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In "The Axe and the Oath", one of the world's leading medieval historians presents a compelling picture of daily life in the Middle Ages as it was experienced by ordinary people. Writing for general readers, Robert Fossier vividly describes how these vulnerable people confronted life, from birth to death, including childhood, marriage, work, sex, food, illness, religion, and the natural world. While most histories of the period focus on the ideas and actions of the few who wielded power and stress how different medieval people were from us, Fossier concentrates on the other nine-tenths of humanity in the period and concludes that 'medieval man is us'. Drawing on a broad range of evidence, Fossier describes how medieval men and women encountered, coped with, and understood the basic material facts of their lives. We learn how people related to agriculture, animals, the weather, the forest, and the sea; how they used alcohol and drugs; and, how they buried their dead. But "The Axe and the Oath" is about much more than simply the material demands of life. We also learn how ordinary people experienced the social, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of medieval life, from memory and imagination to writing and the Church. The result is a sweeping new vision of the Middle Ages that will entertain and enlighten readers.
Humanity in the twenty-first century is facing what might be described as its ultimate environmental catastrophe: the destruction of the climate that has nurtured human civilization and with it the basis of life on earth as we know it. All ecosystems on the planet are now in decline. Enormous rifts have been driven through the delicate fabric of the biosphere. The economy and the earth are headed for a fateful collision—if we don't alter course. In The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth, environmental sociologists John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York offer a radical assessment of both the problem and the solution.
The Best Environmental Books for Readers Who Want to Save the Planet
We all started out as environmentalists. As young readers, we fell in love with classic environmental books like The Lorax by Dr. Seuss and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The Lorax spoke for the trees in the lighthearted but cautionary tale of environmental destruction brought on by unmitigated capitalism. The Giving Tree embodies the relationship between humans and nature. Like the tree, nature gives us oxygen-rich air to breathe and sustenance to help us survive. Like the boy, we continue to take from the planet&rsquos rich resources with no regard for the future.
Some of us are still the energetic environmentalists of our youth. Others have left that life behind in the dust. Most of us lie somewhere in between, but there is still time to recapture the essence of our environment-loving youth! Although&hellipthe planet is literally engulfed in flames, so time is running short. Together, we can make The Lorax proud and save The Giving Tree. We can be the people who care a lot. Changes we make today will make the planet better for us and future generations. The following in the best environmental books will inspire readers to make changes and save the planet.
14 Inspiring New Environmental Books to Read During the Pandemic
When things get tough, many of us often turn to books for new information, inspiration or simple entertainment. Well, we've got you covered on all three counts, with 14 great new environmental books coming out this month. The list includes books for eco-interested kids, dedicated activists and everyone in between.
The publishing industry isn't immune to the economic threats posed by the current pandemic. Most local bookstores and libraries have closed their doors to customers and patrons, and many authors have needed to cancel their planned promotional tours. Publishers themselves are feeling the pinch, and at least three additional books that would have appeared on our list this month have been pushed back to later in the spring or summer.
But we're all adapting. Many publishers and bookstores will happily ship new books to you (or, in the case of local shops, offer curbside pickup). E-books may also be great options (they're often available through publishers or your local library website). The links below go to publishers' sites for each new book, which should provide you with a variety of options.
No matter how the books end up coming your way, may they offer the ideas and inspiration you need to keep you going and continuing to find ways to protect the planet.
1. Nature Obscura: A City’s Hidden Natural World by Kelly Brenner
With many of us currently restricted to our homes or neighborhoods, now's the perfect time to become a backyard naturalist (as we wrote recently). This magnificent book offers stories about the varied plants and wildlife that lives around us — even in the hearts of big cities — and ideas about how to make our urban ecosystems even wilder.
2. The Not BAD Animals by Sophie Corrigan
An utterly delightful kids' book that tries (and succeeds) to soften the reputation of the critters "that make us squirm and wriggle in our seats," but which, beneath their sharp teeth and odd habits, fulfill important roles in the world. You'll never look at a spider or vulture the same way again.
