The war with nature is over and we’ve won!

What happens when humans finally win the war with nature and end up in charge of ecology? A question for the future? Think again. In “Peak Wood: Nature Does Impose Limits”, John Perlin describes what happens when human societies, starting in prehistory, have completely transformed their ecosystems and ultimately themselves, by clearing away forests to improve hunting and gathering, for agriculture, and for fuel and timber.

The article closes with Friedrich Engels: “Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first…” (from: The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man (1876)).

We should not take from this that humans should avoid the victory. It is far too late for that! We humans thoroughly transformed our planet thousands of years ago. We no longer need worry about crossing planetary thresholds- we’ve already crossed, and arrived at the other side.

Stewardship of our used planet is now about managing the “unforeseen effects” and moving our societies into a sustainable relationship with the nature we’ve created.