Deforesting the Earth
From Prehistory to Global Crisis
Michael Williams surveys ten thousand years of history to trace how, why, and when human-induced deforestation has shaped economies, societies, and landscapes around the world. Beginning with the return of the forests to Europe, North America, and the tropics after the Ice Ages, Williams traces the impact of human-set fires for gathering and hunting, land clearing for agriculture, and other activities from the Paleolithic through the classical world and the Middle Ages. He then continues the story from the 1500s to the early 1900s, focusing on forest clearing both within Europe and by European imperialists and industrialists abroad, in such places as the New World and India, China, Japan, and Latin America. Finally, he covers the present-day and alarming escalation of deforestation, with the ever-increasing human population placing a possibly unsupportable burden on the world's forests.
Accessible and nonsensationalist, Deforesting the Earth provides the historical and geographical background we need for a deeper understanding of deforestation's tremendous impact on the environment and the people who inhabit it.
“A monumental accomplishment. . . . Williams has ranged widely, read deeply, and thought carefully about the historical contexts and transnational implications of deforestation so that the less daring among us might situate our regional stories into his wider narrative. That’s what makes Deforesting the Earth paradigmatic. And fascinating.”
List of Tables
List of Measures, Abbreviations, and Acronyms
PART I:CLEARING IN THE DEEP PAST
1 The Return of the Forest
Prologue: The End of the Ice Age
Writing the Biography of the Forest
The Return of the Forest
The Human Impact
2 Fire and Foragers
Fire: "The First Great Force"
Before the Ice: Prehistory "Caught Alive"
After the Ice: Europe
After the Ice: North America
After the Ice: The Tropics
3 The First Farmers
Domestication and Centers of Agriculture
The Neolithics and Forest Clearing
"From Predation to Production": Mesoamerica and South America
The Indians and the North American Forest
The Rest of the World
4 The Classical World
"Then and Now"
The Mediterranean Environment
The Causes of Deforestation
Deforestation and Soil Degradation
Creating a Second Nature
5 The Medieval World
An Active and Energetic World
Causes of Clearing
Extent and Pace of Clearing
Complexity and Conflict in the Forest
European Epilogue: Plague and Reforestation
China: A Land of "Ponderous Unknowns"
PART II:REACHING OUT: EUROPE AND THE WIDER WORLD
6 Driving Forces and Cultural Climates, 1500-1750
Driving Forces and Cultural Climates
7 Clearing in Europe, 1500-1750
A Timber Crisis?
Charcoal and Iron Making
The Demands of the Sea
Plunder, Preservation, and Planting
8 The Wider World, 1500-1750
Stepping-Stones and Circuits to the New World
The Encounter with the American Forest
China: "A Dark Area in Space"
Japan: "The Foundations of the Hearth"
9 Driving Forces and Cultural Climates, 1750-1900
Population and Migration
Transportation and Communication
Forest Domination, Preservation, and Regulation
10 Clearing in the Temperate World, 1750-1920
Europe: Three Stories of Clearing
Clearing a Continent: The United States
The Pacific Rim: Complexity and Contrast
11 Clearing in the Tropical World, 1750-1920
Indigenous Use of the Forest
Capitalist Penetration: The Passage to India, 1750-1850
Colonial Consolidation: India, 1850-1920
Mainland and Insular Southeast Asia
Brazil and the "Long Journey to Extinction"
PART III:THE GLOBAL FOREST
12 Scares and Solutions, 1900-1944
Destructive Exploitation of Global Resources
The Coming Timber Famine
Clearing in the Less-Developed World
Clearing in the Developed World
13 The Great Onslaught, 1945-95: Dimensions of Change
The Causes of Change: "A World Losing Shape"
Concern about Change
The Rise of Biodiversity
14 The Great Onslaught, 1945-95: Patterns of Change
"Hoofprints on the Forest": Ranching and Pasture Development
Fuelwood and Charcoal
Epilogue: Backward and Forward Glances