Richard Spear (rspear@PRIMENET.COM)
Tue, 16 May 1995 18:13:31 PST

In article Bret Diamond <> writes:
>From: Bret Diamond <>
>Subject: Re: Advocacy
>To: rspear@PRIMENET.COM
>Date: Mon, 15 May 1995 12:41:53 -0700 (PDT)

[earlier comments deleted]
Isn't it possible that
>populations remained small intentially; either through spiritual guidance
>and/or past experiences that showed largeer populations to be unsustainable?

and ....
[more deletions]
>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.


Bret -

My earlier posting to the group was meant to distinguish between economic
(material) and spiritual factors influencing human behavior. I also was
attempting to place these two variables in a causal relationship with
economics determining ideology. I realize that this may be controversial but
as we learn more about prehistoric and historic humans there is a reasonably
clear correlation between the size of groups and their modes of production.
The social organization of the communities are also correlated with size and
mode of production. This is true regardless of the spiritual beliefs that the
groups hold, although these beliefs frequently mesh well with size and mode of
production also.

The question that you ask addressing intentionality is difficult to decifer
given the close correlations I list above. How do we separate cause from
effect? Weber looked at the origins of Protestantism, arguing that
Protestantism preceded and helped to usher in the rise of capitalism, while
Marx argued just the opposite ... that Protestantism is the logical spiritual
superstructure to justify and rationalize capitalism.

Lets look again at early human cultures. Was it necessary for early North
American groups to remain stone age economies to retain their desired balance
with nature? could they not have become more technologically advanced and
still not screwed up their environment because of their spiritual outlook?
This didn't happen ... every culture that developed technologically also began
to do more destruction ... this certainly argues for the causal arrow to point
from technology to ideology, I think, as no ideology was successful in
retarding that destruction when their culture developed a new tool. This is
exactly what we are now demanding - that a highly developed technological
society restrain itself so as not to damage our environment.

The control of these productive forces are what we should examine. In the past
they have always been controlled by a few people who not surprizingly acted in
their own interests. Even if the vast majority of us desire that production be
limited in the interests of environmental concerns the extent of that
production is determined by a few. Our ability to influence their decisions is
limited to very few mechanisms that rarely have much influence.

Early populations certainly managed their resources. I don't know anything
about the Takelma but I do know that many other groups took similar actions to
those you list above. People are smart and they understand causal
relationships ... sometimes only through hindsight. The Takelma may have been
burning back land for deer by improving forest growth ... the ecological
ramifications are complex ... but are they motivated primarily by ideology or
by the need for resource management? Were the Takelma aware of the many and
subtle ramifications of their act? I don't know but I do know that other
groups mismanaged resources so badly that their cultures no longer thrived.
The Maya probably overfarmed their lands, the Anasazi probably overharvested
the nearby forests, The early farmers of the Mesopotamian region definitely
over-irrigated their land, eventually salinating it, etc., etc.

We are free human beings operating within the constraints of a material
existance. We have to understand this to truly liberate ourselves. Humans make
themselves (to paraphrase V. Gordon Childe) but they are captives of their
historical circumstances. Knowledge is the only thing that will finally free
us ... which brings us back to the Positivist/Postmodern debate, I guess.

Regards, Richard