Watch Humans Conquer the Planet In 6 Minutes

By Nathaniel Scharping | November 10, 2016 12:30 pm


When humans first emerged from Africa 200,000 years ago, we weren’t much more than slightly brainier hominids. It would take time for us to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the species vying for dominance over the planet.

But once we got a toehold — oh, boy did we take off. Humans leveraged a few key innovations — fire, weapons, agriculture — into the beginnings of an unrivaled global empire.

Wrapped up in the crises of the moment, it can be tough to appreciate the sheer scale and speed of humanity’s growth. In situations like this, it’s best to turn to visuals, like this map and accompanying graph from the American Museum of Natural History.

As Motherboard reports, humanity starts slow. Our first tentative steps out of Africa took some 100,000 years, and we spread gradually through Europe and into Asia. When the Bering Land Bridge opened up the Americas around 20,000 years ago, however, the colonization was lightning-quick, a few thousand years at the outside, likely assisted by advances in agriculture.

The number of people on the planet rose concomitant with our geographic conquests, barely cracking a million for most of our history, and shooting exponentially upward once we harnessed new technologies. By 1 AD, there were an estimated 170 million people knocking around the planet, and by the 19th century, a billion. From there, the story is well known. Urbanization and industrialization drive growth, and humanity is ascendant.

Zooming in on the past 2,000 years makes the sharp increase at the time of the Industrial Revolution even more obvious. The map illustrates the process better than words can. Most striking are India and China, where population densities far outpace Europe and the Americas as far back as the 10th century.

The point of the visualization is to show us how quickly modern humans have prospered in relation to anthropologic and geologic timescales. The human population is predicated to reach around 11 billion people by the year 2100, although small divergences from the projection could alter that number considerably. Those people will need to be fed, housed and supplied with energy, and current infrastructure is probably not up to the task.

Things like family planning, resource management and the mitigation of climate change will all play a role in determining those global citizens’ future. We managed to conquer the planet, but now we have to rule it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, top posts
  • Camden Marshall Andersen

    Unfortunately, I see that the article is pushing the Out of Africa theory as though this were the key to the concept of population. Truthfully, the reinforcement of the idea that we all come from Africa tends to imply that African’s idea’s about population are justified (because they were the first people of the globe). The ignorance that accompanies these ideas goes hand in hand with the ignorance of overpopulation. Here it would seem that people in certain areas of the globe are simply carrying out “Gods Work.” The reality of the situation is such that the origins of humanity need to be revised, and the peoples who are overpopulated at the equator(s) need a reality check. Revising this Out of Africa theory is akin to this “Reality Check” that humanity so disparately needs! BECAUSE: We Are Not All Black, and WE [Do Not All Feel The Same], about population and family matters. Understanding a better picture about human origins is akin to the destruction of religion, and misleading religious ideas (many of which are held by people at the equators). Truly, human like beings have come and gone over this globe over many millions and indeed probably billions of years. Destroying the allegiance of pride within the idea of a particular set of origin theories can set the record strait on the real and more important issues, over and above whose family survives and takes over the economic systems.

    • Tosin

      Keep calm and maybe visit “the equator” sometime.

    • jcsandino

      Sadly for you, theories are not speculations but explanations that cover a wide array of evidences. Evidences, not opinions.

    • John A

      Hang on everyone – the man does have a point. However, it is one that points in an awkward direction. When the migration north from Africa entered modern day Europe, they encountered Neanderthals – then systematically dominated, conquered, and bred them out of existence. Or, at least into a new existence. The same thing also happened in Asia. The end result? A better – more adaptable – human.

      • John Scales

        But how do we know that the Neanderthals and the Denisovans didn’t come from Africa too? Our ancestors were in Africa millions of years ago. The oldest evidence humans in, for example the area in Siberia where the Denisovans lived, is about 125000 years BCE. a drop in the evolutionary bucket. From wikipedia: “As of 2011, it appears likely that there were two waves of migration out of Africa, the first taking place between 130,000–115,000 years ago via northern Africa,[6][7][8][9] which appears to have mostly died out or retreated (although there is some evidence of a presence of modern humans in China about 80,000 years ago,[10] and a second via the so-called Southern Route, following the southern coastline of Asia, which led to the lasting colonization of Eurasia and Australia by around 50,000 years ago. Europe was populated by an early offshoot which settled the Near East and Europe (post-Toba hypothesis).[11][12]”

  • OWilson

    Incredible graphics.

    But 99.99% of all human development and civilization occurred before we had “environmentalists” taxing the air we breath, the birth rate naturally falling without “population control”.

    And man, peeing downstream, poking a hole in the roof of his hut to let out smoke, and burning his garbage, all before we had an EPA.

    Good job, Mother Nature!

