The domestication of fire meant that people tamed a strong and potentially destructive natural force and made it into a regularly available source of energy. In so doing they initiated changes in the natural environment, in their social arrangements, and in their personal lives. These three aspects (ecological, sociological, and psychological) are all part of the changing human relationship with fire.

In its ecological aspects, the domestication of fire affected the relations between humans and the nonhuman world so deeply that we may call it the first great ecological transformation brought about by humans, which was followed much later by the second and third of such transformations, generally known as the agricultural and industrial revolutions and better characterized by the long-term processes of agrarianization and industrialization.

Each of the three transformations spelled the formation of a new socioecological regime: the fire regime, the agrarian regime, and the industrial regime, marked by, respectively, the utilization of fire and elementary tools, the rise and spread of agriculture and animal husbandry, and the rise and spread of large-scale modern industry. The later regimes have not made the earlier regimes obsolete; rather, they have absorbed them and, in so doing, transformed them. Each new regime brought an expansion of the anthroposphere within the bio­sphere.

Defining the three regimes jointly in similar terms is helpful in order to better understand each of them separately as well as in their interrelations. A common conceptual model invites and facilitates comparison. The comparison allows us to explain the sequence in the emergence of the regimes and to perceive not only their similarities and differences but also their interlocking.

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