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10 Times Humanity Fought Against Nature (and Won)


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European Union
Walter Hallstein, head of the German delegation, and Jean Monnet, future president of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community and representing France, signed the Schuman Declaration in 1951. Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Walter Hallstein, head of the German delegation, and Jean Monnet, future president of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community and representing France, signed the Schuman Declaration in 1951. Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Some philosophers and religions believe that humans are violent by nature. It's a notion that doesn't seem too far-fetched: Take Europe, which has experienced hundreds of conflicts over the past millennium resulting in the deaths of millions of people. Given this long and consistent history of discord, the formation of the European Union stands as a pretty amazing victory of cooperation for a species that just can't seem to get along.

In the 1950s the devastation of World War II was still fresh on the minds of Europe. Some leaders, like French foreign minister Robert Schuman, felt the best way to avoid such a horrific conflict in the future was to increase economic cooperation between countries. Enter the European Coal and Steel Community, a trade organization formed in 1951 that consisted of six European countries. It was the beginning of the economic and political process that eventually led to the formation of the European Union (EU) in 1993.

As of June 2016, the EU consists of 28 independent nations, which are required to adhere to the group's trade agreements involving the movement of goods, capital and services. Not only has this helped maintain the peace, but it's made Europe an economic powerhouse: The members' total gross domestic product, or the value of goods and services they produce in a year, is 14.3 trillion Euros. That means if the EU was one country it would rival the United States as the largest economy in the world [source: Wilkinson].