The main difference in that span is not in how much land has been inhabited by people, but how those inhabitants cared for the land. The authors found that many ancient cultures were careful to preserve biodiversity hot spots, such as those found in the Amazon and the Congo, and as a result minimized or prevented ecological problems. The tipping point wasn’t the massive growth in the human population but rather how we shifted our land use. Since the industrial revolution in the 19th century, urbanization, deforestation, factory farming, mining and other irresponsible land uses have put our planet in danger.
“Irresponsible” is just such a word…..
The current biodiversity crisis is often depicted as a struggle to preserve untouched habitats. Here, we combine global maps of human populations and land use over the past 12,000 y with current biodiversity data to show that nearly three quarters of terrestrial nature has long been shaped by diverse histories of human habitation and use by Indigenous and traditional peoples. With rare exceptions, current biodiversity losses are caused not by human conversion or degradation of untouched ecosystems, but rather by the appropriation, colonization, and intensification of use in lands inhabited and used by prior societies. Global land use history confirms that empowering the environmental stewardship of Indigenous peoples and local communities will be critical to conserving biodiversity across the planet.
Perhaps we can round up a few eohippus, giant ground sloths, a moa or two, to discuss this with?
Oh, that’s right, the indigenous eated them, didn’t they?