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Environmental History

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Culture, Conflict, and Ecology

The history of the commons—jointly owned land or other resources such as fisheries or forests set aside for public use—provides a useful context for current debates over sustainability and how we can act as “good ancestors.” In this book, Derek Wall considers the commons from antiquity to the present day, as an idea, an ecological space, an economic abstraction, and a management practice. He argues that the commons should be viewed neither as a “tragedy” of mismanagement (as the biologist Garrett Hardin wrote in 1968) nor as a panacea for solving environmental problems.

A New History of German Environmentalism

Germany enjoys an enviably green reputation. Environmentalists in other countries applaud its strict environmental laws, its world-class green technology firms, its phase-out of nuclear power, and its influential Green Party. Germans are proud of these achievements, and environmentalism has become part of the German national identity. In The Greenest Nation? Frank Uekötter offers an overview of the evolution of German environmentalism since the late nineteenth century.

A History

Energy is the only universal currency; it is necessary for getting anything done. The conversion of energy on Earth ranges from terra-forming forces of plate tectonics to cumulative erosive effects of raindrops. Life on Earth depends on the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy into plant biomass. Humans have come to rely on many more energy flows—ranging from fossil fuels to photovoltaic generation of electricity—for their civilized existence.

Climate Change and Energy Scarcity

The future is not what it used to be because we can no longer rely on the comforting assumption that it will resemble the past. Past abundance of fuel, for example, does not imply unending abundance. Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible.

Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination

Water lies at the intersection of landscape and infrastructure, crossing between visible and invisible domains of urban space, in the tanks and buckets of the global South and the vast subterranean technological networks of the global North. In this book, Matthew Gandy considers the cultural and material significance of water through the experiences of six cities: Paris, Berlin, Lagos, Mumbai, Los Angeles, and London.

The Whole Earth Catalog was a cultural touchstone of the 1960s and 1970s. The iconic cover image of the Earth viewed from space made it one of the most recognizable books on bookstore shelves. Between 1968 and 1971, almost two million copies of its various editions were sold, and not just to commune-dwellers and hippies. Millions of mainstream readers turned to the Whole Earth Catalog for practical advice and intellectual stimulation, finding everything from a review of Buckminster Fuller to recommendations for juicers.

Endless Growth on a Finite Planet

The notion of ever-expanding economic growth has been promoted so relentlessly that “growth” is now entrenched as the natural objective of collective human effort. The public has been convinced that growth is the natural solution to virtually all social problems—poverty, debt, unemployment, and even the environmental degradation caused by the determined pursuit of growth. Meanwhile, warnings by scientists that we live on a finite planet that cannot sustain infinite economic expansion are ignored or even scorned.

History, Power, Knowledge

Deserts are commonly imagined as barren, defiled, worthless places, wastelands in need of development. This understanding has fueled extensive anti-desertification efforts—a multimillion-dollar global campaign driven by perceptions of a looming crisis. In this book, Diana Davis argues that estimates of desertification have been significantly exaggerated and that deserts and drylands—which constitute about 41% of the earth’s landmass—are actually resilient and biodiverse environments in which a great many indigenous people have long lived sustainably.

Ecoimperialists, Ecodependents, and Ecoresisters

Ecuador is biologically diverse, petroleum rich, and economically poor. Its extraordinary biodiversity has attracted attention and funding from such transnational environmental organizations as Conservation International, the World Wildlife Fund, and the United States Agency for International Development. In Ecuador itself there are more than 200 environmental groups dedicated to sustainable development, and the country’s 2008 constitution grants constitutional rights to nature.

A Global History of Forest Management

Today, the world’s forests are threatened by global warming, growing demand for wood products, and increasing pressure to clear tropical forests for agricultural use. Economic globalization has enabled Western corporations to export timber processing jobs and import cheap wood products from developing countries. Timber plantations of exotic, fast-growing species supply an ever-larger amount of the world’s wood. In response, many countries have established forest areas protected from development. In this book, Brett Bennett views today’s forestry issues from a historical perspective.

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