3 - 4. Becoming Wild and Beyond Words by Carl Safina
Two new books from the famed ecologist and bestselling author. The first, for adult audiences, examines "how animal cultures raise families, create beauty and achieve peace." The second, for younger readers, adapts one of Safina's earlier adult books and discusses the inner lives of wolves and dogs. Both are must-reads.
5. Green Meat? Sustaining Eaters, Animals and the Planet edited by Ryan M. Katz-Rosene and Sarah J. Martin
This book tackles some tough questions about meat, examining issues related to production and consumption through a wide and varied set of lenses. Throughout, the book and its contributors invite readers to examine what they eat, where it comes from and how it's produced. You won't find easy answers inside, but it'll give you something to chew on.
6 - 7. A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety by Sarah Jaquette Ray and Facing the Climate Emergency by Margaret Klein Salamon
"Climate grief" is both real and draining. These two complementary titles offer readers some great psychological tools necessary to keep going in these trying times — and beyond. Field Guide is aimed more at young adults ("the climate generation"), but both books provide key tips for turning your negative emotions into powerful action.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber and Elon Musk by James Wilt
Public transportation was already in crisis before the pandemic, thanks in no small part to the Koch brothers' assault on local transit systems. Things could get even worse now, with ridership in trains and busses on the decline while we maintain safe distance from each other, a trend that could undermine critical low-carbon transportation initiatives. This book, which addresses issues ranging from transit to electric cars to ridesharing, aims to provide a model for a greener future.
9 - 10. How Birds Work and How Insects Work by Marianne Taylor
These two heavily illustrated science books provide great insight into both intriguing groups of species. Taken together or individually, they may offer hours of fun educational opportunities in this era of home-schooling.
11. Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson
The pandemic reinforces the tragic reality that our systems are terribly broken. Many experts and activists feel that this crisis — which comes on top of the already existing climate and wildlife crises — also provides an opportunity for change. This book offers an ever-so-timely economic model, along with working examples, for a safer and more just future. (Expect several more books on similar topics in the months ahead.)
12. Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton
We probably shouldn't personally be visiting national parks during the pandemic, but here's the next best thing. This thoroughly delightful travelogue (from a CBS Sunday Morning correspondent) brings national parks to you and delivers a deeply personal and revelatory take on what makes America's natural spaces so important.
13. The Human Planet: Earth at the Dawn of the Anthropocene by George Steinmetz and Andrew Revkin
Steinmetz is renowned for his aerial photography projects, which often capture the stark reality of climate change, agriculture and sea-level rise. Revkin is a prominent environmental journalist and educator. Together they've delivered a beautiful, haunting coffee-table book that provides a powerful portrait of the ways we're changing the planet.
14. Sea Otters: A Survival Story by Isabelle Groc
Your required dose of cuteness combined with important conservation messages, all wrapped up in a fun and heavily illustrated book for teen readers. Dame Judy Dench provides the foreword, which may be the most unexpected fact in this whole column.
That's it for this month. Stay safe and stay tuned for another batch of books on May's list in a few short weeks. Until then you can find dozens of additional eco-books in the "Revelator Reads" archive.
The series intends to act as a link for ongoing researches concerning the historical interrelationships between man and the natural world, with special regard to the modern and contemporary ages. The main commitment should be to bring together different areas of expertise in both the natural and the social sciences to help them find a common language and a common perspective. Interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are needed for more and better understanding of the environment and its history, with new epistemological frameworks and methodological practices.
The links between human activities and flora, fauna, water, soil, are examples of the most debated topics in EH, while established discipline like forest history, agricultural history and urban history are also dealing with it. The human impacts on ecosystems and landscapes over time, the preservation of cultural heritage, studies of historical trajectories in pattern and processes, as well as applied research on historical use and management of landscapes and ecosystems, are also taken into account. Other important topics relate to the history of environmental ideas and movements, policies, laws, regulations, conservation, the history of immaterial heritage, such as traditional knowledge related to the environment.
