Friday, April 07, 2017

Ancient Ecodestruction

Most people today recognize that we humans are currently responsible for a vast wave of extinctions and ecodestruction. They may be less familiar with our long history in that regard. Africa and Asia have been occupied by humans for a couple of million years, so the large animal inhabitants had a long time to learn to fear and avoid the new maximum predator. This was not true for the new lands Sapiens reached after what Harari calls the cognitive revolution. First on the menu was Australia.

Humans reached it about 45,000 years ago after learning to cross substantial sea barriers. They were the first large terrestrial animal to get there in many millions of years. Within two thousand years of their arrival, nearly all species of large animal had been exterminated. Humans also altered the plant biosphere by setting fire to forests.

This pattern has been repeated with each new land Sapiens has reached, Madagascar, the Americas, New Zealand and Pacific and Arctic islands.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari