This is my first article in some time, though the topic is one I began researching several years ago. I examine common claims concerning the pervasiveness of land management practices among hunter-gatherer societies.
It appears in Hunter/Gatherer a new, student-run radical ecology journal described as, "for rewilders, or conservation advocates who emphasize the importance of wildness in conserving and restoring nature." I’ve become frustrated in recent years with the lack of substantiation and pervasive confirmation bias in the popular media, so I chose with this paper to return to a scholarly writing approach.
This is the first in what may be a series of two or three articles on the topic of traditional land management.
Land Management Among Hunter-Gatherers: Questioning the Ubiquity Claims
Evidence that our industrial society, built on agricultural subsistence, is inherently ecologically destructive underlines the value in identifying which, if any, past human subsistence approaches have been ecologically benign. The traditional land management practiced by some hunter-gatherers is touted by some as a model of ecologically benign subsistence. In this paper I examine critically several broad assertions made commonly by proponents of this set of subsistence practices. These claims portray these practices as almost ubiquitous among human societies, in their impacts across land areas, and through time. Despite having been subjected to little scrutiny, these claims have contributed to the reputation, on the part of traditional land management, for ecological benignity. By analyzing them critically we can improve our understanding of traditional land management, laying a foundation for more effective examination of direct ecological impacts and long term consequences of this subsistence approach.
I was flattered to receive from Gary Gripp this review of my recent article “Land Management Among Hunter-Gatherers: Questioning the Ubiquity Claims.” I’m not sure I truly lived up to all of Gary’s comments, but am gratified that, by his reading, I did manage to carry out the analysis with reasonabe intellectual honesty. To my mind, strong efforts in that direction should be a cornerstone of any scholarly writing. Beyond the review elements, this piece is well worth reading for Gary’s reactions and his thoughts on the human relationship with the earth. Gary writes on our earth crisis and other topics, some of his work appearing on his blog at wildearthman.com. Here's a link to the review: