How would the creation of America be viewed through modern eyes? Even Americans would surely oppose British imperialism, and the audacity of landing on and claiming a small part of an inhabited continent. Despite oppression at home in Europe, we would condemn settlers who chose other people’s land as the setting for their own states of religious (un-) freedom. And, when the British were thrown off, we would be horrified by the expansion from the original thirteen colonies, perched on the east coast, westward to the other ‘shining sea’. (Compare the 1,080,465 km² United States at independence* with the 9,841,955 km² country now – a 9 times increase.)
The people who were there before might not have had big cities, or spent much time writing down what they had been doing. They had a negligible footprint on the vast continent. In 200 years, with more than a little help from the people who displaced them, the environment is breaking. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the abhorrent actions that led to the creation of the United States involved replacing a culture that was in harmony with the environment with one that depletes it.
- N.B. tellingly, it is almost impossible to find a figure for the size of the thirteen colonies on the internet – Google it. The figure I found is from A Century of Population Growth. From the First to the Twelfth Census of the United States: 1790-1900. Washington D.C. 1909, Table 10, p. 56.