The Environment in World History
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Table of Contents
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
Part One: Overview
1. Introduction: World History and Environmental History
2. The Big Story: Human History, Energy Regimes, and the Environment
Edmund Burke III
3. Toward a Global System of Property Rights in Land
John F. Richards
Part Two: Rivers, Regions, and Developmentalism
4. The Transformation of the Middle Eastern Environment, 1500 B.C.E.-2 C.E.
Edmund Burke III
5. The Transformation of China's Environment, 1500-2
6. The Rhine as a World River
7. Continuity and Transformation: Colonial Rice Frontiers and Their Environmental Impact on the Great River Deltas of Mainland Southeast Asia
Part Three: Landscapes, Conquests, Communities, and the Politics of Knowledge
8. Beyond the Colonial Paradigm: African History and Environmental History in Large-Scale Perspective
9. Environmental Histories of India: Of States, Landscapes, and Ecologies
10. Latin American Environmental History: A Shifting Old/New Field
11. The Predatory Tribute-Taking State: A Framework for Understanding Russian Environmental History
Douglas R. Weiner
The 10 Best Environment, Climate Science and Conservation Books of 2017
Whether you are giving gifts to others or to yourself, or if your New Year's resolution is to read more books, this list of the best popular science books of 2017 in environment, climate science and conservation is a great place to start reading and gifting
The 10 Best Environment, Climate Science and Conservation Books of 2017.
As I mentioned here, 2017 truly was the year for excellent popular science books about biology, and my observation also applies to the suite of books about the environment, conservation and climate science. Once again, I find myself agonizing over cutting my list to just ten books -- I could easily have chosen 3 times as many books, but then I would have to write a mini-review for each one, which would be challenging since there isn't enough time in the day for me to do this. So without further ado, here are my selections for the best popular science books about climate science, conservation and the environment.
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell (Little, Brown and Company, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
Beware of the coming aquapocalypse. If you like reading dystopian novels, then you may enjoy this book, except for one tiny problem: this book is not fiction. Jeff Goodell’s meticulously researched and dispassionate reporting presents a sobering look at what our world will be like if we ignore the signs and continue spewing greenhouse gases unabated. He focuses mainly on how climate change and sea level rise will affect New York City and Miami, but includes plenty more information about other parts of the world, too. He presents data showing how climate change and sea level rise are looming threats to national security and food production, are causing environmental degradation, and have far-reaching implications for public health. Globally, hundreds of millions of people will be affected by rising sea levels by the end of this century, entire island nations will be swallowed by the sea and many of the world’s greatest cities will be transformed into modern day Atlantises. Yet, perversely, America’s political leaders remain in complete denial about this grave threat: currently, the USA is the ONLY country in the world that is not a signatory to the Paris Climate Accord our public servants are actively scrubbing all mention of climate change from official government websites and officials are threatening climate scientists who try to raise public awareness about these important issues. Goodell has interviewed the scientists, attended the conferences, and he clearly explains the science, geological history and engineering so non-specialists can understand -- and be terrified. This important review is absolutely brilliant scientific journalism, and certainly is a must read for all of the world’s citizens -- especially those in the White House.
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World is a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017, is one of the Washington Post’s 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017, and is one of Booklist’s Top 10 Science Books of 2017.
