Nature and Power: A Global History of the Environment

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-02-04
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press

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This book aims to demonstrate that the changing relationship between humanity and nature is key to understanding world history. Humans have been grappling with environmental problems since prehistoric times, and the environmental unsustainability of human practices has often been a decisive, if not immediately evident, shaping factor in history. The measures that societies and states have adopted to stabilize the relationship between humans and the natural world have repeatedly contributed to environmental crises over the course of history. Nature and Power traces the expanding scope of environmental action: from initiatives undertaken by individual villages and cities, environmental policy has become a global concern. Efforts to steer human use of nature and natural resources have become complicated, as Nature and Power shows, by particularities of culture and by the vagaries of human nature itself. Environmental history, the author argues, is ultimately the history of human hopes and fears.

Author Biography

Joachim Radkau is Professor of History at the University of Bielefeld in Germany

Table of Contents

Preface to the German Editionp. xi
Preface to the English Editionp. xv
Thinking about Environmental Historyp. 1
Blinders and Dead Ends in Environmental Historyp. 1
The Sameness of Vicious Circles and the Complex Ways of Escaping Themp. 6
In the Depth of Time, and the Mysterious Regenerative Power of the Nature Ideap. 15
Trees or Sheep? The Problem of Value Judgments in Environmental Historyp. 20
Ecology as Historical Explanation: From the Collapse of Mayan Culture to the Great Irish Faminep. 27
Terra Incognita: Environmental History as Secret History or the History of the Obvious?p. 32
The Ecology of Subsistence and Tacit Knowledge: Primeval Symbioses of Humans and Naturep. 36
In the Beginning Was Fire: Global Slash-and-Burn Agriculture and Pyromania in Environmental Historyp. 41
Humans and Animals: Hunting and Domesticationp. 45
Gardens and Fruit Treesp. 55
Farmers and Herdersp. 62
The "Tragedy of the Commons" and the Plaggen Plague: Was Premodern Agriculture "Unconscious Plunder"?p. 71
Mother Earth and the Father in Heaven: On the Ecology of Religionp. 77
Water, Forests, and Powerp. 86
Hydraulic Engineering, Power, and Ecological Chain Reactionsp. 87
Egypt and Mesopotamia: An Archetypal Contrastp. 93
The Irrigated Terrace: A Socioecological Cell Culturep. 97
China as a Model and a Terrifying Visionp. 103
Water Civilizations within Constrained Spaces: Venice and the Netherlandsp. 117
Malaria, Irrigation, Deforestation: Endemic Disease as Nature's Avenger and the Protector of Ecological Reservesp. 127
Deforestation and "Ecological Suicide" in the Mediterranean Region: A Fictitious Problem? Erosion in Harmony with Nature and Misleading Historicizationp. 131
Forest and Power in Europe: From the Forest-Clearance Movement to the Era of Forest Regulationsp. 136
Focal Points of an Early Consciousness of Crisis: Cities and Miningp. 142
Colonialism as a Watershed in Environmental Historyp. 152
The Mongol Empire and the "Microbial Unification of the World"p. 154
Ecological Dynamics in Overseas Colonializationp. 157
The Birth of the Global Perspective: Colonial and Insular Origins of Modern Environmental Awarenessp. 164
Colonial and Postcolonial Turning Points in India's Environmental Historyp. 169
Yankee and Mushik Ecologyp. 177
The Question of European Exceptionalism in Environmental History: The Effect of Colonialism on the Colonial Powersp. 184
At the Limits of Naturep. 195
Toward the Last Reservesp. 195
"Wo Mistus, da Christus" (Where there is dung, there is Christ): From the Fallow to the "Cult of Dung" and the Politicization of Agriculturep. 205
Alarm over Wood Scarcity, the Afforestation Movement, and the Rise of an Ecological Forest Apologeticsp. 212
"Sweet, Holy Nature": The Ambiguous Development of the Modern Religion of Naturep. 221
Nature and Nation: Making Concrete the Nature in Need of Protectionp. 226
The First Industrial Environmental Crisis and the Genesis of Basic Patterns of Modern Crisis Managementp. 239
In the Labyrinth of Globalizationp. 250
The Deepest Rupture in the History of the Environment: The Failed Americanization of the Worldp. 250
Blood and Soil: Self-Sufficiency Gone Madp. 260
Substrata of Environmental Concerns: The Nuclear Apocalypse and Cancer Fearsp. 265
Scientific, Spiritual, and Economic Origins of the Environmental Movementp. 272
Nepal, Bhutan, and Other Summit Perspectives: Environmental Problems in Tourism, Development Aid, and Space Flightp. 280
The Problems of Power and Uncertainty in Environmental Policyp. 294
Epilogue: How to Argue with Environmental History in Politicsp. 304
Notesp. 331
Indexp. 409
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