Re: Indigenous folks protect environment?

Marius Johnston (mariusj@NETCOM.COM)
Mon, 19 Sep 1994 16:54:00 -0700

> I have a couple of sources for those seriously interested in 'primitive
> environmentalism' and the idea of 'primitive harmony.' The first is A.T.
> Rambo's "Primitive Polluters" which I did not like very much, but which
> is full of examples of environmental catastrophies among non-western
> people, including the trail of destruction caused by the colonization of
> the polynesian islands. The second source is Robert Edgerton's "Sick
> Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony." (1992, Free Press)
> Both are polemical and political, but provide food for thought and a
> counterpoint to all the "nature baby" rhetoric. The question is, however,
> do we as anthropologists want to undercut the political positions being
> taken by 4th world peoples in a last-ditch attempt to gain some control
> over their natural resources, by publicizing stories of how they are
> themselves bad stewards? Compared to Exxon, nothing the Yanomamo can do
> is a drop in the ocean.

> Rick Wilk

The Anasazi are another example of a people that were negligent of their
surroundings. According to Diamond (The Third Chimpanzee) they had stripped
their surrounds of firewood for over ten miles and 25 miles for pine logs.
The deforestatiion ultimately led to problems with their irrigation, causing
the abandonment of Chaco Canyon. There are many other examples, see the
chapter 17 "The Golden Age That Never Was"

I find it strange that someone would advocate a "cover up" in order to maintain
a political fiction. Far better we should accept the past for what it is and
is not, then learn from it.

"He who fears facing his own past must necessarily fear what lies before
him....Lying can never save us from the lie. Falsifiers of history do not
safeguard freedom but imperil it....Truth liberates man from fear." Vaclav

Marius Johnston