The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea by Jack E. Davis (Liveright, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
Considering the importance of the Gulf of Mexico to the Americas, it’s astonishing that a comprehensive history of this body of water has never before been published. Undaunted by this monumental undertaking, environmental historian, Jack Davis, a professor at the University of Florida, addresses this deficiency in this painstakingly researched yet highly readable masterpiece that combines insightful storytelling with rigorous analysis detailing the natural history, cultural history, ecology and destruction of “America’s Sea”. Professor Davis covers everything, from the breakup of the original supercontinent, Pangaea, which was surrounded by a single ocean called Panthalassa the exploration of the Gulf by Spanish, French, British and eventually, American, explorers and their interactions with the indigenous peoples to a penetrating examination of the incredible variety of marine creatures that inhabit the Gulf’s many ecological zones. There are a couple chapters about fishing, and another about the feather trade and the book ends with an extensive treatise about the myriad ways that people are destroying the Gulf -- nothing escapes this book’s encyclopedic coverage. This scholarly magnum opus is quite long, but it reads like a novel. Students of writing, history, ecology and the environment will be riveted by this book, and I think it should be required reading for every American, especially those in the White House. If you read only two books about the environment this year, make this one of those two.
The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea is the 2017 Kirkus Prize Winner for Nonfiction, and was just named a finalist for 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction.
The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions by Peter Brannen (Ecco Books, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
The world has come to an end five times that we know about, and now, we are facing a sixth mass extinction. This painstakingly-researched and sobering book by award-winning journalist Peter Brannen reads like a mystery novel, with the usual suspects being volcanoes and asteroids. But thanks to new technologies, Brannen tells us that scientists are unearthing ever more convincing evidence that climate change also played a major role in these mass extinction events. We learn that one massive supercontinent (Pangaea) dramatically changes how climate works, and that splitting and colliding continents cause huge changes in the availability of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon. Brannen also underscores many scientists’ disturbing observation that the apparent goal of humanity is to extract all carbon from the ground and burn it up as fast as possible -- a project we’ve been wildly successful at in only a couple hundred years. In addition to discussing the whys and hows of these mass extinctions, we meet a variety of fantastic creatures (now fossils) that lived in those lost worlds, and we get to know some of the scientists -- geologists, paleontologists and climate scientists -- who pursue this important research. Throughout this amazing book, Brannen’s humor, clear explanations, and beautiful, even poetic, prose, are combined with personal anecdotes to make this compelling book a gripping look at the future that awaits us if we do not quickly change our ways.
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan (W. W. Norton & Company, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
The Great lakes -- Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario -- are a system of five interconnected North American lakes that hold 21% of the world’s fresh water, and thus, they are a vitally important source of water, food, jobs and recreation for millions of Americans. But the ecosystems in the Great Lakes are under siege from a succession of invasive species, starting with sea lampreys that fed upon and destroyed lake trout in the 1930s before we discovered a selective poison to finally kill them off in the 1950s. After the lampreys were gone, invasive alewives then exploded until two more non-native species were introduced to keep their population under control. After that, two invasive species of mussels that hitchhiked into the Lakes in discarded freighter ballast water became a problem until two native species in the Great Lakes adapted to eat them. In this carefully researched book, award-winning journalist, Dan Egan, documents the history of the Great Lakes: the canal systems the invasive species the massive biological “dead zones” and the unsafe drinking water and, of course, climate change. This eye-opening book could be quite a depressing read, but Egan’s touches of humor and discussions of the relatively simple things we must do to restore and revitalize this precious freshwater sea make this compulsively readable account into a surprisingly hopeful and empowering book.
The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change by Gleb Raygorodetsky (Pegasus, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
Climate change is not a Chinese hoax nor an abstract policy issue, it is the reality of daily life for indigenous communities. Conservation biologist Gleb Raygorodetsky, who has worked and lived with indigenous communities for two decades, takes us on a global journey to learn how indigenous peoples are faring and what they are doing to deal with rapidly changing environments. In this book, we meet men and women, young and old, of the Skolt Sami of Finland, the Sapara of Ecuador, the Karen mountain peoples of Myanmar and the Tla-o-qui-aht of Canada, to name a few, and learn about their traditional practices and their creative solutions for dealing with modern climate change. According to Dr. Raygorodetsky, these communities are an “archipelago of hope” because they represent humanity’s best chance to learn how to take care of Earth. In addition to sharing real stories about indigenous peoples at the forefront of changing environments, Dr. Raygorodetsky also writes about some of his childhood experiences growing up on the Kamchatka Peninsula. This exceptionally well-written book skillfully interweaves memoir and science with good old fashioned storytelling, and gives us a sense of hope, and a course of action for how we, individually and collectively, can reverse the damage we are doing to the planet and how we can help restore what has been lost.
