chapter  7
33 Pages

Exploitation and conservation

Human exploitation of the natural world increased on an unprecedented scale in the period between the last decade of the nineteenth century and the 1960s. Within one human lifetime of “threescore and ten,” humankind experienced both escalating economic activity and a widespread depression. Viewed on a world scale, the two great wars were the most destructive of life, both of humans and of the biosphere, in history. The ecosystems of the Earth were damaged in ways unknown before, although few of the writers who commented on the fact expressed it in those terms. Rather, they talked about the depletion of natural resources. A few, like Fairfi eld Osborn, wondered if the cornucopia was about to run out of riches.1