The human capacity to change the planet is not something new, but is rooted in our deep evolutionary past. One of the hallmarks of humans is our large brain size, which began to expand about 2 million years ago. This expansion did not come without consequences, and two are particularly important. The first is the additional energy requirements needed to fuel this larger brain size together with the concomitant life history factors such as shorter inter birth intervals, more dependent offspring and longer periods of growth and development, and longer lifespans. The second is the solution to these energy requirements that involve cooperative breeding and the development of the high risk/high return hunting and gathering foraging strategies. From this foundation we trace the increasing capacity of humans to extract more energy from the environment through the development of a reliance on fire, the agricultural revolution leading to the industrial revolution and modern times.