According to McPherson, at least three Native American cultures - the Mimbres, Olmec and Chaco - figured out that agriculture inexorably led to civilization, which was a problem, and consequently forsook agriculture to return to a hunter-gather diet. There is little archaeological evidence to support his conjecture, but McPherson insist this is a hard lesson modern humans have yet to learn.
The Mimbres were a group of small villages in southern New Mexico, each with less than 200 inhabitants, existing between approximately A.D. 100 and A.D. 1150. Destruction by looters of this archeological site means that pottery and other artifacts cannot be studied in situ, and important clues about Mimbres culture and history have been destroyed. The region experienced several harsh droughts, and there was significant depopulation. McPherson claim that they didn't store seed corn after the depopulation period, which confirms that Mimbreños made a conscious decision to be anti-civilization.
There are several problems with this analysis. First, there was never really a population explosion among the Mimbres, with 6, 000 being a peak estimate. During droughts, arable land remained along the river banks, and some Mimbres never migrated and continued farming. If or why the Mimbres didn't store seed, for how long, and how widespread, are all unclear. But even if true for an extended period, one anecdotal example of a complex culture does not prove the Mimbres became anti-agriculture and anti-civilization.
McPherson similarly claims that Anasazi and Olmecs decided to become anti-civ after collapse from the effects of cultivation. However, experts on the Anasazi have observed that severe droughts, religious upheaval, internal political conflict and warfare may have led them to abandon Chaco Canyon and migrate south into Mexico, where, significantly, they continued to practice agriculture. Furthermore, few Anasazi remained or returned to the canyon to live as hunter-gathers. Olmec researchers state that their collapse was due to volcanoes, earthquakes, silting up of rivers, and political conflict, and few, if any, make a case for collapse due to agriculture-led over-population. Olmec sites were never re-populated and successor Mayan cultures continued to rely heavily on agriculture. There is hardly no evidence to suggest the Mimbres, Olmec and Anasazi in Chaco Canyon resorted to hunter-gathering exclusively.
Myth of the Noble Savage?
If there is no anti-civilization exception to the agrarian dead-end, this leaves little room for hope for deep ecologists and their hunter-gather vision of the future. Finding repentant hunter-gathers is not their only problem. Deep ecologists fail to explain why many agricultural civilizations never collapsed, or why some farming groups have not experienced population overshoot. They do not explicate the rise and fall of hunter-gather groups in any general or specific context, distinguish between matriarchal or patriarchal agriculturalists, or discuss the relationship between collapse and patriarchy in a non-agrarian context. Collapse on Easter Island was not due to the adoption of farming, but to deforestation caused by patriarchal culture.
Many of deep ecology's basic assumptions are flawed. In contrast to their false dichotomy portraying hunter-gathers as pre-civilized groups with limited populations, Paleolithic discoveries indicate that hunter-gathers gathered in complex societies with large populations, and ancient megalithic sites demonstrate that pre-agrarian cultures were capable of transforming their environment. Recent research of the Pleistocene correlate the arrival of hunter-gathers with the extinction of mega-fauna, which establishes that extinction and collapse is not an agrarian phenomena. The elimination of mega-fauna in turn led to drastic habitat changes across wide areas of the globe.
Another false assumption made by deep ecologists is that hunter-gathers are egalitarian. The widespread practice of raiding, capture and gang rape of girls and women among Amazon hunter-gathers show just the opposite. Indeed, there is little evidence to suggest that the vast majority of hunter-gathers are egalitarian or ever were.
Agents and Agency
With the collapse of modern civilization due to climate change all but assured, it is extremely important that we try to determine the root cause of AGW. Men are the main creators of civilization, yet it is interesting that two men would transfer male responsibility entirely to an ambiguous development method that is supposedly gender neutral.
Women-invented agriculture, food storage and processing technologies, are entirely dismissed, as are the flowering of cultures and consciousness due to these female discoveries. Women still are the majority of agricultural laborers, and feed much of the world, but their work is minimized by men who own and control most of the land they toil on. Female agrarian technology is organic and sustainable, and most women do not support deforestation for monoculture and factory farms.
Other scientists and environmentalists argue that industrialized civilization, not agriculture, is the root of all planetary destruction. However, industrialized civilization did not emerge fully formed out of the clear blue sky. The patriarchal mindset that created industrialized civilization existed before the Pleistocene, and is characterized by the objectification of nature and women as free resources for male competition and development.
Men's oppression of women and nature predates agricultural and industrial civilization. Focusing on agricultural and industrial civilization as the main causes for planetary collapse ignores the hegemonic agency that created both, minimizes ubiquitous male violence against women and nature, and provides men with a completely free pass. It means little to women and nature if industrial civilization ends and male dominance and patriarchal thinking remains.
The root cause of AGW is the patriarchal destruction of nature, and inequality. Radical ecofeminists link the exploitation of animals and nature, and the oppression of women, to male desire for transcendence of both. Masculinity and male identity are viewed as the main cause of conflict, hierarchy, resource depletion, and collapse. Ecofeminists' solution is not a cul-de-sac, catch-22 anti-civ struggle that still seeks to transcend wild animals and females, but an anti-patriarchal movement based on equality with nature. And surviving examples of sustainable matriarchal agrarian cultures like the Minangkabau, Mosuo, Khasi, Bribri, Nagovisi and others, inspire hope that change is not only possible, but doable.
Dr. Moses Seenarine is a plant-based father and activist, founder of Climate Change 911, and the author of Voices from the Subaltern (2004), Meat Climate Change (2016), and "Who's (h)eating earth?" (Forthcoming).