Infectious History

Disease has played a large role in the history of humanity, and still has world-changing effects today. Its history can be traced back thousands of years, but an important point at which disease became more prevalent in human life was with the discovery and subsequent colonizing of the Americas. Disease in this period was responsible for the rapid decline in Indigenous numbers, with various sicknesses being brought over from Europe and causing innumerable deaths. Looking back on this history, it’s not hard to see the impact that disease has had, and it’s clear that we can’t make the same mistakes in our current crisis. Like Lovell, the author of “From Columbus to Covid-19: Amerindian Antecedents to the Global Pandemic,” pointed out, we have many more resources to combat diseases, but we can only hope by the time the pandemic has passed there will be far fewer deaths than there were in the colonizing of the Americas.

Noting that this period has incredible historical significance, it can be used by individuals such as Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, authors of “Defining the Anthropocene,” to discuss potential starting periods of the Anthropocene Epoch. The main argument they seemed to be making in their article was that it’s difficult to put a starting date on the Anthropocene, but that their suggestion would be 1610 or 1964. It’s definitely interesting to put so much thought into defining the beginning of an epoch, but is clearly not an easy task. Their point that 1610 follows the trend of putting a significant event at the start of the epoch is good, as most people would define the start of the Anthropocene at around the Industrial Revolution. Although it’s important to set out an agreed upon date for this epoch, I also think it’s very important that we start taking action to reverse the effects on nature by humanity. We can agree that the Anthropocene is an epoch defined by human impact, but now we need to start slowing down humanity’s effect on the environment.

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