“Climate scientists increasingly ignore ecological role of Indigenous peoples”

From Penn State. I question the “increasingly ignoring” bit, but we ought to consider what we can learn and do, based on “the profound role that Indigenous peoples played in fire and vegetation dynamics.” Some foresters have advocated that view for many years. Bob Zybach, for example.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In their zeal to promote the importance of climate change as an ecological driver, climate scientists increasingly are ignoring the profound role that Indigenous peoples played in fire and vegetation dynamics, not only in the eastern United States but worldwide, according to a Penn State researcher.

“In many locations, evidence shows that Indigenous peoples actively managed vast areas and were skilled stewards of the land,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology. “The historical record is clear, showing that for thousands of years Indigenous peoples set frequent fires to manage forests to produce more food for themselves and the wildlife that they hunted, and practiced extensive agriculture.” 

Responding to an article published earlier this year in a top scientific journal that claimed fires set by Native Americans were rare in southern New England and Long Island, New York, and played minor ecological roles, Abrams said there is significant evidence to the contrary.

7 thoughts on ““Climate scientists increasingly ignore ecological role of Indigenous peoples””

  1. I’ve heard about this before though I have not read about it extensively. It certainly strikes me as odd that present day Wilderness advocates so romanticize the idea of leaving public lands completely alone and refusing to actively manage them in any way because that is “natural”, when in a practical sense, North American “wildlands” have been subject to some form of active human management for thousands of years. Environmentalists also love to pay homage to indigenous peoples, at least when their interests coincide such as opposing energy development, while ignoring the fact that indigenous peoples have engaged in many of the same active management methods they love to demonize.

  2. I’m not sure I know why this is relevant- must be missing a logical connection.

    There what Native Americans used to do.
    There’s what settlers did (cut down trees and farmed).
    There’s the regrowth of NE Forests since.
    And that is all related to what about climate change? Unless the NA handled climate change well.. how would we know that? And are we going to go around lighting fires in New England if so? I must be missing something.

  3. Along those same lines, many people including conservation biologists, contemplate naturally regulated wildlife via predators, ignoring the most prolific and successful predator of the past dozen or more thousands of years, the humans.

  4. The touchstone here has to be sustainability in the current environment, and that doesn’t necessarily preclude active management. It’s not clear whether any species were ever driven to extinction by Native Americans, but it hasn’t happened in recorded history, and if it happened it more likely was a result of hunting than land management practices. I also don’t think most conservationists “demonize” use of fire under the right circumstances.


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