Nature and American History: Book Report

As referenced earlier, I thought some of the little book reports I indexed on cards a few years ago might make for an interesting read before I recycle the paper.

This post covers Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History. The book was written by Ted Steinberg. The index card was dated 10/24/04.

Ted shows how natural events need to be considered in conjunction with human activities when studying the past. But beginning with the American colonial period when farmers fenced off land and natural resources–effectively turning nature to a commodity–people have gradually “freed” themselves from the uncertainty inherent in nature and gained as a result.

Ted’s argument is that this process, driven by promise of economic gains, has decreased biodiversity and increased the risks that our society is less flexible in the face if future change. He points to Plains Indians’ ties to the buffalo as a clear example of our current predicament. So nature will still affect our lives.

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