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When did the human species turn against the planet that we depend on for survival? Human industry and consumption of resources have altered the climate, polluted water and soil, destroyed ecosystems, and rendered many species extinct, vastly increasing the likelihood of an ecological catastrophe. How did humankind come to rule nature to such an extent? To regard the planet's resources and creatures as ours for the taking? To find ourselves on a seemingly relentless path toward ecocide?
In After Eden, Kirkpatrick Sale answers that question in a radically new way. Integrating research in palaeontology, archaeology, and anthropology, he points to the beginning of big-game hunting as the origin of Homo sapiens' estrangement from the natural world. Sale contends that a new recognizably modern human culture based on the hunting of large animals developed in Africa some 70,000 years ago in response to a fierce plunge in worldwide temperature triggered by an enormous volcanic explosion in Asia. Tracing the migration of populations and the development of hunting thousands of years forward in time, he shows that hunting became increasingly adversarial in relation to the environment as people fought over scarce prey during Europe's glacial period between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. By the end of that era, humans' idea that we were the superior species on the planet, free to exploit other species toward our own ends, was well established.
After Eden is a sobering tale, but not one without hope. Sale asserts that Homo erectus, the variation of the hominid species that preceded Homo sapiens and survived for nearly two million years, did not attempt to dominate the environment. He contends that vestiges of this more ecologically sound way of life exist today – in some tribal societies, in the central teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, and in the core principles of the worldwide environmental movement – offering redemptive possibilities for ourselves and for the planet.
Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of a dozen books, including The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream; Rebels against the Future: The Luddites and their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age; The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement, 1962-1992; and The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former editor at the New York Times Magazine.
Kirkpatrick Sale has been enlightening us on the issue of scale for a generation now, and in this new book he uses the concept to help us understand our own consciousness. A fascinating book!-- Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future "After Eden is broadly and punctiliously researched and urgently argued. Its central idea may be disputed but not ignored. Kirkpatrick Sale has always been both a deeply countercultural thinker and also immensely cultured."--Lionel Tiger, author of The Decline of Males: The First Look at an Unexpected New World for Men and Women "The things that Kirkpatrick Sale writes about are near and dear to me--things that I have spent most of my adult life thinking deeply about. Seldom would I have the confidence to reach judgments from the evidence as boldly as does Sale, but I suspect that he is right in most of his conclusions."--Steven E. Churchill, Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University "Rumblings of dissatisfaction with Sale's ideas have preceeded the publication of [After Eden]... and yet the argument is so well documented, so well thought-out, so compelling, that its real threat is to become one of the truly important visions of our times... After Eden offers not only a detailed and integrated view of human history, but also encouraging glimpses into tools people might muster towards addressing the predicament we have all, in one way or another, inherited from history."--Resurgence No. 243 July/August 2007