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Article - Hunter-gatherer land management in the human break from ecological sustainability

My second paper on hunter-gatherer land management is a deep dive into the origins of our ecological crisis. It examines how such land management may have fit into the progressive human break from ecological sustainability. Appearing in The Anthropocene Review, I hope it will prompt discussion of fundamental questions concerning the sustainability of human lifeways. For interested readers, my prior article provides helpful background material. (Once I prepare the alllowable version I'll make a PDF available here. Or feel free to contact me here for the published version.)

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/2053019619864382

Abstract

Evidence that human societies built on agricultural subsistence have been inherently ecologically unsustainable highlights the value in exploring whether any pre-agricultural subsistence approaches were ecologically sustainable or nearly so. The land management practices of some hunter-gatherer societies have been portrayed as sustainable, even beneficial. Research suggests such practices may fruitfully inform contemporary land management. As a human subsistence foundation, however, they may not have been ecologically sustainable. Figuring centrally in the late Pleistocene shift from immediate-return to delayed-return hunting and gathering, they enabled population growth, helped make possible the development of agriculture, and appear to have caused early environmental degradation. Consistent with this argument is research locating the origins of the Anthropocene near the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary, as societies were taking greater control of food production. It appears then that immediate-return hunting and gathering, which involved little or no land management, was the human lifeway most closely approaching ecological sustainability. Wider recognition of this idea would assist in understanding and addressing today’s ecological challenges.

Posted on Monday, July 29, 2019 by Registered CommenterJohn Feeney | Comments Off

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