A Very Short Introduction
1. Forests in human culture
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is, in the eyes of others, only a green thing which stands in the way.
). Two years and eight days later she climbed back down again. Her two-year sojourn in the canopy was to protest the logging of ancient forest trees by the Pacific Lumber Company, and in doing so she became an unlikely hero of a national and global movement to protect forests. Julia Hill’s stand against Pacific Lumber encapsulates two polarized perceptions of forests, as resources ripe for exploitation or as pristine Nature,
6. Climate surprises
shows the main tipping points which scientists have been concerned about over the last two decades. Irreversible melting of the Greenland and/or Western Antarctic ice sheet, slowing down of the North Atlantic deep ocean circulation, gas hydrates, and the Amazon rainforest dieback will all be discussed.
5. Environmental futures
Fifty years ago, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson is supposed to have said that a week is a long time in politics. Right at the other end of the scale we find biologist Colin Tudge writing that, ‘we cannot claim to be taking our species and our planet seriously until we acknowledge that a million years is a proper unit of political time’. Wilson’s point was that politics is an unpredictable business; and Tudge’s is that environmental short-termism puts politics—and indeed everything else—at risk. Environmental politics has put the long term on the map: it focuses as
6. Past, present, and future
The past: a history of European deforestation
Over forty years ago, Henry Darby, widely regarded as Britain’s first and best-known historical geographers, suggested that ‘the most important single factor that has changed the European landscape is the clearing of the woodland’. A human history of forests is largely one of deforestation, and is as old as human history itself. Hunter-gatherers leave fewer tangible marks on the environment compared to farmers, yet their effects on forests can still be substantial. Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic people in Europe used stone axes to clear a little woodland around
Martin F. Price
5. Centres of diversity
endemic (species found in only one area) and 30 per cent or less of its original natural vegetation. While these hotspots cover only 2.3 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, they host a very high proportion of the world’s endemic species: 50 per cent of the world’s endemic plant species and 42 per cent of endemic bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. Twenty-five of the hotspots are wholly or partly in mountainous areas, particularly in the tropics: from central Mexico to Argentina, through the mountains of