The Pyrocene

How We Created an Age of Fire, and What Happens Next

The Pyrocene (University of California Press)

192 pages

Published by University of California Press.

ISBN:
9780520383586
No rating (0 reviews)

A provocative rethinking of how humans and fire have evolved together over time—and our responsibility to reorient this relationship before it’s too late.​

The Pyrocene tells the story of what happened when a fire-wielding species, humanity, met an especially fire-receptive time in Earth's history. Since terrestrial life first appeared, flames have flourished. Over the past two million years, however, one genus gained the ability to manipulate fire, swiftly remaking both itself and eventually the world. We developed small guts and big heads by cooking food; we climbed the food chain by cooking landscapes; and now we have become a geologic force by cooking the planet.

Some fire uses have been direct: fire applied to convert living landscapes into hunting grounds, forage fields, farms, and pastures. Others have been indirect, through pyrotechnologies that expanded humanity's reach beyond flame's grasp. Still, preindustrial and Indigenous societies largely operated within broad ecological constraints that …