People enhanced the environment, not degraded it, over past 13,000 years
Human occupation is usually associated with deteriorated landscapes, but new research shows that 13,000 years of repeated occupation by British Columbia's coastal First Nations has had the opposite effect, enhancing temperate rainforest productivity.
Andrew Trant, a professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, led the study in partnership with the University of Victoria and the Hakai Institute. The research combined remote-sensed, ecological and archaeological data from coastal sites where First Nations' have lived for millennia. It shows trees growing at former habitation sites are taller, wider and healthier than those in the surrounding forest. This finding is, in large part, due to shell middens and fire.
"It's incredible that in a time when so much research is showing us the negative legacies people leave behind, here is the opposite story," said Trant, a professor in Waterloo's School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability. "These forests are thriving from the relationship with coastal First Nations. For more than 13,000 years --500 generations -- people have been transforming this landscape. So this area that at first glance seems pristine and wild is actually highly modified and enhanced as a result of human behaviour."
1st Nations people have been doing that sort of thing all over.
The grasslands were regularly burned to encourgae buffalo to come when the new growth sprouted after the fires, this helped stop the grasslands from slowly being turned into woodland like they would have been if not for human intervention.
The American East coast Natives managed the forests, again often using fire to burn undergrowth.
Around the world this sort of story of tribal natives being active stewards of the land and playing very important roles in managing the environment around them can be found. From preserving certain types of ecosystems through intervention in natural secession to planting certain types of plants and tress to help spread desired growth, humans have and can be positive actors upon the planet.
"Where will you drive your own picket stake? Where will you choose to make your stand? Give me a threshold, a specific point at which you will finally stop running, at which you will finally fight back." (Derrick Jensen)