Exploring Environmental History is the podcast about human societies and the environment in the past.
Resources exploitation and nature protection in the border lands of Qing China
25:01Much research has been devoted to the impact of the expanding European empires and settler colonies in the 18thand 19thcenturies and their impacts on nature and resources. Not much attention has been paid to a similar story unfolding at the same time in Qing China: the increasing expansion of the exploitation of natural resources such as fur, mushrooms, pearls and timber in China’s expanding imperial frontiers. China’s demand for these products was so pronounced, that by the first decades of the 19thcentury many of these resources were commercially exhausted and many of the animals that provided these products were on the brink of local extinction. In response the Qing rulers created protected areas and limited harvests in response to these environmental impacts. Jonathan Schlesinger, a scholar of imperial China at Indiana University in Bloomington, studied Manchu and Mongolian archives to track the trade in furs, pearls and mushrooms across the Qing empire’s borderlands in the 18th and 19th centuries. On this episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast Schlesinger discusses how Qing rulers responded to declining resources and negative environmental impacts. In addition he considers if it is possible to compare “western” environmental history with Chinese environmental history or whether we need to think outside a Western paradigm. Music credits "From China To USA" by Stefan Kartenberg "Old performer in new time" by Subhashish Panigrahi Both tracks available from ccMixter
Incendiary politics: histories of Indigenous Burning and Environmental Debates in Australia and the United States
28:51The 2018 wildfires around the globe have been dramatic, prompting headlines about the world being on fire. The 2018 fire season is unusual in that so many places are experiencing major fires at the same time. California and some areas in Australia were hard hit, but these places are used to wildfires. The political aftermath of catastrophic firestorms in both Australia and the United States has involved commissions or parliamentary inquiries, with terms of reference that include investigation into assessing or improving fire management policies. Part of these policies is the use of prescribed burning for fuel reduction, which has a long history in Australia but less so in the United States. Prescribed burning for fuel reduction has been heavily influenced by perceived or real understandings of Indigenous burning practices. Daniel May is a PhD student at the Australian National University and on this episode of the podcast he explores the political and cultural influences of the historical debates surrounding understandings of Indigenous fire-use in Australia and the US. His aim is to expose the rhetorical strategies and political fault lines of the interest groups, past and present, attempting to influence policy making. Music credits "4 Guitarreros" by Doxent Zsigmond "Didgeridoo And Annabloom Too" by Speck "Speculation Alley" by Martijn de Boer (NiGiD) All available from ccMixter
The timber frontier of Northern Sweden: a history of ecological and social transformation
27:21Sweden is one of the largest timber exporters in Europe. The country has been an exporter since at least the early modern period. That is not surprising because pine and spruce forests cover large parts of northern Sweden. These forests are part of the single largest land biome on earth, stretching along the pole circle of Eurasia and North America: the taiga Not that long ago, the forests of northern Sweden were almost untouched by human hands. That changed during the 19thcentury when a timber frontier moved across northern Sweden, driven by the demand for wood in the industrialising countries of Europe. The timber frontier forged changes across the forests of northern Sweden, not in the least the construction of tens of thousands of kilometres of floatways. This transformed not only the ecological structure of the forests, but also the social and economic dynamics of Sweden and shaped the modern country that we see today. Erik Törnlund is a forest historian who studied the transformation of the forests in northern Sweden and the development of the floatway system. On this episode of the podcast Erik examines the Swedish timber frontier and the associated environmental, economic and social transformations that have occurred in Sweden since the 19thcentury.
