Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination

Article excerpt

Review: After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination By Kirkpatrick Sale Reviewed by Bram Buscher Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands Kirkpatrick Sale. After Eden. The Evolution of Human Domination. Durham: Duke University Press. 186 pp. ISBN: 0-8223-3938-2. (paperback; acid free paper). US$19.95.

In the last decade, several books have come out trying to develop an overview of recent, archaeological, paleontological and historical anthropological evidence on human evolution. One of my favourites so far is John Reader's magnificent Africa, A Biography of the Continent. Although less broad in scope, Kirkpatrick Sale's After Eden now competes for first place. Like Reader, Sale provides a bird's eye view of recent global archaeological and paleontological findings and guides the reader in a mere 138 pages through 65.000 years of modern human evolution. Not being a palaeontologist or archaeologist but rather an interested social scientist, I am not in place to comment on Sale's use of the evidence, although the breadth of material he presents seems extensive. However, what sets After Eden apart from other similar works and what excites me as a social scientist, is Sale's social and critical emancipatory point of departure and the explicit lessons he tries to draw from the ancient past for the present.

The central argument of the book revolves around its subtitle: The Evolution of Human Domination. According to Sale, the "extraordinary dominance by one single bipedal species [...] has brought us to the present imperilment of the earth, including the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems, the alteration of climate, the pollution of waters and soils, the exhaustion of fisheries, the elimination of forests, the spread of deserts, and the disruption of the atmosphere" (p.3). The consequence of this dominance of Homo Sapiens and its associated "reckless policies and practices towards the earth" is unavoidable ecocide (p.3). Our main predicament, so argues the book, is that human dominance is little recognised as a problem because the psychological processes leading up to it have been in the making for many millennia, so becoming "accepted wisdom" and even religion. …

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