he casts his hand with those who perceive cities as the next evolution of a natural ecosystem.

Cronon makes an interesting statement in his description of the rise of Chicago, one which frames the city as something almost organic. In relation to the countryside around the city, Cronon states that it would be “tributary” to give Chicago its new empire (43). I found it a little odd to describe the city in such a way, but when positioning this statement with Cronon’s previous ideas on the city as the next ecological evolution, it makes sense. If the city is part of nature, then it is in fact a “living” piece of the ecosystem, one which requires the resources to continue its existence. From this perspective, the vast country side that surrounds this great metropolis seems only logical as the “food” to help this city grow. Though many would disagree with this interpretation of a city, it is not too far off from our common conceptions of nature, where we often cast the neutral force as evil or against human existence.

I think by looking at Henry’s post on Cronon’s definition of nature, we gain a more concrete understanding of why he frames Chicago as something part of nature. After reading through Henry’s comments, I completely agree with his assessment of Cronon’s perception of natural as “something that seems to be in its normal place” (Henry). So many perceive nature to be something void of human contact and interference, yet there is probably no location on Earth that has not been inhabited by humans at some point in time. Though a city is a massive technological feat, with numerous components encompassing its complex, it can still just be viewed as the next step along ecological evolution, just like the human creation of the boat. If the land around Chicago made it a viable location for the construction of a city, who is to say that this is wrong or against nature? By using nature’s resources for various purposes, could it not be said that humans are simply doing as other animals doing in providing sustenance and shelter for their existence? Though I am sure these questions will lead to numerous amounts of critiques, it is something to think about when articulating a moral argument against human “alteration” of nature.

Final Paper Topic

America’s Last Great Beast: The Bison and Their Hunters

            For my paper, I plan on studying the different ways the bison were perceived and interacted with by both Native Americans and American Pioneers/Americans. Through this research, I will compare the similarities and differences between the two people and their interactions with these creatures, noting any cultural norms, economic significance, as well as any other factors that contribute to the way they saw/used the bison.  In terms of a time frame, as of now most of the 19th century is open to explore, but I will most likely narrow this period down as my research accumulates. There are a number of questions I hope to answer through this study regarding the various perceptions of these creatures. Naturally, what differences existed between the ways the American Indians interacted with the bison compared to their human counter parts of American Pioneers and other American citizens? Did the perceptions and interactions with the bison for both sets of people change over time, or did their views generally remain the same even with a dwindling population? Were there different perceptions and usages of the bison in different regions of the West for both parties, i.e. Northwest vs Southwest? Finally, was the destruction of the bison a necessary side-effect of human progress, or was it simply another way to stifle Native lifestyle in an attempt to integrate their people into Anglo American culture? In order to answer these questions, a number of different types of sources addressing both American and Native American perspectives will need to be analyzed. In terms of the American perspective, I believe newspapers from western towns would be a great place to find out some information on their ideas of the bison. Though they will be more difficult to find, any comments made in speeches or memoirs by Native American chiefs will do wonders to display their relationships with this magnificent creatures. Furthermore, by potentially looking at any records of trade or advertisements in newspapers, it will be clear what economic values the bison might have had for white individuals in particular, but also the Native Americans.

The Architect of the Wilderness

One of the central ideas that Alfred W. Crosby presents in his work, Ecological Imperialism, is the concept of humans reshaping their environment towards their desires. An early instance of this idea is 15th century British Colonists introducing both bees and sugar to “Maderia,” the land we now know as Australia (77). The purpose of bringing these foreign entities to the land by colonists was simple, it was profitable. As Crosby indicates, sugar production in Australia was a product like gold for English colonists, as the favorable climate of Australia made growing this product easy (77).

Alterations to the land did not stop there either, as if you look to 19th century New Zealand, the changes made by English Colonists are immeasurable towards their reshaping the land. In terms of physical introductions, Crosby offers a short but strong description of English influence. An English Botanist living in New Zealand in the 1840s stated “certain spots abounding in the rankest vegetation, but without a single indigenous plant” (253). His words explicitly show how the introduction of weeds and other plant life to the New Zealand wilderness by British colonists had completely altered content of the land. Though this is only one man’s account, the fact that a trained Botanist was unable to recognize one native piece of plant life to the region is evidence enough to display how powerful humans are in altering the land towards their directives.

Furthermore, the changes to the New Zealand’s natural landscape did not stop at the physical level, as English explorers also brought with them numerous pathogens which diminished the native population. Though their cultural lifestyle may have had some contribution to the death rate, native New Zealanders, the Maori, were devastated by the introduction of Old World diseases like Tuberculosis (231-233). The death rate reached such high numbers in the Maori population that many began to turn their back on their European visitors, casting them as “the author of their evils” for the struggles they brought to their land (244). Even unintentionally, the presence of foreign humans in new environments causes significant alteration to the current ecosystem, often leading to drastic changes in population counts of both plant and animal life, even that of fellow man.

Continuing with the subjects of diseases and pathogens, I completely agree with Manish’s assessment of nature being a dangerous entity. Though nature does not necessarily have a motive for the spread of disease, we as humans all perceive this side of “nature” as a negative attribute, one that we have fought against for centuries on end. Yet, on the other hand, there are people who potentially would view some diseases as a beneficial factor of nature depending on their directives. For instance, if we look at American history and the various conflicts that arose against Native Americans, I would argue that many pioneers who waged war against the natives were thankful for certain diseases. As Manish references in his post, most indigenous populations were highly susceptible to the Old World diseases that the Anglo American settlers were not, turning nature’s efforts into something these white individuals favored. Though we often tend to associate Nature’s efforts with disease as a negative, it cannot be denied that in many instances, human kind has accepted these actions as a positive.