[permaculture] RE: Imitating fire + tree shredding equipmennt

Marshall Chrostowski mcfarm at silcom.com
Sat May 4 21:35:03 EDT 2002


Toby,

I believe that you are overstating the role of proto-modern humans in
modifying the face of the earth with fire. To suggest that chaparral elfin
forests  came into existence with the arrival of humans carrying fire
strains credularity. These vegetation associations are unique to local and
climate and have their morphological analogs in other geographic regions
referred to as "mediterranean."

There are many examples of "fire climaxes" with associated fauna. Herbivores
have formed vast herds, for example, in the Western Hemisphere, prior to the
arrival of Man. I doubt that these faunal assemblies munched through humid
closed forests. In my experience as an ecologist, natural fires are forces
of renewal/regeneration, and flora and fauna over large regions have long
adapted with and evolved with the recurrence of fire.

Desertification is a fact and human beings have played a role in perhaps
accelerating the process; however, climates have been warming and often
drying since the height of the last continental glaciations. Humans advanced
into relatively open and harsh terrain as the ice sheets "retreated" in the
Old World, advancing finally into the New World still partly ice-bound and
largely open in the northern latitudes. Archaeological evidence points to
dependence on migratory herbivores during the early millenia.

Marshall

Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002 10:36:39 -0700
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Re: Imitating fire + tree shredding equipmen
From: Toby Hemenway <hemenway at jeffnet.org>
To: <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Reply-To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org

on 4/29/02 5:37 AM, permed at nor.com.au at permed at nor.com.au wrote:

> He also attributes this practice of using fire for cultivation
> and managing the environment

I've been thinking a lot (inspired by a conversation with Ben Haggard) about
developing naturally fire-suppressant floras. Humans, particularly in North
America, Australia, and other temperate zones, moved in with their fire
sticks and converted the native vegetation to fire-adapted ones. This
altered climate patterns, drying out large continental areas. There's much
that is not "natural" about the large continental deserts: Humans helped
create them.

Since the experiment has been done once by humans, altering vegetation and
climate on a large scale using fire, I wonder if we couldn't design and
implement floras that would reverse the process, returning fire-resistant
plants and soil moisture to large parts of now-dry continental areas. It
would be nice if we could find a simple tool to do this, rather than brute
force, the way a simple tool like fire transformed thousands of acres at a
time to fire-requiring species in chaparral and desert. It may seem
heretical (if you're wedded to the idea of "native" vegetation), but when I
travel through the dry (human-made) chaparral of California, I dream of
moist forests in its place.

> I've a lot of thoughts about fire and cool-burning practice but no time
> to elaborate just now.

I'd love to hear them someday.

Toby





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