A Hole in the Wind: A Climate Scientist's Bicycle Journey Across the United States by David Goodrich (Pegasus, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
This entertaining memoir follows one scientist’s three-month 4200-mile bicycle excursion from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the Pacific Coast of Oregon. Along the way, our intrepid hero, a retired climate scientist who was the former head of the U.S. Global Change Research Project in Washington, D.C., and a former director of the UN Global Climate Observing System office at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, chats with ordinary folk and learns how climate change is affecting their health and livelihoods as well as the local environment. Professor Goodrich also shares some iconic American history: he travels along part of the Underground Railroad recounts a story about a shawl worn by a free black man who was killed in John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry that eventually swaddled Langston Hughes follows the heartbreaking trail traveled by Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce shares stories about the massacre at Wounded Knee and about Lewis and Clark’s epic exploration of the continent and he visits the contested Dakota Access Pipeline. Bolstered by thorough research, amusing observations, and wit, Professor Goodrich’s sumptuous prose makes his journey into an absorbing, important read that will speak to adventurers, naturalists, historians and cyclists. As an added bonus, the book has an appendix detailing how the Professor packed his bicycle for this journey.
Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution by Marcus Eriksen (Beacon Press, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
Although he comes off as a likeable guy, Marcus Eriksen pulls no punches: “As short-lived, short-sighted, bipedal, big-brained primates preoccupied with war and sex, we risk consuming and overpopulating until we collapse”, he writes in the prologue to his thought-provoking book. He states then that his goal is “to end the throwaway culture”. Eriksen and his wife, Anna, have devoted their lives to raising the public's awareness about the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world's oceans. But as Eriksen discovers during his sea voyage from Los Angeles to Hawaii aboard a homemade plastic raft, marine plastic waste doesn’t form a solid floating mass in these oceanic gyres, instead, it forms a “plastic smog” of floating microparticles that are not easily cleaned up. Microplastic waste, which results from the physical breakdown of plastic dumped into our oceans, is polluting beaches and entering the food chain -- and us -- and is killing marine life with its toxic plastic chemistry. (The effects on human health from ingested microplastics is left as a mental exercise for the reader.) It quickly becomes clear that either we clean up our act or we will drown in a sea of our own waste. In addition to Eriksen’s environmental message, this book tells the exciting story of his seafaring adventure, and his unconventional fight to raise the public’s awareness about plastic pollution. Eriksen also recounts successful efforts by citizen activists to demand that plastics producers take responsibility for this problem they created. He also provides specific solutions along with the empowering message that each one of us can make a difference. I was truly disappointed that the book doesn’t include any photographs, but nevertheless, this inspiring and well-written adventure story will certainly change how you use, consume and recycle plastics.
Bee Quest by Dave Goulson (Jonathan Cape, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
There are many species of bumblebees, as bumblebee expert, Dave Goulson, a professor at the University of Sussex, can tell you. But these days, a more important question is how many bumblebee species are still left on Earth? This was the motivation for Professor Goulson’s globe-trotting “bee quest”. In this thoroughly charming book, Professor Goulson’s third about bumblebees, we accompany him on his journeys from Sussex hedgerows to Ecuadorian jungles in search of the world’s rarest bees. But this wonderful book is more than just a global travelogue about a quirky adventure, it discusses the reasons -- pesticides, herbicides, habitat destruction, and human ignorance, to name a few -- for these beneficial insects’ seriously declining populations. Although some of the information is depressing, Professor Goulson’s enthusiasm for his buzzy subjects, his personal stories and his laugh-out-loud humor are absolutely irresistible. Along the way, we also learn weird facts about these delightfully fuzzy insects. Professor Goulson’s scientific expertise and passion for conservation shines forth on every page, and it will change how you view your role in the world -- and it just may inspire you to plant a wildflower garden or to build a “bug” hotel, or maybe to even stop eating almonds.
