In the Line of Fire

Once humans took charge of fire, fire remade humans and commenced remaking the world. “We got small guts and big heads because we could cook food,” says Stephen Pyne, the world’s leading historian of fire. “We went to the top of the food chain because we could cook landscapes. And we have become a geologic force because our fire technology has so evolved that we have begun to cook the planet.“

The understanding of wildfire as an ecological benefit got its biggest boost from Pyne’s 1982 landmark book, Fire in America. Since then he has encompassed the whole of fire history--from analysis of the chemical reaction that “takes apart what photosynthesis puts together” to study of the massive industrialization of combustion in the last two centuries. “The Anthropocene might equally be called the Pyrocene,” he says.

- Stewart Brand, email (announcing a talk by Stephen Pyne), 2/3/2016

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