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The Nile River is one of the greatest contributing factors to the development of the ancient civilization of Egypt (Smith, 2014). Civilization is defined as, “the society, culture, and way of life of a particular area” (The Free Dictionary,n.d.). At over 4,000 miles long, the Nile is the longest known river in the world, and runs through eleven countries, including Egypt. Villages were located near to its life giving waters, and along its banks, and they were able to thrive because of the Nile and the agricultural abilities that the Nile provided. During the rainy season the Nile River deposited its silt-enriched waters when its banks flooded. The ancient Egyptian farmers knew they needed those waters to grow their crops, and also needed a way to store water because of Egypt’s long dry season – it is essentially a vast desert, so they constructed devices, including catch basins and dikes, so they could catch the water for various purposes, and stored it so they could irrigate their crops the rest of the year. Not only did the Nile River allow the farmers to grow and nourish their crops, but it also gave them a means to sell any overage, and also other goods, as they could travel along the river to other villages. Agriculture and the sale of goods was not the only exchange made by the early people of the Nile. Culture was also exchanged. People from different villages and communities along the Nile came together for commerce, and as a natural consequence they would share their culture and traditions. Culture and different ways of life were being diffused along the Nile. Without the Nile River the diffusion of culture, and the exchange and sale of resources would have been scarce. Life would not have existed so easily without the benefit of the Nile River. In fact, without the important contribution of the Nile River, ancient Egypt would not have been able to thrive as it did (Orlin, 2007).
Diffusion is “the dissemination of elements of culture to another region or people” (The Free Dictionary, n.d.) usually from an area of high concentration of civilized culture, to another region. It is believed that the humble potato originated from Southern Chile about 14,000 years ago and travelled a very wide course of diffusion. In about 10,000 BCE, Andean farmers domesticated the potato through a process of trial and error. They discovered that seeds or sprouts from tubers could accomplish propagation of potatoes. Being near to the equator, particular potato crops thrived, especially the Salanum Tuberosum – the common potato. It grew well on equal amounts of day and night. The green plant flourished in the warmth of the day, and the tubers thrived during the cold nights. Potatoes did not have a long shelf life so the early South Americans developed an effective method of freeze drying so that they would have nourishment during times of famine. The common potato was becoming a very important staple for survival. It is said that Sir Frances Drake bartered with Indians for goods for his voyage to Northern Europe, and among those goods were potatoes. In 1577, Drake took the potato to Northern Europe, and then the Spanish, while searching for gold found the potato and took it to Bolivia. In Bolivia it became the main food source for Bolivian mine workers (Smith, 2011). The potato had come a long way, from South America, and now to Northern Europe. That was not the end of the diffusion of this lowly tuber. It went from the court of Spain to the Pope in Rome, from Rome to the papal ambassador in Mons, from Mons to a botanist in Vienna. People in Europe even started to give potatoes as gifts. Potatoes reached London in 1597, and shortly after, France and the Netherlands. In the early 17th century, sailors took potatoes to eat during long ocean voyages, thereby making it possible for the potato to travel to India, China, and Japan. Ireland gave the potato a warm welcome, and in the early 1700’s took it, and the name, “Irish potato,” to North America. So from ordinary, humble beginnings 14,000 years ago in South America the potato has travelled the world (“International year of, “2008). The potato became a dietary staple to the people of many countries as it was diffused throughout the world, and it is still a cheap, and important part of the diet of many people today.
Two very significant environmental and physical geographic factors that contributed to the development and expansion of the United States were the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800’s, and the devastating Dust Bowl storms in the Great Plains in the mid to late 1930’s. One was a race to wealth, while the other was a battle for survival against the elements. The most famous of America’s geological events has to be the gold rush which hit its peak in 1849 following the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. At first gold was “easy pickings,” and could just be picked-up off the ground (Soomo, 2013). A storeowner at Sutter’s Fort, Sam Brannan, decided to cash in while he had the chance to make his fortune the easy way – selling supplies to the gold hunters. Brannan published an article about the discovery of California gold in the California Star. To encourage miners he also went around waving a jar of gold. “Gold fever” struck in all its might after President Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California, and all who could joined the rush to find gold. Over 90,000 gold hunters hit California in 1849, hence the nickname they were given, “49ers.” When gold became harder to find the miners just found new ways to excavate. Drilling, hydraulic mining, and blasting, all became methods miners used to discover hidden veins of gold, and in the process they forever changed the California landscape. Trees were cut down in massive numbers to build mining towns and tools for mining, the natural course of rivers was altered to search for gold on riverbeds, and acres of farmland were buried in rocky sludge (Barclay, n.d.). Mining towns sprung up wherever gold was found, and the population of California grew in just four years from 20,000 to over 200,000 (Barclay, n.d.). Much of the settling in the northwest, mostly in northern California, can be accredited to the California Gold Rush. (Udall & Emmons, 2003) Sadly, as many prospered and found a new home, many also lost their homes and land forever. The native Mexicans of California lost their land grants when California became a state in 1850, and those land grants were given to miners, and those who became part of that world. (Barclay, n.d.). The Dust Bowl storms in the Great Plains changed that landscape, and the lives of many people forever too, and they also played a role in the development of central and southern California. Farmers had travelled in droves to the Great Plains with the promise of a great agricultural land. The migration was aided by posters and advertising showing crops, and vegetable of inordinate size to encourage people to want to migrate to the plains. The land, at the time was experiencing a weather pattern that brought much rain and in turn made the land perfect for farming. Many farmers enjoyed a time of great prosperity. Increased farms, and ploughed land left many fields dry and barren, merely fields of dirt and dust. When drought and high temperatures hit, as they had before, the land took on a new weather pattern. Vast dust storms raged on the plains as the barren land was caught up in high winds and deposited far and wide. Fields were stripped of their crops, and homes were lost to piles of dirt and sand. Clouds of dust rained down on the land making it difficult to breathe or see. The storms made it impossible to farm on the land as the topsoil was stripped away and the soil became devoid of life. This unusual weather was a surprise to the new farmers of the plains, but they believed that things would change and soon return to the lushness they had known. It was not to be. After years of what seemed like endless drought, and realizing that the prosperity of before was never to return, many packed-up their families and headed west to find employment and a better life. It is said that a quarter of the population left the Great Plains (Soomo, 2013), with about 10% heading for central and southern California (Bidwell, 2008). California was experiencing another population surge, and seemed to be becoming overpopulated. Police were sent to the borders to control the emigration of the less than desirable element. Due to the surge of migrants, jobs were becoming scarce which also increased the percentage of poor and destitute in the state. Some of the migrants fled to the North and the East to the cities of Detroit and Pittsburg. It was hoped that jobs would be easier to find in the bigger cities. So an environmental disaster, which was said to be man-made due to excessive over farming, contributed to growing populations in major areas of the U.S., though many of the migrants were not welcomed into their new home amid fears of over population causing poverty, and scarcity for those already living there (Bidwell, 2008).

Reference Page

Barclay, D. (n.d.). The California Gold Rush: History through the collections series, part 1 [PDF]. Retrieved June 10, 2014, from http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/research/pdf/California_Gold_Rush.pdf
Bidwell, C. (2008, March 11). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.dailybreeze.com/general-news/20080312/fleeing-the-dust-bowl-for-a-golden-opportunity-in-california

The Free Dictionary. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/civilization
The Free Dictionary. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/diffusion
International year of the potato. (2008). Retrieved June 8, 2014, from http://www.fao.org/potato-2008/en/potato/diffusion.html
Orlin, L.L. (2007). Life and thought in the ancient near east [ebrary book]. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from http://lrps.wgu.edu/provision/8539289
Smith, A.F. (2011). Potato: A global history [ebrary book]. Retrieved June, 8, 2014, from http://lrps.wgu.edu/provision/8539677

Smith, R. (2014, May 9). Nile River Facts for Kids - Interesting Facts about the Nile River. Nile River Facts for Kids - Interesting Facts about the Nile River. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/nileriver.html
Soomo (2013). Surviving the Dust Bowl [PBS video]. Retrieved from URL http://courses.soomopublishing.com/context/f4d337b0-45de-4a8f-bcb6-d6810ec1225d/tocs/51db14842e0b830002000001/chapters/51dda84af740963fd3000248/assignments/51dda8a7e190ac7c46000184
Soomo (2013). The Gold Rush. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from URL http://courses.soomopublishing.com/context/f4d337b0-45de-4a8f-bcb6-d6810ec1225d/tocs/51db14842e0b830002000001/chapters/51dda84af740963fd3000248/assignments/51dda880e190ac7c46000180
Udall, S. L., & Emmons, D. (2003). Forgotten founders : Rethinking the history of the old west. Washington, DC, USA: Island Press.

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