    • John Scales

      So, you wouldn’t mind living in, say 19th century London, where the air was choked with coal pollution. Without the EPA our kids would still be breathing lead from all the cars burning leaded gasoline. From smog in LA to lead in our water, everyone wants small government, until they need it. Ask the folks in Flint. Shall we do away with FEMA too? cheers,

      • OWilson

        How did we ever manage to get to the pinnacle of human civilization before 1970?

        (That was the year the EPA came into being) :)

        • Comicus

          We ignored the pseudowisdom of obtuse morons.

          • OWilson

            We also managed to kill off a lot of arrogant totalitarian elitists who insisted (by force of arms) to tell others how they should live!

            Some of us even ignored the same kind of scum that populates the MSM :)

          • lindsncal

            Too bad it wasn’t the billions of dollars worth of oil industry rhetoric.

        • lindsncal

          Your comments are so ridiculous, it’s not even worth showing you why. You’ll just have some inane response.

        • Dan Imler

          We didn’t count all the dead people from conquering, war, and plunder. History only measures the winners. The pinnacle of civilization before 1970? Get a grip. We were mere minutes away from global annihilation. As for the EPA, lives were saved and prolonged, which has contributed to our current over-population. If we keep at it, we can wind up going back to square one. Death and destruction on an unimaginable scale. You constantly criticize and mock scientific and observed data. It’s not the data that will get us. It’s the effects of the data. All Earth systems are incredibly complex. Biology, ecology, and climate are intricately related. Call it the old “butterfly effect.” You are correct in that predictive systems based on the data we have are inaccurate. Then there’s our behavior. Our bodies have more microbes than our own cells. These micro-organisms are all doing something different, yet all connected. The organisms that live inside us can change our immunities, appearance, and mental state. When they are modified, we are modified. Point is, your Doritos may be what’s causing you to be such a contrarian.

    • lindsncal


  • Francisco Serra

    Unfortunately the graphic does not show about 6 million indigenous people in what’s today’s brazilian territory, met by the portuguese conquerors when they arrived in 1500 AD .

    • marc

      Nor the estimated 100 million natives in all America

    • Emal Khan Hekmaty

      What about more than 100 million indigenous Americans and millions of indigenous Australians met by the British and other Europians.

      • indytrumptrain

        100 million is way, way, off. That is 1/3 of our present pop.

    • Ronnie Solbakken

      That’s because these populations were too spread out. The dots only represent where people congregated, they don’y represent the exact location of all the people.

  • LEK56

    Now think of humans as a virus on the planet…

    • ComputerCrone

      My exact thoughts exactly.

      • OWilson

        Now think of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Abortion as the anti-toxin. :)

        • Ronnie Solbakken

          Now thing of your mom as Typhus.

        • lindsncal

          R W claptrap that explains nothing.

  • John DeOliveira

    This video is fantastic, however there is a mistake in it. The calendar line is going to slow for the population and events. For example: The video claims that the arrival of europeans to America is in the XII Century and the slavery from Africa to America in the XIII century and Industria revolution in the XVII Century.

  • Harold Chanin

    Wonderful! For leaders and their followers who deny the realities of global warming and the Venus affect, an overlap curve of global temperature rise will be an eye-opener, especially the projected start(s) of the decline of civilization and population, conceptually until it is zero.

  • White Elk Clearwater

    When talking about global warming why is it that the “experts” choose to ignore that this planet has already gone through several cycles of warming even to the point of most of it being tropical or subtropical & then ice ages again & again – & all without any factories, cars trucks etc? yes we do have be responsible with all that – but don’t forget the natural cycles & their effects.

    • Lexie Perryman Smith

      Finally, someone sees this too! I thought no one else did!

      • White Elk Clearwater

        Welcome aboard to non-dumbed-down few. Most people/sheeple are stuck in the “matrix” if I may borrow the term from that sci-fi movie.

        • Lexie Perryman Smith

          I guess it’s easier for people to believe they can effect it than to understand our big blue marble doesn’t revolve for us, we are not in control and we cannot stop her cycles the way we manipulate our own.

    • andris1

      The earth has indeed undergone many climate swings from searing tropical to frigid ice ages (even some periods when the whole earth seems to have become one giant ice ball!). but many of those swings were usually fairly slow in geologic terms. What we are now facing is a much more rapid increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide content and average global temperature rise, that is basically unprecedented. If the current trends of climate change continue, many species (especially plants, which are obviously immobile… and some animals which depend on limited plants for their food) will probably be unable to adapt to the change in their habitats rapidly enough to survive.
      We are seeing changes in severe weather events already. Deserts are slowly extending due to rainfall alterations. Glaciersa are indeed melting much more quickly than in recorded history. Oceans are warming, and in places are becoming depleted in oxygen, leading to “dead zones”. Many parts of North America are undergoing prolonged droughts.
      We can also glean, from the fossil records, that rapid global climate changes were accompanied by massive die-offs of life, world-wide. Some of the known die-offs of global animal and marine species were : 440 Million yr ago (Mya) : 85% of all species; 365Mya : 80%; 245Mya : 95%! (including 33% of all insect species); 210 Mya : 70%; 65Mya : 70% (think dinosaurs, and many others). Not all of these die-offs were due to catastrophic events, such as asteroid impacts. We do not want to go there!
      Obviously, humans were not responsible for the past climate swings. But the real issue is, that we humans have changed the balance of nature more rapidly than any species has ever done before. The species extinction rate is accelerating across the globe. We can at least arrest the rate at which we are contributing to global climate chenge. We don’t really want to be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back…. We don’t want to be responsible, in the most extreme scenario, for pushing our earth towards a runaway global catastrophe, to end up as a second Venus.
      We do still have time to change gears in the way we handle resources, deal with pollutants such as nuclear waste, and contribute to greenhouse gasses. Ignoring trends and warning signs will just make things much more difficult for our children and future generations.
      Please let’s not let misguided political ideology blind us to reality and possible negative outcomes.

