In the last 12,000 years, human societies have moved through phases of forager, agricultural, industrial and ‘post-industrial’ economies. Each of these has been affected by the natural world and in turn has changed the workings of the non-human or ‘natural’ components of this planet. For each of these phases the author discusses questions of population growth and distribution together with the technologies available to the human groups of the time. Overall there is no doubt about the central role of access to energy flows and storage in making possible the life ways of many diverse groups. In addition to these basic chronicles the author is at pains to include the question of how these economies and ecologies are represented in today's cultural frameworks. The theme of scale pervades the book. A distinction is made between processes which affect many parts of the world but are not coalescent (‘worldwide’) and those which penetrate the entire biophysical entity and to which the term ‘global’ can truly be applied. Despite the current levels of anxiety about human-environmental relationships this book concentrates on environmental history and not prophecy. There is though a parting shot to the effect that history is probably not a good guide to human futures.