Re: Indigenous Greed?

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Tue, 7 Mar 1995 13:17:39 +1000

Bret Diamond writes:
> Danny Yee responded by pointing out that indigenous cultures have
> wreaked havoc on the environment, they just did'nt have the technology to
> do it on as large a scale as we do now. I find this argument flawed for
> a couple of reasons. First of all, it doesn't take a lot of technology
> to "fish out" a small lake, stream, or pond. Nor does it take a lot of
> technology to hunt a species to extinction.

Indeed! I think the case for extensive human contribution to
Paleolithic megafauna extinctions is pretty much settled. The
extinction of flighless bird species in Polynesia is unquestionably
due to hunting.

> Secondly, indigenous
> environmental failures are often gleefully made reference to in order to
> somehow justify our destruction of the environment.

Well I certainly didn't intend to do that!! I'm a greenie to the roots.
(And I spend as much of my free time bushwalking/hiking as I can.)

All I really wanted to stress is that attempts to create a dichotomy
between "indigenous environmentalism" and "modern exploitation"
aren't particularly useful. I feel "indigenous" cultures, whether
exploitative or not, should be allowed to control their own fate.
(Maybe their non-sustainable swidden agriculture will produce terrain
suitable for pondfield agriculture, as in my Polynesian example.)
Similarly, the problems of controlling exploitation within our own
culture aren't going to change (for better or for worse) as a result
of archeological analysis of the Mayan collapse (though we may learn
something that will help us solve them).

Danny Yee.