“In the book, Dawson argues that recent extinctions are different from human-caused extinctions in the Pleistocene.

“In most instances those [earlier] extinctions were either relatively localized, had other contributory factors, and in most cases were succeeded by a period of stability,” he said.

Every continent but Africa saw most of its megafauna obliterated tens-of-thousands of years ago, but scientists are still debating the cause: human hunting, climate change or some combination of the two. In recent years the accumulated evidence increasingly points to overzealous humans as the primary factor in the megafauna extinction– including everything from giant kangaroos in Australia to mega-orangutans in Asia to elephant-like behemoths in North America – but Dawson said that doesn’t mean mass extinction today is inevitable.

“The archeological record clearly suggests that Native Americans lived in relative harmony with their environments for thousands of years subsequently.”

We do not lack alternatives to capitalism today. What we lack is the political power to overcome capitalism domination.
Ashley Dawson
Today, Dawson points to what Indian historian, Ramachandra Guha, calls “ecosystem people” as examples of sustainable, non-capitalistic living. These include many of the world’s indigenous groups or small-scale farmers using sustainable practices and living close to nature.

“It is these groups of ecosystem people that are often at the forefront of contemporary environmental struggles,” he said. “Think, for instance, of the role of indigenous activists in fighting extreme extraction and fossil capitalism today, from Standing Rock in North Dakota to the struggle of the Sarayaku in the Ecuadoran rainforest.”

For Dawson, such groups are emblems of what’s possible in the future.

“Human societies throughout history have demonstrated great ingenuity in making ecosystems more productive, and, where this productivity is shared equally, have been characterized by significant civilization longevity.””

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