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kottke.org posts about Virginia Heffernan

Beavers and Media Theory

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2018

In this short gem of an article for Wired, Virginia Heffernan connects the ecological transformation of the pre-human Americas by beavers to Marshall McLuhan…and then to climate change.

Having gnawed their way across the Bering Land Bridge with their iron-glazed teeth, beavers by the tens of millions straight-up built North America. They worked like rodent Romans, subjugating the deciduous forests with formidable infrastructure: canals, lodges, dams that can last centuries, and deep still-water pools used to float building materials. By clear-cutting trees and blocking streams, the nocturnal, semiaquatic creatures also damaged the environment in some of the same ways humans do. Much later, beavers unexpectedly became the toast of a rarefied academic circle at the University of Toronto, where they inspired, of all things, media theory.