Re: Advocacy (fwd)

Bret Diamond (diam9018@TAO.SOSC.OSSHE.EDU)
Mon, 15 May 1995 21:19:36 -0700

Forwarded message:
>From diam9018 Mon May 15 12:41:53 1995
Subject: Re: Advocacy
Date: Mon, 15 May 1995 12:41:53 -0700 (PDT)
In-Reply-To: <> from "Richard Spear" at May 12, 95 05:59:20 pm
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Richard Spear writes:

> took place (mostly) at the level of the family. As hunter/gatherers they
> excersized population controls to assure a supportable population size, and
> their "balance with nature" was the result of their mode of production, not
> their ideological perspective.
> Other North American cultures practiced agriculture. While still stone age
> technologically, they had proportionally larger populations because their
> production methods allowed it and children contributed to the
> agricultural economy. Their "balance with nature" was more "destructive" than
> h/g's - not because of their ideological perspective, but because their
> methods of production took a greater toll upon the land.
> Europeans entered the scene as nascent industrial capitalists - they had a far
> more productive technology, a far larger population potential and much more
> destructive demands were made upon the land. This was not because the
> Europeans had a particularly evil ideology ... it was because their mode of
> productions demanded more resources, as did their burgeoning population.

You make several good points Richard, particularly in reference to
population size and the corresponding level of environmental damage.
However, I would like to point out that there is not much argument about
whether or not smaller populations have less impact, the argument lies in
the assumption the native/indigenous population only stayed small because
they weren't able to grow larger. Yet by virtue of their smaller
populations, they did achieve a level of ecological stasis in that they
rarely exceeded carrying capacity. This in itself I believe is
suffucient to support the argument that native/indigenous peoples were
indeed living in a state of harmony or balance with nature. To suggest
that thye did so only because they weren't capable of sustaining larger
populations is an argument that epitomizes the ethnocentric disparity
with which these cultures continue to be viewed. Isn't it possible that
populations remained small intentially; either through spiritual guidance
and/or past experiences that showed largeer populations to be unsustainable?
I am currently working on a project with the Takelma people of
southern Oregon. They have been awarded stewardship of 18,000 acres of
land, and they are attempting a cultural and ecological restoration of
that land. Through both the oral tradition, as well as ethnographies
generated by linguistic anthros here in the late 1800's, we have been
able to verify that the Takelma women would conduct "cool burns" (spring
and fall fires) in order to clear out the underbrush in the forest. This
would accomplish several things, improved hunting due to better
visibility, new shoots available as a food source for game, new shoots
for basket weaving materials, etc. But there was another important
aspect of this regimen: improved forest health. By removing the
underbrush, the younger trees we better able to compete, also, densely
packed stands were thinned in order to allow for more light, nutrients,
etc. Now the reason I bring this up is that it is a good example of
Native ecology. But the interesting point is that many people claim that
the Takelma women were likely not manging the forest for timber, (as we do
today) their belief is that the Takelma were only trying to improve
hunting grounds. The end result however is indisputable; the forests
were healthier. It is only through an emic perspective that one can
fully understand the intentions of these women. Were they managing the
ecosystem, or were they just creating a food source for deer? I think
that often times we dismiss these examples of cultural ecology because we
like to think that our science and technology is better. But as we enter
into the next century, and as we maybe begin to realize that technology
just might not be able to bail us out of the environmental mess that
we've made, maybe we can look back to the successes in native/indigenous
ecology and learn something.