From: Danny Yee [SMTP:danny@...
Sent: Sunday, March 07, 1999 7:47 AM
Subject: Book Review - The Holocene
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title: The Holocene
: An Environmental History
by: Neil Roberts
publisher: Blackwell 1998
other: 314 pages, 2nd edition, colour photographs, bibliography, index
As an environmental history of the last twelve thousand years,
_The Holocene_ is fundamentally inter-disciplinary, situated where
paleontology, meteorology, geology, ecology, archaeology, history,
and many other disciplines meet (Roberts himself is a geographer).
As a readable and attractive introduction suitable for non-specialists,
illustrated with a good selection of colour photographs and some excellent
diagrams and maps, _The Holocene_ should attract a wide readership.
Rather than trying to be comprehensive, it presents brief overviews of
selected themes in particular regions (there is a general focus on
western Europe and Britain).
Roberts begins with an introduction to relevant scientific techniques,
especially those for dating. This covers dendrochronology (tree rings)
and sedimentation layer studies, radiocarbon and other radiometric dating
systems, palaeoecological methods such as palynology (pollen analysis),
and geological ones such as isotope analysis and lake level tracking.
A dozen side-boxes scattered throughout the book cover additional
technical topics: ice cores, limnology (the study of lakes), erosion
rates, and mollusc, diatom, and insect analysis, among others.
A chapter on the late Pleistocene takes us down to 11500 years before the
present, where Roberts places the beginning of the Holocene. This covers
Milankovitch and other long-term climatic cycles, processes of forest
succession, and debates over the extent to which changes in northwest
Europe reflected global events. It also touches on early human ecology,
notably human involvement in megafauna extinctions.
A central event during the first half of the Holocene was the retreat
of the ice sheets. Roberts looks at some of the consequences of this:
changing sea levels and climatic patterns, the northward forest
advance in Eurasia and North America, the creation of new lakes,
and ecological changes in Europe and the Sahara. A separate chapter
covers early agriculture: its origins in various areas of the world,
two more detailed site studies from the Middle East, and its effects on
the ecology of Europe.
Moving on to the later Holocene, Roberts looks at the effects of volcanos
on climate, changes in rivers and coastlines, and the origin of blanket
mires. But the dominant feature of this period has been increasing human
influence on and control over nature: the development of large scale
states, pastoral nomadism, human expansion into the Pacific and the far
north, Mediterranean ecosystems, and the making of the British landscape.
A chapter on the last five hundred covers the controversial topics of
anthropogenic climatic change, land-use and soil erosion, and pollution.
And the final chapter considers environmental conservation in the light
of Holocene history.
%T The Holocene
%S An Environmental History
%A Neil Roberts
%O paperback, 2nd edition, colour photographs, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0-631-18638-7
%K geography, geology, ecology, agriculture, meteorology
7 March 1999
Copyright (c) 1999 Danny Yee (danny@...
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