Wolf Nation: The Life, Death, and Return of Wild American Wolves by Brenda Peterson (Da Capo Press, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
Why are humans so hell-bent on exterminating the last of the wolves? This is the question posed by Seattle-based novelist and nature writer, Brenda Peterson. Peterson’s considerable writing skills shine brilliantly through her engaging, flowing prose as she seamlessly interweaves science, history and memoir in this important and meticulously researched book. Wolf Nation traces 300 years of human interactions with wild wolves in North America. Starting with Native Americans, who venerated them, to the white settlers, who tenaciously worked to exterminate them, we learn about the history of America’s shameful public lands policies that look the other way whilst Big Money and the cattle industry use an astonishing variety of vicious, cruel methods to exterminate wolves -- and indeed, to over-fish and over-hunt all of America’s wildlife. The book includes lots of references to many organizations that are working to preserve wild wolves to thereby restore a functioning ecology, but it’s difficult to come away from this informative and deeply disturbing book without a profound sense of despair for the future of wild wolves and deep outrage at what and who Americans really are.
The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature's Great Connectors by David George Haskell (Viking, 2017 Amazon US / Amazon UK)
I’ve always loved trees, but I was deeply affected -- indeed, I was forever changed -- after reading Peter Wohlleben’s exquisite book, The Hidden Life of Trees, whilst a judge for the Royal Society Insight Investment Popular Science Book Prize of 2016. Thus, that book sets a very high bar to meet to make an impression. That said, award-winning author and 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist, David George Haskell, a professor at Sewanee: The University of the South, has managed this beautifully -- and I do mean beautifully. In this eloquent book, Professor Haskell selects a dozen trees around the world that live in a variety of situations, including a ceibo in the Amazon and a pear tree on a Manhattan sidewalk, and visits them repeatedly. He carefully studies “his” trees with a biologist’s eye and a poet’s heart. He listens to them (trees are much noisier than you might expect), explores the webs of fungal and bacterial communities that connect “his” trees with the forests where they live, he discusses how trees deal with a variety of animals and other plants, and unearths connections to industrial development and climate change even in the most distant rainforests. There is so much to love about this book, but the prose is truly ethereal. For example, this is just one of many enchanting passages, where he discusses birds that hide seeds of particular trees, to later recover and eat only some portion of them: “Bird memories are therefore a tree’s dream of the future.” In this book, Professor Haskell uses scientific and literary studies to argue that trees have much to teach us about Earth’s interconnected ecology and how humans are an integral part of that, too.
The Songs of Trees was selected by NPR's “Science Friday” and “BrainPickings” as one of the best science books of 2017.
For more excellent books, please refer to my list of The 10 Best Conservation And Environment Books Of 2016
Virtual Book Display: Environmental Justice & History
This is the final of three blog posts that feature virtual book displays created by library student workers. The blog editors would like to thank all of the students who participated for the planning, research, and creativity that went into these projects!
Environmental Justice & History
By Dakota Wolf & Mariela Breton
Environmental Justice refers to those cultural norms and values, rules, regulations, behaviors, policies, and decisions to support sustainability, where all people can hold with confidence that their community and natural environment is safe and productive.–GreenAction.org
Climate change and the destruction of the natural world are among the biggest problems facing humanity today. In this display, you will find books about the history of the environmentalist movement, environmental issues ranging from climate crimes to pollution, and activism.
