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Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis

Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis
Michael Williams
University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 689 p., $70.00

Deforesting the Earth is an authoritative analysis of the global history of mankind’s impact on the world’s forests. The reader can quickly recognize author Michael Williams’s outstanding scholarship by his thorough documentation; his analytical acumen reflects his expertise on the subject. Though the period of history Williams covers is long and the book necessarily lengthy, he is particularly skillful in relating detail in prose that makes this scholarly work enjoyable reading.

The subject of the text is important but, as the author observed, often confusing and controversial. The story of the world’s forests is understandably incomplete and fragmentary, first, because it reaches into prehistory. As living ecosystems, forests also present intrinsic documentation problems as they undergo constant change. The record of man’s activities in connection with forests is incomplete. Even documentation of the current impact on forests is unreliable.

Despite these challenges, Williams has achieved a classic study on the condition of forests worldwide. In doing so, he points out some of the myths raised by environmental advocacy groups.

— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden