[permaculture] permaculture - Biofuel Illusion

Ben Martin Horst ben.martinhorst at gmail.com
Tue Jul 11 02:44:34 EDT 2006

Just a clarification of terms for the sake of clear discussion:

Anthropologists use the term "forager" to describe a system in which 
people come across food and eat it as they
 find it. Presumably our early ancestors (australopithecines and maybe 
Homo erectus, ergaster, and neandertalensis) used this strategy, and 
while it's possible that early members of Homo sapiens used it as well, 
there is no record of any historical culture using this method.

"Hunting-gathering," on the other hand, refers to a subsistence pattern 
in which people go out and find food, then bring it back to a homesite 
for storage and distribution. The operative word is "gathering:" hunting 
occupies a high status position in many of these societies, but it's the 
gathering of plants, fungi, insects, shellfish, etc. that provides the 
majority of the diet. They often use elaborate food preservation 
techniques, including fermenting and drying. Historically, 
anthropologists have assumed that these groups didn't actively plant 
anything, but there's a rapidly growing body of evidence that these 
groups have actively manipulated their environments to a radical degree, 
including intentional encouragement of certain species. This type of 
participation in the ecosystem simply wasn't apparent to Western 
anthropologists steeped in agricultural tradition, though I have a hunch 
that permaculturists doing anthropological fieldwork among many of these 
people would immediately recognize many of the practices agriculturists 
were blind to.


Toby Hemenway wrote:
> There's a nice, short book called "Neanderthals, Bandits, and Farmers" by
> Colin Tudge that advances the idea that humans developed gardening
> techniques long, long before the Neolithic "dawn of agriculture" 10,000
> years ago. We've had fire for 500,000 years, so you can bet we've been
> tending plants a long time, too. "Pure" hunter-gathering, as Paul suggests,
> probably disappeared before the genus Homo arose.
> And yes, population is a key to sustainability. Pack in too many of any
> species, human or not, of whatever cultural practices, and you'll degrade
> the environment (look at rabbits, cattle, elephants--there are countless
> examples). Agriculture took the lid off of human numbers, and the Earth has
> been been going downhill ever since. We need to develop structural
> constraints on population or nature will do it for us.
> Toby
> www.patternliteracy.com

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