      • Lexie Perryman Smith

        I agree totally that we must do all that is possible to take care of the earth and sooner rather than later. I am not arguing against cold, hard fact. But at the same time, we do know that outside recorded history, this planet went her own cyclical way and will not stop that simply because it isn’t going to be a good thing for us.

      • White Elk Clearwater

        Yes mankind in its great collective obtuseness has affected the planet negatively. However the extent to which the “global warming” criers are pushing is panicky overkill. As for the speeding up. Take a good look at everything in general, & you will notice that over the centuries everything is speeding up, more & more. Even the speed of light & the speed at which the magnetic poles are moving is changing – faster & faster.
        Please let’s not let misguided political ideology blind us to reality and possible negative outcomes.

  • David

    Yes….climate change is true…it is cyclic based on solar activity…..MAN MADE GLOBAL WARMING IS POLITICAL.

    • mbkeefer

      The last solar minimum lasted twice as long as normal. The following solar maximum barely qualified as one, it was so weak. Now we are rapidly going back into another solar minimum. If solar activity had anything significant to do with our climate, the last decade would have been the coldest since the little ice age, NOT the HOTTEST.

      • David

        …….check out NASA…the latest is we are in a cooling trend. Don’t fall for the Novus Ordo Seclorum.
        Sunspot minimums and maximums is NOT the only factor in determining solar affect. Are you a real scientist or science teacher..I taught science for 35 years.

  • cgosling

    So many unmet health issues may cause steep declines in populations. Climate change is part of that equation.

  • andris1

    My contention is that any extreme position dogmatically taken is probably a bad decision.
    This goes for global climate change insisters and deniers alike. We must be wary about pointing at the extreme opinions in either camp and dismissing that whole camp wholesale, without consideration of all facets of the issue from that camp’s perspective.
    I do think, that people who have a minimal or rudimentary understanding of science, scientific proof etc., should not be given much credence, just because they shout loudly while ignoring scientific data and indicators. Wishing and insisting that things are so doesn’t make them so. And it is so important to be aware of and beware of “fake science” being published online without the benefit of true peer review.
    My primary point was, in response to total deniers of climate change and mankind’s involvement in it, that there are strong indications that climate change and global warming (in general) are increasing significantly faster now than in previous documentable recent history. We humans are also dumping in vast amounts of carbon dioxide (a known “greenhouse” gas) into the atmosphere via fossil fuel (over)use. Obviously there are huge amounts of CO2 and other such greenhouse gases from other sources, such as flatulent cows, erupting volcanoes and melting permafrost, not to mention huge methane deposits in the ocean depths. We can’t take credit for all of that, but we can lessen the chance that we could inadvertently push the “natural” course of events in the wrong direction and end up, as I said previously, being the straw that breaks the camel’s back and spirals the earth into an uncontrollable runaway greenhouse effect. That might or might not happen with or without us, but we can at least try to minimize our part in the “runaway” possibility.
    I’m not sure that the speed of light has been changing, however.

  • Gycu Boatca

    You are to far nowing thinks I men in Germany they heave cainds of museums boat there was anader cicles of men’s bifor,as the Antartida time ben set at the South poll,the continent of conty Mu that is Ben sank nere Australia and tem escaped from there left evidency in India etc that bifor them was anader 4 cycles of men’s.
    I am a Cristian and according to the Bible the tribes after the sons of Noua ..Sem was white..Ham was black indigen like old Egiptiens and jafet was like after the adn sed .Mongoloid chinise etc…..from Sem came Gheter and they was Geturianas on anicient ,naw German…Terah that once in anicient Trachens. There was Dacians and they came from Dicla and they oll was so meny evidences of lagends as they sey there was a flud,…I mean people discovered in the deep arth covered they was washed after beg floods of water blasted over I’ll say..The sed of Bible meaning the generation befor cam to theyr end….is the ather thinks hard to believe…haw far was that Adam? After Dna sed we oll cam from one boat farder are tree species plus more or less they’re wefes


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