Commodification of the North American Continent

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Search for extended resources in the early 17th century, colonists extrapolated the terrain of the British empire, and gave religious freedom to many who went along on the journey. Resident hunter gatherers and efficient farmers already roamed the North American Continent. They were especially sustainable in their harvesting; Indians utilized every part of a hunted article, and wasteful behavior was not accepted as it subtracted from their chance of survival. As trade brought new crops like tobacco, rice, and cotton to Europe, an economic push to extensive capitalism in colonies occurred.

Colonization disrupted ecosystems, and completely eliminated native species like the colonial beaver. In this process, Indians lost their language, culture, and practices due to overhunting and European commodities. Slave labor exploded due to the commodification of crops. This created a class of people who deliberately lack any benefactors of American freedom. The purpose of this essay is to argue that the Commodification of the American landscape was not good for the United States of America.

Through creating dams, Beavers produce ponds, and the many ecosystems within them. Native Americans trapped beavers, and unwastefully used them as pelt clothing, and meat. In contrast, Northeast colonies used only beaver pelts, which were of value in Europe as felt hats to the wealthy. Europeans set up trade relationships with the Indians, who harvested beaver pelts in turn for European goods, the most valuable of which included horses and guns.

Indians eventually became dependant on beaver trade for survival. Beavers were hunted to extinction within twenty years. This was a major loss of habitat for other species, and native resources declined. In the congregation of the great plains, even more damage was done. 30 million buffalo once roamed the Great Plains, and were a highly valued to Native pedestrian hunters

. With the introduction of horses, hunts became more productive, and Indians found access to world market hide trade, as they harvested more bison then what was needed for a person. This changed the Indian attitude towards hunting and harvesting, and they began to participate in wasteful behavior. The U.S. government called extermination of the buffalo, who often got in the way of the Transcontinental Railroad, and also trampled farmland. In 1890, 1,000 bison remained on the great plains.

In the trading process, cultures were shared and exchanged, but the Europeans did not accept that of the Indians. Indians learned english and number systems in order to maintain trade relationships. They also learned to use European commodities, and forgot their old ways as they became irrelevant. On the other hand, Europeans did not practice any Indian ways, as they were seen as inferior at the time.

Plantation owners thrived off of the same fields of crops that mass murdered millions of buffalo. Europe hungered for the new crops, such as tobacco, rice, and cotton, which were, aside from rice, exclusively available from America. Free labor driven by slaves is what powered the operation. Generations of plantation owners from the first colonies, all worked toward achieving the same European goal, to become a gentleman farmer.

A gentleman was a man who had worked his way into a place where he no longer needed to work to make money. But in order to do this, they needed workers. Plantation owners chose not to pay workers reasonable wages, as this guaranteed an ongoing yield of profit. This saved money to invest in more land, which, in turn, required more slaves to continue to generate financial gain. An economic cycle was born. Slaves were eventually required elements of plantation machinery.

To justify this, slave trade owners came up with the idea that slaves were no more than animals, and were to be treated as such. In America, Africans are continually feeling trapped in a society that favors whites, all because their place was radically defined in the past. The process of commodifying land lead to an enormous economic growth for the early American colonies, but at the same time left a social gap that we are still trying to bridge today.

Commodification is not necessarily bad though. Without it we would have little driving force accelerating the inspiration of innovation. Commodification gave birth to widespread long distance communication and instant information. It also gave birth to the first automobiles, and international flight. Commodification gave people convenience, entertainment, and the power to do things that people in third world countries, and people from the past, never imagined.

Commodification may be good in some cases, but is often driven by greed. Without constraints, commodification severely damage the environment and ecosystems, people’s health and well being, and even the politics of today’s world. Tobacco industries lied through their teeth when questioned about the addictive and harmful qualities of tobacco. Fossil fuel companies had research done 60 years ago that confirmed that there was an inextricable link to burning these fuels, and global warming.

So they sowed doubt into the public about weather global warming really exists. Every minute, two football fields worth of rainforest that probably has the cure to cancer, and millions of unidentified species is cut down and replaced by cattle farms. Rainforests are also the greatest halt to the progression of global warming. And all of these companies buy governors votes and use loopholes in our system to get away with these hideous crimes.

Even though commodification has undoubtedly created the highly privileged U.S., it has also created racism, global warming, addiction, as well as destroying many ecosystems and cultures. When big companies are faced with the decision of short term profits, or long term sustainability, the fact is that most of the time companies will settle for short term satisfaction. American colonizers did not practice sustainability when they commodified the American landscape, resulting in the substantial problems today’s world faces. Commodification gives the people of America everything they own, but Americans need to be cautious to not let big companies take anything except their money. At a certain point, commodification can take away our freedom.


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Commodification of the North American Continent. (2021, May 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/commodification-of-the-north-american-continent/

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