The article in question makes assumptions about Holocene evidence found in shifts in pollen and other signs of high humidity and climate change in archeological plant life through carbon dating. Additionally, during this period the forest cover area was significantly reduced and biodiversity greatly declined. This, along with what is noted as likely having been a prime location for a settlement, suggests to the researchers that an agricultural anomaly might have been involved, which again points to human activity. With the arrival human settlements and resulting agriculture, the entire ecosystem of the area changed, from small elements like pollen to much larger aspects, such as entire swaths of forest—all of which was followed by abandonment. This change was rapid, with the authors noting that the “transition from open forest with agricultural disturbance to closed forest in a period of less than 150 years” which indicates human have great capacity to take over land and destroy the ecosystem, but the earth is able to heal itself within a relatively short period of time.
Although we tend to think that environmental damage that results in the loss of life—human or otherwise, is a recent trend caused by greenhouse gasses and global warming the article demonstrates how humans in Mayan civilization might have destroyed their own environment or at least might have further contributed to its destruction in conjunction with natural climate changes. Human settlements, even ones we consider prehistoric and thus somehow innocuous disrupt a balance that nature can eventually restore, but is devastating to settlements if lost. While it is at once oddly comforting to know that we are not the only ones of our species, historically speaking, to destroy ourselves by annihilating our environment, it equally unsettling as this may be our future. Scientists thousands of years later, examining our plastic and pollen residue will see our fate and speculate on how we might have caused it.