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How has the changing relationship between human beings and the physical and natural environment affected human life from early times to the present? Human beings are inhabitants of the biosphere and their history is inseparable from it. This is as true today as it was 200,000 years ago. Understanding our changing relationship with the environment is, therefore, at the core of historical understanding. It involves grappling with questions of how humans have lived, how they have treated the earth, and how their power over the earth has grown. Understanding the changing relationship between humans and the environment in the world's past may be a first step towards finding a less damaging relationship in the future. Why have relations among humans become so complex since early times? We live in a world of intense, complicated, and diverse relationships among billions of people. Throughout most of its history our species has lived in small, scattered communities of foragers and hunters. Questions about the ways in which humans have multiplied on the earth and come to relate to one another in such a variety of ways are fundamental to historical investigation. How have humans treated each other within families, in times of war, in politics, and in commerce have been the meat and drink of historical scholarship. So have relationships between slaves and their masters, rulers and their subjects, men and women, one ethnic group and another. But world history tries to ask these questions about all humans. How did humans in one part of the world affect humans in very different parts of the world, through exchanges of goods, diseases, or religious ideas and technologies? By raising such questions, world history studies wrestles with the entire range of relationships of which humans are capable. How have human views of the world, nature, and the cosmos changed? History is not only the study of "what happened" but also about the ways in which humans have thought about, questioned, interpreted, and represented (in words, pictures, movies, and so on) what their senses tell them about the world and the universe. Ideas influence historical developments and, conversely, events shape ideas as humans strive to make sense of change. Some of the most powerful ideas in human history have been about techniques for living. New technological ideas from the invention of the wheel to the nuclear bomb can transform how millions of people live. Indeed, the way technological ideas have accumulated over time and the effects they have had on society is one of the main themes of world history. Equally potent are ideas about social organization, government, the environment, morality, and spirituality. EXAMPLE: People will go to great lengths to obey the god in whom they believe. Similarly, they can take offense if others behave in ways they regard as immoral and insulting, even if those others have no sense that what they are doing is in any way unacceptable.