Explore the virtual book display below to find books and online resources in our collection (note: display works best in Chrome). To interact with the display, start by clicking the right arrow in the bottom right corner, then navigate by subject. When you find an item that you want to check out, click on “Read Now” to be directed to the library catalog. A list of all titles featured, with links to the e-books and streaming films, is also included below.
Featured Resources By Topic
Note: To access e-resources, you may be prompted to login with your Fordham AccessIT ID.
Pollution and Resources
Thank you to our student workers Dakota Wolf and Mariela Breton for creating this display!
Bibliography of Australian Environmental History
Environmental history is the study of the interaction between human societies and the environment in the past. If one applies this common definition of the discipline to Australia, the environmental history of the continent starts sometime between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. It was then that people crossed Wallace’s Line, which passes between Bali and Lombok, west of Celebes, and east of the Philippines separating the Asian and Australian biogeographical regions. After separation of the Australian from Antarctica about 80 million years ago the continent was isolated from the rest of the world and followed its own biological evolution. This resulted in the development of a unique ecology and equally unique species. According to historian George Seddon, these uniquely Australian eco-systems ‘… had a radically new technology imposed upon it, suddenly, twice.’ 1 The two waves of human arrivals each brought their own set of technologies which heavily influenced the Australian ecosystems and landscape. The Aboriginals brought stone tool technology, controlled fire and hunted. The control of fire enables Aboriginal peoples to modify the landscape on a large scale and it has been suggested that the megafauna extinctions occurred shortly after the arrival of humans due to environmental change and hunting pressures. 2
The second wave of human arrivals brought simultaneously an agricultural as well as an industrial revolution. The impacts of European arrival in Australia is still playing out today and has rapidly changed land cover and river systems, and has resulted in a high extinction rate over the past 200 years.
Australian environmental history is not only dominated by the two waves of human arrivals but also by the physical conditions of the continent and the way it interacts with humans. Australia is the driest continent, apart from Antarctica, with an interior that experiences extreme high temperatures. Australian soils are generally poor and thin and in combination with water shortages not well suited for intensive agriculture.
The generally dry conditions of Australia are deceptive and, as the European settlers learned the hard way, there is either too much water or too little and not very much in between. The floods that they encountered were of a scale that is unimaginable in Europe, and so are the lengths of the extreme droughts that plague the continent
Because of these extreme conditions in the Australian interior, most people live near the coast the rim of the island continent. Australia has also one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world and the seven state capitals of Australia houses 60 per cent of its the population. 3
These unique features of Australian history, ecology and population distribution has focused studies in Australian environmental history on a number of core themes. These include: the history of fire, impacts of colonization on the environment, the impact of aboriginal land use and management, the urban environment, flooding, drought and agriculture, the Great Barrier reef Aquatic environments.
This introductory bibliography presents works covering most of these themes. In addition is includes titles focusing on New Zealand environmental history. Although there are similarities between Australia and New Zealand because of their colonial past, there are also significant differences. The most important of these is the fact that New Zealand was the last major landmass to be colonized in world history: less than 1000 years ago. So the dual shock of the Maori and the European arriving is in temporal terms quite close together. As a result the environmental transformation of New Zealand has been one of the fastest in world history. This creates a whole new set of questions for environmental historians and in particular Tom Brooking and Erik Pawson have explored these.
This bibliography is far from comprehensive and if you are missing any key works that should be included please contact the editor by using the contact form on this site.
 Quoted in: Libby Robin, “Australia in the Collective Memory of the World”, Uekötter, Frank et al. ‘What should we remember: A global poll among environmental historians’, Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences, No. 11, 2013: 184 – 214
 Although this is an ongoing debate see this article: Roberts, Richard G., et al. “New ages for the last Australian megafauna: continent-wide extinction about 46,000 years ago.” Science 292.5523 (2001): 1888-1892.