Forestry in northern Europe: National Histories, Shared Legacies
36:41Forest history in Europe is often focussed on individual nation states. It is true that all European countries have unique forest histories played out in their national contexts. But there are common traits that all northern European countries share. For example, modern forestry started as an enlightenment project aimed at rationally managing resources in a sustainable way and controlling populations of the countryside. In addition, there is a long tradition of state-centered, management-intensive and science-based forestry. Many of these European forestry experiences and practices have been transported around the world, not in the least to the European Colonial Empires, but also to North America. In many parts of the world this European legacy is often equated with forestry based on 18thcentury German models. But this begs the question if there is a European forestry tradition. This edition of the Exploring Environmental History Podcastexamines the patterns in the development of European Forestry and attempts to answer the question if there is a European Forestry tradition. This episode is hosted by Jan Oosthoek and Richard Hölzl, the co-editors of a recent volume published by Berhahn Books entitled Managing Northern Europe’s Forests. Guest appearances of Bo Fritzbøger (University of Copenhagen) and Per Eliasson(Malmö University), who contributed to Managing Northern Europe’s Forests. Music Credits Prelude No. 2by Chris Zabriskieis. Available on freemusicarchive.org. She closed her eyes in despair by A Himitsu. Available on Soundcloud.
Kangaroos and tanks: histories of militarised landscapes in Australia
24:11Military operations can have repercussions for environments and landscapes a long way from the battlefields. In the case of Australia most military action during the 20th century happened far from its shores, apart from the incidental bombing by the Japanese of Darwin and a few other northern coastal towns during World War II. It is therefore surprising that an Australian historian, Ben Wilkie, Honorary Research Fellow in Australian Studies at Deakin University, researches the environmental histories of military conflict. This edition of the podcast explores some of these histories of militarized landscapes in Australia, and the evolution of Australian Defence Force environmental policies in the twentieth century with Ben Wilkie. Music Credits "Battlefield Taikos" by rocavaco; "Too Small to Sweat" by Stefan Kartenberg. Tracks available from ccMixter
The Watery ally: military inundations in Dutch history
33:21For centuries, the Dutch have fought against their arch-enemy: water. But, during the Dutch War of Independence in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch found an ally in their arch enemy. Their struggle against Spain seemed almost hopeless because the rebels were facing the best trained, supplied and funded European army of that era. As the underdog, they turned to water and used it as a weapon against the Spanish by planning and carrying out a number military inundations, intentionally flooding enormous swaths of land to stop or even defeat the enemy. However, it is possible that during the Dutch Wars of Independence the province of Holland could have been permanently flooded and lost to the North Sea. The Spanish, hurt by the military inundations, hatched a secret plan that aimed at defeating the Dutch by turning their watery ally against them. Luckily, this plan was never carried out. While Holland survived, the Dutch constructed a line of fortifications and waterworks to facilitate military inundations, which became known as the Dutch Water Line. This militarization of the Dutch landscape had profound long term political, social and environmental consequences for the province and the region. Episode 77 of the Exploring Environmental History podcast explores these social, political and environmental issues with Robert Tiegs, Adjunct Professor at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada. Music credits "Fear and Hope" by reusenoise "Our Lives" by @nop "Death of a Music Box" by Hans Atom All tracks available from ccMixter
Water pollution in the Dutch Peat Colonies of Groningen, 1850-1980
13:17In the mid-19th century the first potato starch and strawboard factories were established in the Groningen Peat Colonies (Veenkoloniën) in the Northern Netherlands. The number of factories increased until there more than thirty in 1900. These industries brought jobs but also water pollution and stench caused by the released thousands of cubic metres of waste water into the canals. For most of the 20th century pollution was not an issue but the industry realised that tons of useful minerals and organic substances were “wasted” by dumping it with the waste water into water courses. Experiments were set up to extract useful minerals and other substances for the production of fodder or fertiliser. None of these efforts resulted in solving the water pollution problem of the Groningen Peat Colonies. The pollution persisted until the latter quarter of the 20th century. Episode 76 of Exploring Environmental History investigates the origins and extent of the water pollution in Groningen and why it took more than a century before the problem was solved. It will highlight why the early experiments failed and the consequences of this for water quality in the province of Groningen.
