Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Greeks vs Greens

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Greeks vs Greens

Article excerpt

The Green party's manifesto appears to make saving the planet only a small element in its otherwise painfully unoriginal agenda. This is a pity. People have been wreaking environmental havoc for thousands of years, Greeks and Romans included.

Deforestation and subsequent soil erosion were the most serious example of such havoc in the ancient world. Wood was the equivalent of today's coal and plastic. It provided fuel for houses, baths and industry, especially pottery-firing. We hear of one Phaenippus who made a useful income from his six donkeys bringing firewood into Athens every day. It was the basic building material for everything from chairs to houses and ships (even the pitch with which to caulk them). Ancients knew about coppicing, of course, but where need was great, so was the devastation. Plato commented that Attica had been stripped by timber-cutting and grazing, drying up the water supply in the process; in Roman times Strabo reported that ship-building and the demand for fine housing had cleared Pisa of its forests. Theophrastus (4th century bc, Aristotle's successor and inventor of the discipline of botany) noted that deforestation and drainage could even affect the local weather. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.