From The Human Scaffold (pp 71–72):
Could we imagine a regime of prescribed burning that underwent a similar process of development until the use of fire to manage the environment bcame as labor-intensive as the use of domesticated plants and animals? Or is this precisely what we cannot imagine with fire—precision, planning, mastery? You may have a precise understanding of seral succession, of how the vegetative cover and fauna of burned land will change over time following a burn. But you can never know, when you set the world on fire, exactly how the fire will spread, how far, how fast, in which direction, how hot it will burn. … Fire is alien, disturbing, and it remains so even when we have contained it and turned it to our purposes. … Perhaps this is what makes the ease that Tasmanians and Noongar felt around fire, at the time of European colonization—not to say the similar ease evinced by present-day Indigenous fire managers in the Northern Territory—such a problem for theories of cultural evolution. It is as if Indigenous Australians have recognized affordances in fire, as if fire disclosed an inchoate tool-like potential to them, the way a hammer or a trapeze bar might to those from other backgrounds. To invite fire into your peripersonal space, to corporealize it, suggests not just a different historical trajectory but a different way of imagining the role of the body in making space.