Re: New Age Nonsense

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Thu, 2 Mar 1995 15:26:15 +1000

MB Williams writes:
> BTW, there has also been some argument recently as to whether the significant
> decrease in soft-shell clam and oyster size was related to over-exploitation
> of the species... But, that would not fit into the *romantic* view that NAs
> always lived in harmony with Nature, so I guess that hypotheses goes out on
> the junk pile.

I've just finished reading Kirch's _The Wet and the Dry_, a study of
Polynesian agriculture, and it seems there is overwhelming evidence
that the Polynesians *drastically* altered their island environments
well before the Europeans arrived. In particular, they reduced
the rainforest of the existing climax to fern associations through
slash-and-burn swidden agriculture. The resulting increase in erosion
created fertile flatlands around the rivers, allowing the adoption
of pondfield agriculture (which, in turn, had its effects on the

So where are the "natives living in harmony with the environment"?
Sure, modern industrial societies can change the environment far more,
but the difference is purely quantitative; there is no way of splitting
societies into the "natural" and the "non-natural".

Danny Yee.