One environmental narrative, common to dystopian science fiction, goes like this: humans start to colonize the planet, and slowly take up more and more space until there’s nothing wild or untouched on Earth. Humanity’s infectious spread over the globe slowly eats the planet’s resources alive.
As it turns out, this narrative is all wrong — at least for the past 12,000 years, according to a new study. Humans, researchers found, occupy roughly the same amount of land on Earth that they always have in that span. That means that our planet’s myriad environmental problems aren’t exactly the cause of human societies spreading, but rather the way that we misuse resources that exist. Evidently, humans roamed about the same places they always had on Earth without stirring up too much trouble, at least until the advent of industrial capitalist societies.