ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY IS the study of the interactions between human cultures and nature through time and space, examining how the natural environment has influenced the historical processes and, conversely, how people have recognized and transformed their environment using technology. This bilateral approach was designated by Christopher Smout. The goal is to place the natural world as an actor of history, an approach that social history has neglected. The object of study is ecological, where humans develop their habitat, examined from a historical perspective.
The emergence of modern environmental history as a field of study took place between the 1960s and the 1970s, when concern about both emerging environmental crisis and environmental activism arose, and historians incorporated the concepts and models of ecology. The science of ecology, as the study of the relationships between biotic and abiotic elements within their environment, was considered the scientific basis for the rational and sustainable economic development of human society. The difficulties associated with the study of the interactions emerge from the complexity of natural and human systems, the intervention of a large number of human groups and institutions, and the intervention of perception in the processes of decision-making.
History narratives began to link scientific and technological progress, social and political changes, land occupation, and the extraction of resources to environmental transformations. Historians began to talk with scientists from other disciplines, in order to fully comprehend natural systems, and the disciplines started to cross-fertilize. By 1980, the discipline had a differentiated itself, through publications and historians with an elaborated research program.
New global environmental problems include: transboundary air pollution, destruction of the ozone layer, carbon emissions and global warming, and biodiversity decline; indicating the need for policies to be discussed, adopted, and implemented at the international scale. This phenomenon challenges the classical approach of history as a national narrative. However, problem-oriented regional and local studies still dominate the field of environmental history and few authors have adopted a global scope.
The theoretical and methodological influence of Carl Sauer and cultural geography is perceptible in the focused and in-depth nature of the studies.
General studies of the conceptualization of nature are found in Clarence Glacken's Traces on the Rho-dian Shore (1967), Donald Worster's Nature's Economy: The Roots of Ecology (1977), Keith Thomas's Man and the Natural World: A History of the Modern Sensibility (1983), and Carolyn Merchant's The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (1980). Regional concerns deal with particular historical processes and environmental traits. American and Australian environmental histories share a common interest in the phenomenon of population of their land, from 1620 and 1788, respectively. Australian and European environmental histories converge in the study of the processes of colonization, settlement, and impact on the new environment and indigenous people.
European environmental historians examine the old and highly-humanized landscape with reduced areas of natural quality, a long history of environmental interaction, and exploration of forms of adaptation. In contrast, North American historians largely wrote about the significance of wilderness, the relationship of native Indian populations with nature, and the struggle for survival in harsh environments. In Australian history, the role of fire and the concept of the outback are more salient. The Canadian school of the staple theory of growth analyzes the economic and environmental impact of the exploitation of national resources such as fur, forestry, whale, or cod, based on exports in world trade.
Was this article helpful?
Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.