Still, their families need the income the children earn. In some cases, children must work to pay off a family's debt. Human rights groups, the UN, and developed nations have focused a spotlight on child labor in order to end such practices.

Threats to Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples are generally those considered to be the descendants of the earliest inhabitants of a region. They include such ethnic and cultural groups as Native Americans, the Aborigines of Australia, and the Maoris of New Zealand. Indigenous peoples in many areas face discrimination and other abuses. Often, their lands have been forcibly taken.

In South America, developers have pushed into once-isolated areas, threatening the ways of life of indigenous peoples. Many Indians have died of diseases carried by the newcomers. During Guatemala's long civil war, the government targeted Mayan villagers, killing tens of thousands. The UN has worked to set standards to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Photo of children and a dog outside of a series of shacks, with clothing hanging outside and makeshift boards laid over a creek as a bridge.

Decades of armed conflict in Colombia have forced some 41,000 indigenous people from their ancestral lands. Here, displaced families struggle to survive in makeshift huts.

Development and the Environment

Since earliest times, people have taken what they needed from the environment. In the past, damage was limited because populations were small and technology was simple. Industrialization and the world population explosion have increased threats to the environment.

Development improves lives and strengthens economies—but at a price. One of the great challenges for the future is how to achieve necessary development without causing permanent damage to the environment.

Threats to the Environment

Since the 1970s, environmentalists have warned about threats to the environment. Strip mining provides ores for industry but destroys land. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers increase food output but harm the soil and water and may cause certain cancers. Oil spills pollute waterways and kill marine life.

Photo of several rescue tankers shooting water on a semi sub offshore oil rig on fire.

Fire boats battle an explosion on the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in 2010. The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Gases from power plants and factories produce acid rain, in which toxic chemicals in the air fall back to Earth as rain, snow, or hail. Acid rain has damaged forests, lakes, and farmland, especially in Europe and North America.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments