World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth

Stephen J. Pyne, Author
Stephen J. Pyne, Author Henry Holt & Company $30 (379p) ISBN 978-0-8050-3247-5
Paperback - 408 pages - 978-0-295-97593-1
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-0-295-80524-5
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Over the millennia, contends Pyne, humans used fire to sustain slash-and-burn agriculture, and fires set judiciously or occurring spontaneously benefited ecosystems by exposing land to more sunlight, restructuring relationships among species, decomposing debris and fostering biodiversity. Lamenting today's ``obsessive fire control'' and the alleged global spread of ``Europe's pyrophobia,'' Pyne (Fire in America) maintains that ``most American ecosystems in fact suffer from a fire famine.'' Impassioned, often lyrical and sure to be controversial, this incendiary, not always convincing survey assesses fire use and fire-control practices in Australia, Russia, Brazil, Greece, Spain, India, Sweden and Antarctica. Charging that the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930s suppressed research data supporting the ecological value of controlled burning, Pyne maintains that current U.S. firefighting practices are mired in bureaucracy, confusion and overemphasis on the control of wildland fires. Illustrated. (Mar.)
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