A Book’s Vital Warning About How Forests Shape Human History

By Eugene Linden
Time Magazine
April 21, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, International

The thirty-four-year history of A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization, has been an epic tale of repeated consignments to oblivion, followed by dramatic rescues. First published in 1989 by W.W. Norton, author John Perlin looked at the rise and fall of civilizations through the lens of the forests that supported them, and then showed how, time after time, subsequent deforestation contributed to a civilization’s collapse. Though a few reviews recognized the book’s originality and astonishing erudition, sales were meager. Thus began a tale of abandonment and rescue as several, successive influential admirers saved the book from pulping. The author’s journey has been no less fraught, including a four-year period during the writing of the book when he lived in a friend’s back yard. Now, thanks to… Patagonia Press, who view A Forest Journey as a “foundational environmental text,” the work has new life.

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