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Before the Wilderness: Environmental Management by Native Californians (Ballena Press Anthropological Papers, No. 40) Paperback – March 1, 1993
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The Introduction is one of the better pieces of writing I have read in a very long time. Having written a few books on environmental topics, I know how hard it is to present a coherent thesis without falling prey to the temptation to cite examples, thus winding up miles afield with little prospect of coherence remaining. This is thoughtful and insightful without falling prey to the challenges of a linear medium.
It was a necessary evil that most of the papers, although well conceived and reasonably applicable, do not apply directly to any particular area within this immensely diverse State. That their subject matter is varied means that one must then apply local knowledge to infer the manner and degree of applicability to the study area in consideration of the rest of the subject matter. That makes deriving a coherent thesis from the book minorly problematic. I do wish papers of this type were more multidisciplinary, such that palynological or dendrocrhonological climatic data were integrated into them to estimate how these Indian processes might have varied over time temporally and spatially, particularly when technologies such as the bow and arrow or processing acorns were relatively recent in the grand sweep of 10,000 years. Unfortunately, our scientific system of grants awarded to individuals tends to atomize knowledge instead of synthesizing it into more broadly useful themes. Such is left to the reader.
Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to read and I thank the authors for their advocacy for developing the methods and benefits of aboriginal land management. Mayhap someday we might actually get to testing their usefulness and applicability on broader and finer scale. That land needs to be worked in order to thrive is a point that still eludes most ecologists even now twenty years later. May such persistence and courage eventually be both reflected and rewarded.