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|Publisher||Johns Hopkins University Press (1993)|
|Title||Pan’s Travail Environmental Problems|
|Format||Hardcover with dustjacket|
|Dimensions||9 x 6 x 1 inch; 1 pound|
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Pan’s Travail Environmental Problems Of The Ancient Greeks And Romans by J. Donald Hughes.
DESCRIPTION: Hardcover with Dust Jacket: 277 pages. Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press; (1993). Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inch; 1 pound. Many people express surprise when they are told that environmental problems existed in the ancient world; they are used to thinking of the environment as an exclusively modern concern. But an examination of the evidence shows that the Greeks and Romans not only suffered from some of the same predicaments that plague the present scene, but in many cases they were aware of them and commented on them. In Pan's Travail Hughes examines the environmental history of the classical period and argues that the decline of ancient civilizations resulted in part from exploitation of the natural world. Focusing on Greece and Rome, as well as on areas subject to their influences, Hughes offers a detailed look at the impact of humans and their technologies on the ecology of the Mediterranean basin. He explores the complex relationships of human culture and the environment with topics that include deforestation and overgrazing, soil erosion, depletion of wildlife and natural resources, pollution, and urban problems such as water supply and sewage disposal. He also compares the ancient world's environmental problems to those of other eras and discusses attitudes toward nature expressed in Greek and Latin literature. He also compares the ancient world's environmental problems to those of other eras and discusses attitudes toward nature expressed in Greek and Latin literature.
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PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW.
REVIEW: This work links the decline of ancient civilizations to exploitation of the natural world. Focusing on Greece and Rome, it examines the impact of humans and their technologies on the ecology of the Mediterranean basin. The environmental problems of the ancient world are compared to those of other eras, and there is a discussion of attitudes towards nature expressed in Greek and Latin literature.
REVIEW: Hughes, Professor of History (University of Denver) examines the environmental history of the classical period and argues that the decline of ancient civilizations resulted in part from exploitation of the natural world. Focusing on Greece and Rome, as well as on areas subject to their influences, he offers a detailed look at the impact of humans and their technologies on the ecology of the Mediterranean basin. A book on ancient green issues is something new and Pan's Travails, moreover, is a compelling recital of man's mistreatment of the Mediterranean environment. Inclusive, accessible, and a valuable contribution to our understanding of the ancient environment.
REVIEW: Pan's Travail by J. Donald Hughes stands as a significant contribution to understanding the relationship between Classical Civilization in the Mediterranean Basin and its contemporary natural environment during the period from 800 BC to 600 A D. Hughes shows that the ancients themselves were aware of the problems in the environment and commented upon them. He explores how human activity led to environmental degradation and the resultant negative effects on the societal and economic underpinnings of Classical Civilization. By emphasizing the treatment of the environment by humans and the technologies involved rather than only the attitudes of the ancients to their environment, and by drawing on a wide array of source material, Hughes provides valuable new insights into ways of approaching Greek and Roman cultures. While those already familiar with Classical Mediterranean civilizations may stand to gain the most from a work of this kind, Hughes has written primarily for a general audience.
Chapter One ("Introduction: Ecology in the Greek and Roman Worlds") gives a brief overview of the recent efforts to evaluate classical history in the Mediterranean from an ecological standpoint. In Chapter Two ("The Environment: Life, Land, and Sea in the Mediterranean Region") Hughes defines the Mediterranean Basin as both a biogeographical region and as an ecosystem. In Chapter Three ("Ecological Crises in Earlier Societies") Hughes establishes the importance of tradition in Palaeolithic times as a force that encouraged respect for and conservation of resources; allowing the hunters and gatherers of the Palaeolithic to succeed in maintaining a balance with ecosystems.
The increase of human numbers and the change to agriculture and pastoralism in the Neolithic led to more serious problems including soil depletion, desertification, and erosion. Human health degenerated despite the technological advances. The urban cultures that developed in the Fertile Crescent led ultimately to the degradation of the water supply, a decline in agricultural fertility, and the fragmentation of Sumerian civilization. On the other hand Hughes sees Egypt as more successful in integrating urbanization with its dependence on ecologically sound agricultural practice in part because of the regularity of the region's environmental cycles, Egyptian society's sacred view of nature, and the perceived divine character of science and knowledge.
Chapter Four ("Concepts of the Natural World") surveys the complex pattern of ideas about and attitudes toward nature among the Greeks and Romans. The causes, technologies, and impact of forest removal are the subjects of Chapter Five ("Deforestation, Overgrazing, and Erosion"). Hughes details the reasons for wood consumption among the ancients, with fuel leading the list by far (up to 90% of total consumption). The building of cities, shipbuilding, and military exploitation, linked closely to political and economic forces, also contributed to deforestation. Overgrazing of previously disturbed forestland was also a significant cause of environmental degradation contributing to flooding, erosion, and silting up of waterways. Chapter Six ("Wildlife Depletion: Hunting, Fishing, and the Arena") demonstrates how wildlife in Greco-Roman times suffered a reduction in numbers (and in some cases extinction) as a result of both habitat alteration and killing for food as well as ritualistic slaughter.
The role of machinery in exacerbating ecological degradation is the subject of Chapter Seven ("Industrial Technology and Environmental Damage"). Hughes here emphasizes that many of the admired engineering achievements of the Greeks and Romans also directly or indirectly caused severe and lasting negative effects on the environment. The author details the extractive industries of mining and quarrying, noting how such activities polluted air, soil, and water and left scars on both the land and the workers. Hughes points to the increase in airborne lead pollution from the second century B.C. onward documented from Greenland ice samples. Chapter Eight ("Agricultural Decline") documents the methods and the impact of farming practices on the ecological balance. Urban problems come under scrutiny in Chapter Nine. Hughes examines site selection and city planning (or lack thereof) as important factors in the environmental quality of urban life.The descriptions of urban problems ranging from noise pollution to burial of the dead and rural nostalgia are fascinating reading.
Chapter Ten ("Groves and Gardens, Parks and Paradises") examines the issue of the restriction of natural places for religious, aesthetic, or economic purposes. The final chapter ("Environmental Problems as Factors in the Decline of the Greek and Roman Civilizations") serves as a summation of the previous chapters by examining as an integrated whole those circumstances of ecological imbalance that led to the decay of Classical Civilization. Neither climate change nor disease alone can account in any significant way for the widespread deterioration of conditions that led to the end of Classical Civilization, and Hughes emphasizes the cumulative effect of such deterioration on people and resources. Hughes concludes, Greco-Roman civilization failed to reconcile its attitudes and activities with the Mediterranean ecosystem, and ecological deterioration "was the result of the unwise actions of the Greeks and Romans themselves, unwitting as they may have been." Pan's Travail is worthwhile and thought-provoking reading.
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