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Geography and the Development of Human Civilization Essay

A. Without argument, the most significant geographic or environmental factor of Ancient Egypt to shape early civilization is the Nile River. The Nile has been referred to as life’s blood for the Egyptian civilization. (Fassbender, 2008). To begin understanding how the Nile River was the greatest factor, one must understand a few facts about the River itself. It starts from two separate sources; first the lakes of central Africa, called the White Nile, and second the Blue Nile; that comes from the mountains of Ethiopia. The Blue Nile and the White Nile come together and flow northward to the Nile delta, starting the 4,000 mile length of the life blood of Egypt; finally spilling into the Mediterranean Sea. The Egyptian climate does not offer much in rainfall, averaging less than 2 inches per year in some areas and non existent in other areas. The early human civilizations were able to farm near the banks of the Nile River with much success compared to the outlying harsh climates of the Sahara and Arabian deserts on both sides of Egypt. Each summer the Nile River would swell as the rain fell and the snow melted in the mountains.

Overflowing its banks and lightly flooding the land with fresh water and thick rich deposits of alluvial soil created a land that could “yield two harvests before winter” (Kreis, 2006); creating an ideal location for early human civilizations to settle and prosper. This flooding of the Nile River did more than create agriculture wealth for the early Egyptians, it also helped create some very early inventions such as the calendar; (Keita, n.d.) created from the expected annual nature of the floods, the end of the second harvest and the 2 winters. The Nile River also gave the people a sense of direction, creating the north, south , east and west concepts we now use. The flow of the Nile is basically south to north and the daily rising and falling of the sun from east to west created a concrete sense of direction for the Egyptians. (Fassbender, 2008). Egypt offered easy access to most of the resources it needed for survival and success which guaranteed the development of a large population.

The promise of a harvest climate, new inventions, security of the deserts on both sides, transportation provided by the river into the sea, the Nile River was the greatest factor creating early civilization for Ancient Egypt. B. Tea is the most popular drink in the world, second only to water; got it’s start in China as nothing more than a mere accident and has since traveled the world, started wars, and created millions of dollars for governments and plantation owners. The origin of tea dates back “around 4,000 years ago” ( History & Future ­ When did people start having tea?, n.d.). According to legend “the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong discovered tea in 2737 BC while he was boiling water in the shade of a tree” … when a “light breeze caused some leaves to fall into the water” (Origins of Tea, 2012). The emperor tasted it and thought it was delicious, and so began the tea adventure. At that time, tea was bitter and mostly used for it’s health properties as a medicine for problems such as eyesight and stomach issues. At the end of the fifth century, tea was traded and exported with Mongolian and Turkish merchants.

By the eighth century it was exported to far regions like Japan, Central Asia and Tibet. Tea began to spread further west with other foreign traders, missionaries, and ambassadors that were given samples and gifts of it to try and take home for others to try. The first agreement to export and trade tea was between China and 3 Russia. In the mid 1850’s, Chinese immigrants heading to Taiwan would bring tea seedlings, tea growing and processing skills and the tea culture with them. In the seventeenth century, green tea was exported into Europe and was mostly used as a medicinal drink due to the bitter taste and the health properties it offered. The Dutch started to buy tea in Japan and China and then shipped it and sold it in France, Germany, and England. The Dutch also introduced tea to New Amsterdam in the 1650’s. During this time tea was usually only for the very wealthy because it was so expensive, until the 1750’s when it became a more modern drink with more availability for larger groups of people. (Saberi, 2010), (Origins of Tea, 2012), and ( History & Future ­ When did people start having tea?, n.d.).

In the eighteenth century tea became popular in countries like North America and Europe; however, China was the only country selling tea to other countries. China’s tea business was soaring until India stepped into the tea business. When the British started ruling India, they found some tea plants in Assam (found in the North Eastern area of India) and decided that these tea plants had a sweeter taste. Tea plantations started growing in Assam, then Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), Sumatra, Java and Formosa. It was discovered that the plants in China grew 5 meters shorter in height than those in India; so the tea business naturally shifted there. This was very good for the British because their demand for the drink was huge, creating a huge deficit for them with China. The British government now had the surplus of tea, from the plantations in India (and the areas around there) and the trade agreements with China. The British now sold to other countries, like North America ­ only they levied a sales tax on the tea leaves that they couldn’t sale anywhere else and try to sale to the new American colonies; this was faced with a fierce resistance ­ known as the “Boston Tea Party”. (The Spread of Tea from 4 China, 2012).

