Balance. When considering the issues of environmental use by humans throughout history, the principle of balance plays an enormous role. As time has progressed, the balance struck between human needs and environmental necessity helps determine the most essential elements of human history. Much of history can be seen as an attempt to continually redefine the balance struck between these two realities, while both the greatest gains and most dramatic setbacks can, in many ways, trace themselves back to the relationship between humans and their environment.
This breaks down very clearly. Humans and their environment live in a constantly changing state of flux. As human needs change, they make adjustments that impact the environment in which they live, allowing people to thrive. As the environment responds and changes, humans either adapt to the new condition, move away, or die. This relationship is continual and in a constant state of adjustment. Every human advancement, be it social, economic, political, or cultural, has an environmental impact. The adjustments to the environment made by humans go a long way towards determining whether or not civilization (in some form) can continue in that region.
As we will see in this unit, humans constantly have to adapt to their changing environment, and while it is usually a very subtle process, there are plenty of times throughout history in which the relationship between humans and their environment became so unbalanced that a massive correction took place, usually devastating the human population. What makes the history of environmental interaction so interesting is that usually you can see direct historical progress between the actions of civilization and the resulting environmental reaction. The give-and-take of the relationship between man and his environment is very clear and allows for students to develop some significant historical skills. As the unit progresses, the key will be to be able to identify the causes (and effects) of human use of the environment and how that use brings about a specific and significant environmental response.
One note: Although this is a unit that revolves around the relationship between humans and their environment, do not assume this will be a 100% pro-environmentalism, Al-Gore-could-have-written-this-whole-thing unit. We are studying the historical relationship between man and his environment. The conclusions you draw from this study are yours. As long as you can back up your opinions with factual evidence, the position you take on environmentalism is up to you. The events of history are meant to be analyzed and should result in an understanding of how things have worked in the past. This unit will address how this relationship has evolved over time. You should let the historical evidence guide you to your opinion on this issue. Good luck.