Friday, July 13, 2018

Early Sustainability

The Commons Complaint - title pageIn 1611, after spending four years traveling around England, Arthur Standish published The Commons Complaint in which he laid out two "special grievances." The first was the deforestation of England - "the generall destruction and waste of Woods in this Kingdome." The second complaint was the lack of food - "the extreme dearth of victuals."

Standish lays out the wood issue in pretty stark terms:
Little respect is taken but by your Majesty, for the posterity and prosperity of your Kingdom: to many destroyers, but few or none at al doth plant or preserve: by reason thereof there is no Timber left in this Kingdome at this instant onely to repaire the buildings thereof an other age, much lesse to build withall.
He concludes his opening statement with the ominous "no  wood no Kingdome."

His solution is surprisingly modern. He recommends that new trees be planted and cared for and harvested in a sustainable manner:
And that all such persons as have at this instant their grounds furnished with wood, in such sort as is required, might bee also enjoyned hereafter to plant and preserve so many trees and so much wood, as hereafter they shall fell or waste.
Standish then lists some objections to his proposal and his counterarguments and solutions to those objections. He then goes into detail about the food problem and proposes four common sense. remedies. He again makes it plain that sustainable solutions are much preferred over short term quick fixes.

Ask for Rare Book SD 601 .S82 C6 1611 to read the rest of Standish's solution to the wood problem and his proposals for dealing with the lack of food.