This is the second half of a two part transcript of the podcast interview which can be found here. Thanks to Dick Overfield for help with transcript checking.
R.K.: My guest tonight is Kirkpatrick Sale. He is the author of a dozen books including After Eden: The evolution of Human Domination, Human Scale and Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution. He's the director of the Middlebury Institute for the study of separation, secession, and self-determination. Welcome to the show.
K.S.: Well, you know I worked very hard at one point to get people to change their attitudes toward nature. Hoping to get a vast change of mind so that we regarded nature as someplace where we lived and had to deal with communally and regarded all of nature as part of our web and not something that we simply manipulated for our ends.
And I hope to have a change of consciousness and you could say that the environmental movement, that began in the 70's, had some of that change of consciousness, but it never got out of the material phase, materialistic phase of regarding nature as something to be used for human betterment.
And it never came to the ideas of deep ecology which were put out by Arne Naess and others in the 70's which limited human impact on the world in a variety of ways and tried to get people to think of themselves as part of nature, not rulers of nature. And I have to say that didn't happen and that the environmental movement became bureaucratized and became part of the system and as part of the system it's victories have been very limited and I think will continue to be very limited.
R.K.: Well, let's talk a little bit about that because I think you wrote a book, I think that relates to that, called, After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination. That's the book that describes some of these ideas, right? I'm very interested in...
K.S.: Well I was looking...
R.K.: Well, wait, wait!. I'm very interested in your ideas about that evolution of human domination which is a little bit of background to this whole concept. Can you talk about that?
K.S.: The idea was to find out where it was in our history that we began this idea that we were not part of nature, but we were separate from nature and could use nature as we needed to for our pleasure which, as it turns out, begins when, in a time of dire needs, seventy thousand years ago humans developed spear points. And we know when it was because that's in the fossil record and this was a way for the human race to survive and so, therefore, you could say that it was a necessity.
But what it led to was an action of taking animal lives and depending upon animal lives and hunting in a way that we had never done before. And that began a long evolutionary process of separating ourselves from nature and using animals. In fact, we used animals at one point so much that we eliminated a great many of them and the period of extinction, around twenty thousand years ago, was caused by humans on all continents where humans lived. This was sort of the culmination of our hunting response to nature.
And after that we had to find something else and what we found was farming. That was merely the prisonizing of plants and animals. The domestication of the world around us. Which is a continuation of this same attitude and, of course, as we developed technology and as we developed powerful nation states and empires, we have continued to do this on a scale never seen before.
A scale so dangerous that reputable companies, reputable outfits, scientific outfits say that we have come to the verge of the destruction of nature. And they have issued warnings beginning in 1991, world scientists and culminating as the millennial operations and the millennial study of the world's environments, all of which declare that we have overshot the mark and we're destroying the planet.
I just wonder how we came to such a calamity and thought maybe if I showed how we got there we could say, well, we don't need to stay there. We can go back. So I wrote a chapter about how the world was before hunting, how we lived for a million years, or more, without hunting and without any great destruction of nature. We lived as part of nature for a million years. So if we did it once we could do it again.
R.K.: Now, in your book on domination you just described how you, well, not the book, but you just described how you went from the invention of the spear to...did something happen twenty thousand years ago that caused the animal extinction? Some new development by humans?
K.S.: Well, yes. It was a time of some great desperation because that was the depth of the ice age. The ice age, let's say, begins around thirty-six thousand years ago and that's when the extinctions began, but as it gets colder, humans are going out and hunting more and more as a matter of survival and some places, such as North America for example, humans drove all of the mega fauna, all of the large animals to extinction and came to pay the price for that of course, but not enough of a price to get them to change their minds.
And it was in response to a crisis that was a climate of crisis. It was almost as great as the climate crisis that had led to the creation of spear points in the first place. And then, after the shortage of animals, that's when we came to hunt for domesticatable animals. And of course domesticatable plants. So we began agriculture, which scientists have called the worst mistake.