Beattie, James, “Environmental Anxiety in New Zealand, 1840-1941: Climate Change, Soil Erosion, Sand Drift, Flooding and Forest Conservation”, Environment and History, 9 (2003) 9, 379-392
Beattie, James, Emily O’Gorman and Matt Henry (eds.), Climate, Science, and Colonization: Histories from Australia and New Zealand (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
Bennett, Brett, “A Global History of Australian Trees”, Journal of the History of Biology. 44,(February 2011) 1, 125-145.
Brooking, Tom, “’Green Scots and golden Irish’: The environmental impact of Scottish and Irish settlers in New Zealand: Some preliminary ruminations”, Journal of Irish & Scottish Studies, 3 (2009) 1, 41-60.
Brooking, Tom, and Eric Pawson, (eds.), Seeds of empire: The environmental transformation of New Zealand (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011)
Brooking, Tom, and Eric Pawson, Environmental Histories of New Zealand (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2002)
Butzer, Karl W., and David M. Helgren, “Livestock, land cover, and environmental history: The tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, 1820–1920”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 95 (2005) 1, 80-111.
Daley, Ben, The Great Barrier Reef : an environmental history (Abingdon, Oxon, New York: Earthscan/Routledge, 2014)
Dovers, Stephen (ed), Australian Environmental History: Essays and Cases (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1994)
Flannery, Tim, The Future Eaters (Sydney: Reed Books Australia, 1994)
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The Green Medium is an Emerald Award-winning, youth-run blog that seeks to innovate how we discuss and inform ourselves on environmental concerns.
The environmental movement is a truly fascinating one with a long and complicated history. While it’s absolutely not a requirement to be an environmentalist, knowing a little bit of the history is not only beneficial but also interesting. Being over two centuries long, the movement’s history is full of many great ups and downs. Here is a brief history on the environmental movement.
Beginning in Europe in the very early 1800s, environmentalism came into existence through an another ideology Romanticism. Unlike what the name suggests, Romanticism was not an artistic and intellectual movement based on love but on emotion! Romanticism placed a lot of emphasis on nature, wanting people to appreciate the woods for their beauty, which challenged the solely scientific view many had of nature at the time. Later in the late 1800s, the environmental movement grew strongly in Britain as a response to the Industrial Revolution. With no environmental regulations to stop them, the factories of the Industrial Revolution polluted air and water and expanded out into beautiful farmland. Quickly, there was a backlash to the factories with people calling for wild spaces to be protected. Early conservation groups, like ‘the Society for the Protection of Birds (1889)’ and ‘the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (1894),’ began popping up all over England.
The environmental movement began to take shape in North America when John Muir, one of the earliest environmentalist, convinced the U.S. congress to create the Yosemite National Park to preserve the beautiful valley. Many other conservation efforts began to take place across the continent with people trying to protect the dwindling american bison population. And in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson founded the National Park Service, which deeply supported the growing environmental movement. In the early 20th century, environmental laws and government agencies began to pop up all over the world but especially in Nazi Germany! Several of the high ranking Nazis were environmentalists and wanted to protect the german forests. The environmental movement only continued to grow in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with many influential books being published, such as ‘A Sand County Almanac (1949)’ and ‘Silent Spring (1962).’ Silent Spring, written by American biologist Rachel Carson, is especially influential as it exposed the harmful and dangerous effects of the pesticide DDT. The book was so important for the environmental movement that it lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and DDT was banned in 1972. The 1970s were greatly important for the green movement with many groups, like Greenpeace, forming in the 1970s. The first Earth Day and the UN’s first environmental conference also happened in the 70s. Into the 1980s, a growing awareness on global warming brought the environmental movement even more into the mainstream. Unfortunately, the environmental movement’s strength has declined somewhat since the late 2000s after it hit a high with the anger following the great recession.
The history of environmentalism and its movement is one full of interesting twists and turns. There is perhaps no other movement in history where the Nazis actually did something good! With such a long history, it’s important that we keep the environmental movement alive and well in the modern era!