4.3 Oases
It is impossible for most of the world's population to imagine what it is like, let alone experience, to contact the really wild. It is also difficult to find anyone who actually described it from personal experience.  Such is a literary gem from a Welshman  who made contact with the African highlands in late colonial times.  In his book Black Laughter, Llewelyn Powys describes how his brother at that time was managing an agricultural farm in the highlands leading to Laikipia. He lived in a small stone house which had been built by an Indian mason. The veranda in front overlooked two hundred acres of ploughed land, which grew peas, potatoes, flax and barley. This diminutive farm was enclosed on one side by the rough scrub country of the ordinary veldt, and on the other by a forest which stretched away at the foot of a tall escarpment as far as eye could see. It was a surprise to come suddenly upon this oasis of cultivation in the midst of a country which still remained virginal.
Towards evening, when the mists of the light rains drove across the peas and potatoes, or hung about the brown cone-shaped flax-stacks, the prospect would take upon itself a strangely familiar appearance; but coincident with such reassuring impressions would come others, impressions curiously disturbing. One had but to step out of the little garden of geraniums, which his brother had arranged and planted round the house, to find oneself in the actual jungle,  in dark,  overgrown places which for thousands of years had remained undisturbed. It was this abrupt juxtaposition of the tamed with the untamed, at one's very doorstep, so to speak, which affected the nerves with an ever- present feeling of insecurity. He felt that even their handful of black servants were permitted a foothold here on sufferance only -that in a moment of time, for a mere whim, these stately, wicked, bearded cedar-trees  might conspire  with  their long-clawed parasitical creepers to obliterate one's handiwork and reassert their ancient domination. He was conscious of this feeling every single hour of his stay on that upland farm, and came to realize what it was to live in a place where nature was in the ascendancy.
He would sit in a shaded corner of the veranda watching the humming-birds flitting about the petals of the coloured flowers which in all directions expanded so passionately in the hard tropical sunlight, and then he would suddenly become aware that I was being looked at, that from behind the trellis, or from behind the bloom of a mammoth nasturtium, a haggard and very old chameleon was peering at him intelligently, cynically.
At night it would be even worse. Then, when the flat Equatorial moon would  blandly illuminate  this  unregenerate  section  of the earth's surface, the soul of Africa would become articulate. Hyenas would moan as they slunk along the darkened banks of the forest streams nosing for death with heavy obtuse jowls. Leopards would cause the pale trunks of the forest trees to echo and re-echo with the sound of their calling. Jackals in an ecstasy of crafty expectation would go yelping across the open veldt. From every festooned branch of the forest the hyraxes would cry and croon to one another, while from tiny crevices in the bark of each piece of ancient timber the African crickets would grow strangely vocal. Often at night when they went out to draw water from the rain-tank at the back of the house they could hardly hear each other speak so audible had the great continent become.
It is perhaps a truism that when wild nature is everywhere, no human societies have shown much interest in an altruistic protection of it.   Pragmatic reasons such as the perpetuation of a food supply or the maintenance of animals for hunting may have been widespread, but the disinterested preservation of wild plants, animals and ecosystems was rare. It has been said that in the European Middle Ages very blade of grass  was grazed with reverence,  but that did not prevent the Europeans from making over much of their continent at that time, and they were not alone in the world. 
In the agricultural phase of world history there has been a considerable loss of species during the transformation of wildland ecosystems to other types of terrain, whether the results be agricultural land, peat diggings, or a multitude of other land uses. The extension of Polynesians and Europeans into hitherto inaccessible regions of the world made possible extinction of plants and animals on remote islands: the dodo is a famous example. For a balance we should note that some biota inevitably benefited from the human-organized transformations of the agricultural era: malaria would be an example since more deforestation meant more silty deltas with stagnant pools. Rats and fleas doubtless did well out of urban growth, and the common fox in Europe found the increased quantity of woodland edge abutting farmland highly congenial just as more recently the same species has taken well to city life.
Overall, however, many species have suffered a diminished range even if not total extinction and in most places this was found acceptable; in the 'development' of Europe from say ad 1000-1800, nobody was very concerned to conserve wild pigs, the European bison and the wolf, in the way we now urge upon the states of east and central Africa, for example: is this progress or a double standard?