Cultural eutrophication: perspectives and prospects
History of cultural eutrophication. Cultural eutrophication is old as Homo sapiens. In particular after the introduction of agriculture and larger settlements eutrophication has been mans faithful companion. During the pre-agricultural hunting and picking stage only probably a couple million humans inhabited the world and cultural eutrophication was negligible. The 3 orders of magnitude increase in population has changed this considerably. Human population growth and mans present existence is entirely based upon the development and efficiency of agriculture. Seafood delivers only a small percentage of human food word wide (see Chapter 15). A consequence of the increased population (based on agriculture) has been large-scale cultural eutrophication. This process has accompanied all major civilisations. Mesopotamia, the Golden Crescent, the Mediterranean cultures, central Europe, North America and China all have been affected/suffered from the effects of cultural eutrophication. Some of us may dream about the good old times of the Middle ages when man lived closer to nature, when the word appeared to be ‘greener’ than today and when life was more ‘natural’. This view is based on a misunderstanding. The present eutrophication of the Baltic and North Sea was preceded by similar or even worse eutrophication periods caused by logging and the introduction of large-scale agriculture in Europe. Medieval cities were probably not only unsanitary, but contaminated by organic wastes, nutrients and heavy metals. The cultural eutrophication in major cities must have been immense, far beyond today’s imagination. A good example of the ambience of Paris in medieval times is portrayed in Patrick Suesskinds novel ‘Perfume’. Cultural eutrophication is thus not a recent phenomenon. It has continuously accompanied mans existence in variable degrees. Locally cultural eutrophication can have been far more significant than today.
PublisherUniversity of Tromsø, Norway
CitationChapter 17 in: Wassmann, P., Olli, K. (eds.). 2004: 'Drainage basin nutrient inputs and eutrophication: an integrated approach' University of Tromsø, Norway (available at http://hdl.handle.net/10037/2389)
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