The author Alfred Crosby gives wonderful detail into a realm that is not always explored, the impact, and affect over time of what happened when the Old World and the New World collided. Many of the things Crosby discusses are not often shown in the content of high school history courses, or something thought of as general knowledge.
The approach that Crosby takes towards the flora and fauna differences and the affects they had, helped me to develop a more profound respect of the fragility of an ecosystem. Two different worlds, almost literally, were joined, and in doing so, one was almost completely obliterated. This also had to do with the area, that the Old World found the New. If they landed in northern Canada, for instance, I’m sure that majority of the sheep, for example, would have rapidly died off. Instead they end up in a warm temperate climate that would support this kind of rapid growth that was discussed. The camel is a perfect example of an animal that didn’t adapt well to the new climate.
Adaptation, of course is the name of the game. Perhaps the Europeans were lucky perhaps they understood what they were doing. Once the Europeans found the climates they need the plants and animals adapted well. There were snags too, they could not find what they needed for the olive and the grape, immediately, that caused great frustrations. However, after the flora, and fauna adapted, many of the New World’s weaker plants and animals became extinct. They did not adapt in time to fight these new invaders off, including the aborigines of the Americas.
I also believe that after reading this book that we truly only have a small picture of what happened. Think about it, if we know about the diseases, and viruses that plagued the people of the New World, we only know about the ones that affected humans to an extent. One of the reasons that Old World plants may have flourished maybe they brought a parasite, bacteria, or virus that they were resistant to but not the ones in the new. The same could be said for the animals as well.
Crosby discusses at the end of the book that the columbian exchange continues in what people do currently without the world, and is very condescending about it’s results on the future of this planet. I believe that this is true, I think that it is part of our human nature. I think that to look at our future to change, we must recognize what happened in the past, in order not to make the same mistakes. Who knows, perhaps in the future, a “columbian exchange” might exist with another plant.