Tea was first created with a leaf in boiling water, then it was dried and steeped, then as the drink was being traded and sold ­ tea leaves and buds were dried, pressed and packaged for shipping, including bricks of dried, crushed tea leaves. Each time the seedlings were taken to a new climate or country, new flavors were established and new ways of serving the drink were created. For instance, “the Chinese sip it from tiny cups, the Japanese whisk it. In America they serve it iced. The Tibetans add butter. The Russians serve with lemon. Mint is added in North Africa. Afghans flavour it with cardamom. The Irish and the British drink it by the gallon with milk and sugar. The Indians boil it with condensed milk. In Australia it is brewed in a ‘billy’ can” (Saberi, 2010). The diffusion of tea may have started as a bitter, medicinal emperor’s drink, yet it has traveled the world, been raised or farmed in multiple corners of the globe, transformed from a drink for the wealthy to a world­wide drink of choice for all classes and races ­ from bitter to sweet, from medicinal to being a part of the social scene; including having restaurants, tea rooms, and clubs created just for the enjoyment of those that want a cup of the world’s most popular drink…Tea. C1.

One of the environmental factors that contributed to the expansion of the United States was the devastating Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. The Dust Bowl, also referred to as the “dirty thirties”, “Black Roller” or the “Black Blizzard”, (Buonanduci, 2009 and Baumhardt, 2003) happened when a severe drought in 1930 to 1936 (to 1940 in some areas) caused extreme dust storms over the prairie lands of Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and the border areas of Colorado and New Mexico. When the dust storms hit, visibility was reduced to a few feet or less and millions of farmland became useless; the storms caused major ecological and agricultural damage to over 5 100,000,000 acres of farmland (Buonanduci, 2009). In addition to a severe drought, the people had over farmed without needed crop rotation or other farming techniques to prevent erosion which then created the inevitable wide­spread disaster. This coupled with the Great Depression left the government without a lot of options to help the people of the prairie lands who were suffering from extraordinary financial difficulties.

In a span of about five years over 500,000 Americans were forced to flee the area. About half of those people headed west to California where many settled into farming the Central Valley and Los Angeles areas. (Simkin, 1997). In response to the devastation of the Dust Bowl, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office (in 1933), were spent creating government programs designed to “restore the ecological balance by encouraging diversified agricultural crop production using tested practices and improved tools” (Baumhardt, 2003) The Dust Bowl created expansion of the U.S. when hundreds of thousands moved west to California bringing the lessons learned from farming successes and failures with them; it also contributed to the development of the U.S. as the entire country took the essential agricultural lessons learned and established programs to ensure the same mistakes would not be repeated again. C2. The Irish Potato Famine of 1845 ­ 1849 also contributed to the development and expansion of the United States because of the “nearly a million Irish” that arrived in the United States (Gavin, 2000).

The large number of people helped literally develop our county through the blood, sweat, and tears that hard work and desire brings to those making a home of peace and happiness for their families. In the early 17th century, the Irish were quite dependent on food exported from other 6 countries ­ mainly the potato from America. However, by the 19th century about a third of Ireland was dedicated to potato farming, “turning this into Ireland’s primary crop…the potato supported massive population expansion within Ireland. Within that time, the population doubled from four million to eight million citizens” (Hawkes, 2012). The first report of the potato blight was recorded on August 20, 1845, and by October one­third of the potato crop was lost to the blight. At first there was still enough food for the Irish people despite the potato blight, the problem for most of those who had the diseased crops was the fact that they didn’t have enough money to buy other food. The blight reduced the Irish potato harvest by about 30%. This drastic loss caused many farmers to eat the potato seedlings that they were going to plant in the upcoming year.

