The Pyrocene

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

192 pages

Published by University of California Press.

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4 stars (1 review)

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 …

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reviewed The Pyrocene by Stephen J. Pyne

The Pyrocene is a Symptom of the Anthropocene

4 stars

This book redefines a geological age, the Anthropocene, where humans have had such a profound influence over the natural world that their presence is recorded in geological strata all over the globe, to the Pyrocene, which began when people started using fire to serve their needs. As long as fuel was available on the landscape and oxygen was present in the atmosphere, the world has always known fire. Once humans came along, they learned how to control and manipulate fire to suit their needs. Because of fire's ability to integrate the complex relationships that shape ecological systems, humanity's use of fire began to reshape those systems. It opened up a greater variety of food available to people from cooking, and it allowed people to migrate into colder regions of the planet where they could use fires to keep warm. More recently, humans have learned to exploit fuels from past millennia …