Title

European Colonialism and the Anthropocene: A View from the Pacific Coast of North America

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-2013

Publisher

Elsevier B.V.

Abstract

This paper argues that European colonialism from AD 1500 to the early 1800s marked a fundamental transformation in human–environment interactions across much of the world. The rapid founding of various colonial enterprises, particularly mission and managerial colonies, unleashed mission agrarian systems, plantations, fur trade outposts, and commercial fishing and whaling ventures into various tropical and temperate ecosystems in the Americas, Oceania, India, Asia, and Africa, which had tremendous repercussions for indigenous faunal and floral populations. These colonial enterprises placed tremendous pressures on long-standing anthropogenic landscapes leading to significant modifications with the invasion of foreign species, the disruption of native habitats, the extermination of keystone species, and in some places, the loss of biodiversity. We conclude with a case study that considers how anthropogenic environments in Alta and Baja California created by native peoples over many centuries became entangled with mission ranching and commercial fur hunting. Our findings support a longer chronology for the Anthropocene than traditionally recognized.