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The Ignoble Savage

June 18, 1989

In reviewing James Bellini's "High Tech Holocaust" (Book Review, April 16) Kirkpatrick Sale displays an astonishing naivete about primitive societies. His bizarre claim that the "healthy cultures of the past (including those first on this continent) . . . sought harmony with, not dominance over, the precious systems of the living Earth" left me quite amazed.

Wholesale species slaughter often has followed first colonizations by primitive man. Where today are the aurochs of Europe, or the elephants and hippos of the Mediterranean? What happened to the moas of New Zealand? Hunter-gatherers butchering their way through the cornucopia erased them all, leaving for us only clutters of bone among their trash heaps. However romantic these peoples may seem, they had little use for the concept of environmental responsibility.

Sale tries to scold us into drawing upon the wisdoms of primitive societies for answers to the sad shape of the Earth. In fact, no course could be sillier. Twentieth-Century Western culture, which has heaped the planet with unprecedented waste, also has given rise to our only hope of salvation: the environmental movement. No twisting of the evidence or glossy arguments about the nobility of savages can alter the fact that primitive man was even more capable of soiling his bed than his descendants.

The solutions to the "eco-catastrophe" lie among the very tools that created it; namely, information and technology. To ignore this is to sell grievously short the conscientious army that battles diligently for a cleaner Earth, and to discourage any of us from harboring any hope of their success.

JIM F. BAUGHMAN

LOS ANGELES

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