Uncertainty about historical evidence of forest clearing is highlighted; nevertheless, its longevity and basic importance for survival make an understanding of the process important. First, archaeological and paleobotanical evidence for clearing during late Mesolithic and Neolithic Europe is examined. A similar examination of the Americas during past millennia emphasizes the myth of a pristine precontact forest. Post-1950s deforestation is beset with similar problems of forest extent and loss, pathways and processes of change, and the rate of change. Recent literature also reflects concerns about past and present motives in clearing and management, emphasizing conflicts between traditional users and modern producers, North/South inequalities of consumption/production, and social confrontation. The cultural meaning of the forest is another current theme, developed through dominant “discourses.” Finally, I argue that humans and the organic world are intimately entwined, and our expectations and ideas of the natural world actually mold the way we use and manipulate it.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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