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Book review of Deforesting the Earth

Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis
Review by Ariadne Unst.

Buy Williams' 'Deforesting the Earth' Buy: Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis
by Michael Williams.
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Deforesting the Earth: What is Deforestation?

"Deforestation" is seen by Michael Williams as "the thinning, changing, and elimination of forests" (from Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis).

It is not merely a modern process. Today's rapid population growth and the growth of the average "footprint" of resources required by each adult and child, however, make deforestation dramatic in its expanse and speed.

Deforesting the Earth tells the story of the clearing of the world's trees, and the resulting transformation of the landscape and the earth that have resulted from deforestation.

However, Williams warns that the forest is "a living, ever-changing dynamic entity that is affected directly by both short- and long-term environmental changes, particularly climate, but is also severely affected by quite minor human disturbances. "

Deforesting the Earth: Prehistory

"Homo erectus" emerged about 500,000 years ago, and Williams speculates that deforestation may have begun at that emergence.

The vast ice sheets that covered the Northern Hemisphere began to melt about 16 millenia before the present. By 13 millenia before the present, the ice was not only thinned but was clearly in retreat and the average temperature was increasing gradually and steadily. By 8 millenia before the present, the earth's average temperature had risen (during 8 millenia) by 4 or 5 degrees centigrade, an average value that it has held for the last 8 millenia, until the recent start of global warming.

After the Ice Ages, the forests returned to Europe, North America, and the tropics. The book describes the use of forests by humanity in the subsequent 10,000 years, beginning with cutting and clearing for fuel and shelter.

Human-set fires began to burn the forests in the Paleolithic, to open them up for gathering and hunting, then for agriculture.

How can we see back into prehistory, a place without (by definition) written records? Williams leads us through the science of pollen analysis, whose types and quantities recorded in peat deposits and in lake or river sediments show us what vegetation was developing at the same time as (or before or after) the humans whose artifacts are found in the same (or adjacent) layers. Radio-carbo or carbon-14 measurements are another useful tool for determining the ages of organic remains.

Deforesting the Earth: The Clearing of the Forests of Europe

The work has, as Williams acknowledges in his Preface, a deliberate "Eurocentric focus."

Readers in other continents are well advised to learn from the experiences of Europe.

Deforesting the Earth: Nowadays

The "early modern era" began around 1500. The "industrial era" began around 1800.

With growing industrialization and colononization, forests worldwide (including in Europe, the Americas, and Asia) were cleared to support trade and territorial expansion.

Deforesting the Earth: The End

Williams calls himself "the lone scholar trying to make sense of an enormous literature."

This raises the question of whether he is successful, given the volume of literature and the volume of speculation in that literature.

Judging from the wealth of graphs and tables and his calm presentation, Ariadne's Web says, "yes!"

Books.

Buy Williams' 'Deforesting the Earth' Buy: Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis
by Michael Williams.
Support us - buy what you want at Amazon Support us in bringing information to you - buy what you want at Amazon!

Links and References.


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