The Columbian Exchange: Biology Matters



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When the Europeans arrived to North America they brought more then just cattle and pigs. New crops, bananas, coffee, sugarcane as well as disease were all carried over from Europe. Some natives were able to become nomadic hunters thanks to the horses they brought. Chicken pox, influenza, mumps and measles nearly decimated the native population. Of course when that happened the Europeans needed more slaves so the sugarcane farmers imported millions of African slaves. This is what was called the Colombian exchange. Of course of it wouldn’t be an exchange if the Europeans were the only ones who brought new ideas. Peanuts, potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes and the list keeps going. Of course tobacco was the biggest one as it became the cash crop that basically built this country. Though it is not food and it indirectly killed tens of thousands of Europeans in a few hundred years it was and still is one of the most popular plants in the world. Potatoes changed diets as they could feed four times the amount of people that grain could. Tomatoes became really popular and greatly changed Italy cuisine. Peanuts brought protein to West Africa and improved their health. This exchange essentially changed the worlds ecosystem and altered every culture around the world.

How would America be if the Europeans never sailed across the Atlantic with cattle? No cows means no burgers and this would of course mean less obesity. Trying to imagine a present day America without coffee or grape soda is extremely difficult. The Europeans should have stayed in Europe and let the natives build the United States. That too is hard to imagine but although life would probably be more difficult ,being a Native American wouldn’t be so bad. Hunting down a wild boar at recces sounds fun doesn’t it? Either way this exchange changed not just our culture but cultures around the world for the better. This diverse country is a great example of why sharing new ideas is important and is needed for civilizations to prosper.