Now the starving people resorted to slaughtering their pigs and cows to keep from starving through the harsh winter, they also knew they wouldn’t have food to feed their starving their animals. The situation in Ireland became grim, by this time the blight wasn’t spreading any longer, but the farmers weren’t planting or harvesting enough potatoes to have enough food to feed the people of their country. Lasting about six years, the Irish Potato Famine had killed over a million people from a combination of starvation and disease; causing another million people to migrate to the United States (Smith, 2011), (Gavin, 2000) and (Hawkes, 2012). The Irish immigrants came to America to escape the certain death that they faced there, and for a promised future of the American dream; however, it was not a welcoming place for many, instead it was a brutally hard, unkind and unwelcoming place for many. Boston might have been the hardest and most cruel place for those coming from Ireland, but New York wasn’t that much easier in the end. One of the turning points for the unwelcomed Irish people was the Civil War; “over 140,000 enlisted in the Union Army, while those in the South enrolled in the 7 Confederate ranks” (Gavin, 2000) and (Hawkes, 2012).

The Irish immigrants provided many laborers needed for the backbreaking work that was needed for the American expansion that was happening at that time. The immigrants saw this move to America as permanent and “brought over several hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants during the following decades” (Smith, 2011). Politically the Irish now had the numbers to influence votes, welcome at first or not, the Irish people could no longer be ignored. The Potato Famine started as a deadly killer in Ireland, turning into a large exodus of people immigrating to the United States; changing the face of the American laborers and changing who was running and winning political offices. The Anti­Irish sentiment would be quieted at last when an Irish Potato Famine immigrant’s descendant was elected President of the United States ­ President John F. Kennedy was that person. “He is the great­grandson of Patrick Kennedy, a farmer from County Wexford who had left Ireland in 1849” (Gavin, 2000).

The Irish are considered the first large group of poor refugees to come to the United States and they paved the way for all the many refugees and immigrants that would follow their footsteps. Today, after years of hard work to overcome numerous amount of obstacles to find freedom, peace and happiness ­ Americans of Irish descent are the third largest ethnic group in the country. Unfortunately, Ireland stayed a very sad place after the famine for decades. (Gavin, 2000).


Baumhardt, R. L. (2003). USDA ­ The Official Website for The Conservation and Production Research Laboratory DUST BOWL ERA. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.cprl.ars.usda.gov/ Buonanduci, M. (2009, April 27). Dust Bowl. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/151818/ Fassbender, M. (2008, September 11). Physical Geography Ancient Egypt by Michael Fassbender | Humanities 360. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.humanities360.com/index.php/physical­geography­ancient­egypt­50663/ Gavin, G. (2000). The History Place ­ Irish Potato Famine. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from 9 http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/famine/ Hawkes, S. (2012, August 28). Fatal Potatoes: The Nineteenth­Century Irish Potato Famine | US History Scene. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.ushistoryscene.com/uncategorized/fatalpotatoes/ History & Future ­ When did people start having tea? (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://humantouchofchemistry.com/when­did­people­start­having­tea.htm Irish Potato Famine. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://courses.soomopublishing.com/ Keita, M. (n.d.). Rise of Civilizations and Empires in Mesopotamia. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://history­world.org/rise_of_civilizations.htm Kreis, S. (2006, October 11). Lecture 3: Egyptian Civilization. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/lecture3b.html Origins of Tea. (2012). Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://www.higgins­burke.com/About­Our­Tea/Pages/Origin­of­Tea.aspx PBS (2009, November 15). Video: Surviving the Dust Bowl | Watch American Experience Online | PBS Video [Video file]. Retrieved from http://video.pbs.org/video/1311363860/?starttime=1200000 Saberi, H. (2010). Chapter 2 China. In Tea: A global history (pp. 27­41). Retrieved from http://lrps.wgu/provision/8539375 Saberi, H. (2010). Chapter 5 Tea Comes to the West. In Tea: A global history (pp. 85­124). 10 Retrieved from http://lrps.wgu/provision/8539375 Simkin, J. (1997, September). The Dust Bowl. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://spartacus­educational.com/USAdust.htm Smith, A. F. (2011). Potato: A global history. Retrieved from http://lrps.wgu.edu/provision/8539677 The Spread Of Tea From China. (2012, September 13). Retrieved June 15, 2014, from http://thespreadofteafromchina.blogspot.com/

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