[permaculture] permaculture - Biofuel Illusion

Ben Martin Horst ben.martinhorst at gmail.com
Tue Jul 11 02:21:28 EDT 2006

Paul A Cross wrote:
> I question whether the hunter-gatherer culture really ever existed. I'm no
> anthropologist, but I figure that when we were able to make tools to hunt and
> gather then we were probably already engaged in creating a polycultural
> environment that appears to us today as "nature" but in fact has been very
> carefully influenced by conscious human action for their benefit. And on my
> more cynical days, I figure that the early cultures just lacked enough people
> and technology to degrade the ecosystems.
You're absolutely right that the term "hunter-gatherer" doesn't do these 
people justice. They were and are certainly actively involved in the 
manipulation of their environments. See the excellent "1491: New 
Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus" by Charles Mann (reviewed 
in Permaculture Activist #59) for a plethora of examples from the 
Western Hemisphere. And some of these "hunter-gatherer" cultures 
arguably degraded their environments, although the majority were/are an 
overwhelmingly positive influence, in terms of overall biodiversity and 
biomass. Native hunter-gatherer groups in the Pacific Northwest and 
California reached population levels comparable to some highish-density 
agrarian cultures, but didn't degrade their ecosystems, though they 
changed them dramatically, primarily through the use of controlled burning.
> The concepts we are developing now of food forests and permaculture
> farms/gardens, we often think of this as modeling natural systems, yet maybe
> this is more going back to earlier design strategies that we forgot or
> abandoned when we moved to systems that we recognize today as agriculture.
Certainly. I would suggest that the main difference in modern 
permaculture is that it is a design system that ideally works across 
different ecosystems and biomes, while traditional hunter-gatherer 
knowledge/wisdom is generally tied specifically to a single bioregion.


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