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Update: The Forest Primeval

New Theories Again Prove Everything I was Taught Is Wrong

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 10, 2002.

Archeology affects directly and deeply modern politics. Knowing this, governments are torn between revealing or overly publicizing new facts or keeping a lid on it. Nazis, who could never find basis for Aryan superiority but could find basis that Germans, in any case, weren’t Aryans, decided that archeology wasn’t the way to go and chose war, hoping to burn any facts that hindered their mythology. That is the difference between civilization and not: civilized governments do not fear science. How odd it is that in the United States we have allegedly civilized bodies that throw huge hissy fits when their own cherished beliefs – religious or secular – are thrown into the dustbin.

There are many cherished falsehoods that still enjoy great popularity in this country. One might be summarized as follows. Before Columbus, Native Americans for the most part enjoyed a lovely rural existence except for the occasional metropolis of great beauty. The wars were few. In all culture, great respect for Nature was exhibited. It was only with the arrival of the white man, who deliberately slaughtered the natives, eliminated entire species of fauna, despoiled the forest primeval, and instituted the industrial revolution that Eden, as we liked to think of the New World, came to an end.

Well, enough evidence has been collected to blow that all away. Everything I learned in school was wrong.

Turns out that the New World was healthier and more populated than Europe, that it had bigger cities and more of them, that it had extensive trading practices. A large city just outside St. Louis traded with the Inca in Peru and the Vikings based on trinkets found in the appropriate layers of earth. New England was teeming with Indians, and large swaths of land were under agriculture. All of this was wiped out by the first visits of the white men, who brought, among many other things, smallpox. The record is clear: where de Soto visited hundreds of populated villages in the Southeast and lower Mississippi Valley, La Salle – a mere century later – found nothing. Where de Soto spent four years without ever knowing bison existed, La Salle found immense herds and no people to speak of.

What this means is, the Native Americans had much of the land under cultivation, North and South America. The earliest visitors to each portion of the continent wrote as much. The first and profoundly horrible epidemics that the white men inadvertently brought to the New World probably reduced aboriginal numbers to about twenty-five percent or less than what it was within a decade or so of first contact.

What science now says is that the famous huge forests of North America were greater in the eighteenth century than in the fifteenth when the aborigines had their towns and fires going. In the West, with their main predator eliminated, the bison herds ballooned in about a hundred years. Passenger pigeons, elk, and mule deer – which were thought to have been prevalent in huge numbers until the rifle and white man – are mysteriously absent in great numbers in the fossil record until after the fifteenth century. Catching the drift? The great plains of North America were likely created by Native Americans for agriculture, because the forests spread immediately into them after the Indians were reduced. The great forests of the Northeast appeared after the white man came with his pox. A great deal of what we used to think of as the natural beauty of pristine land is actually the result of man’s influence. Further, the famously huge animal populations only exploded after the Indian population was greatly reduced, at first inadvertently, by disease.

It doesn’t stop there. The rain forests of South America in the Amazon basin are also likely created by man, it is now suggested. The plants and trees that grow there are exactly what would appear if huge fields were left fallow after years of slash and burn. Rain forests, that world wide iconic symbol of nature and man’s insensitivity to it, is likely a man made marvel in the first place.

Not a white man made marvel, but a testament to the huge plans and visions of ancient, forgotten people. A people who had no clearer idea of ecology or recycling than we do.

Surely, this undermines any argument in the past that includes the phrase “Man and Nature.” Whenever man is extricated from Nature, it is usually in order for him to receive political condemnation. But the facts are these: we’re a part of Nature, and much of what was assumed to be the natural world is the work of our antecedents. The new evidence pulls a large rug out from under the politically motivated ecologists, who – like everyone else – have never been able to tell a natural entity from a man made one.