Water resilience in Western Australia since European Colonisation
36:31When European Settlers arrived in Western Australia they brought their own conceptions of water security and agriculture with them. Initially the land around what is now Perth was presented as a green and pleasant land. But the reality was very different. The water supply of south Western Australia fluctuates throughout the year and as a result, ground water resources and their demand rise and fall in response to prevailing patterns of rainfall. The flow of rivers varies according to the amount of rain the Westerlies bring to the region, leading past engineers to classify the region around Perth as a ‘hydraulically difficult country’. This tough reality complicates agricultural production in the region and turns Perth's suburban green spaces and gardens into a political hot potato. Add climate change into this already fraught mix, and it is expected that the current drying trend will contribute to further desiccate this already dry land. The title of a recent book about the water history of Western Australia, “Running out?”, seems to refer to this uncertain future. However, “Running out?” authored by Historian Ruth Morgan of Monash University in Melbourne, is by no means a story of doom and gloom. It argues that Western Australians have a strong sense of their vulnerability to water scarcity and climate variability and this has long fueled environmental anxieties. To understand these real or perceived perceptions of water vulnerability, Morgan’s book places those anxieties in their ever changing historical contexts. This edition of the podcast explores the history of these water anxieties with Ruth Morgan and asks the question - what lessons can be learned from the water history of Western Australia. Music credits “River” by Jeris “Nightmare (Australian Mix) - Cardboard Love” by DJStupid “Out in the rain” by offlinebouncer All tracks available from ccMixter
Environmental History of Tidal Power in the Severn Estuary
34:31In recent decades the interest in renewable energy from sources such as wind, solar and tidal power has steadily increased. However, this interest in harnessing “mother nature’s” energy is not new. Over the past 160 years the Severn estuary has been the focus of numerous proposals to provide a transport route over the estuary, improve navigation and to exploit its large tidal range to generate electricity. As a potential source of predictable, renewable and carbon-free power with the potential to supply up to 5 per cent of current UK electricity needs, such interest is understandable. Despite its potential, the latest proposals, like all its predecessors in the past century and a half, have failed to secure government and public support to build a barrage in the Severn estuary. How is it that a barrage still hasn’t gone beyond the drawing board? And why are companies, scientists and politicians still willing to invest time, effort and money in further proposals? Alexander Portch, a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Bristol University, investigates these two questions. Although the past 150 years is the main focus, Alexander also investigates earlier efforts to harness tidal power of the Severn and how the activities of people whose lives were bound up with the estuary’s daily tides have shaped the estuary and lands bordering it. This episode of the podcast features an interview with Alexander Portch and his work on the history of the Severn Estuary. Music Credits "Stockholm" by timberman, available from ccMixter "Begin (small theme)" by _ghost, available from ccMixter "Easy Killer (DGDGBD)" by [email protected], available from ccMixter
Cultured nature: The Nature Scenery Act of the Netherlands
32:02When thinking of national parks most people think of famous examples like Yellow Stone and Yosemite in the United States or the Serengeti in Tanzania. These parks are large in scale with an emphasis on wild life conservation and the preservation of scenic landscapes. Human activity and presence are restricted and regulated and people are visitors. In smaller and densely populated countries like Britain or the Netherlands, the creation of large national parks is complicated. In these countries landscapes are far from natural and humans are part of the fabric of the landscape. For this reason, it is difficult to restrict human access and activities to create national parks. In the Netherlands nature and human activity are almost inseparable because about half of the country is at or below sea level and is reclaimed or drained. Consequently, the landscape of the Netherlands is mostly the product of human intervention and can therefore be described as a cultural artefact. As a result, formal protection of landscapes and wildlife came late. One of the early attempts to create protected conservation areas came in 1928 with the Natuurschoonwet, freely translated as Nature Scenery Act. This Act was mostly about protecting country houses set in park like settings. Wybren Verstegen, Senior Lecturer in economic, social and environmental history at the Free University Amsterdam has researched the Dutch Nature Scenery Act. On this episode of the podcast he discusses the Scenery Act and puts it in an international perspective. Wybren suggests that as an area of study, landed estates have been overlooked by environmental historians. Music credits "Southern Delight" by Stefan Kartenberg, available from ccMixter "soaring" by urmymuse, available from ccMixter