Go to Index page, including Alphabetical Organization and Entire Bibliography File.
Dovers, S. (1994). "Sustainability and 'pragmatic' environmental history: a note from Australia." Environmental History Review 18(3): 21-36.
Glacken, C. J. (1967). Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century. Berkeley, University of California Press.
Glacken finds that until the end of the eighteenth century, western reflection on the environment was dominated by three questions: Is the earth a purposefully made creation? Has the climate and structure of the earth influenced the moral and social nature of individuals and human culture? How have humans changed the earth from its hypothetical pristine condition. Glacken reviews the work of major, and some minor thinkers, and finds that nearly all of them touched on at least one of these questions.
Two major environmental theories have existed since the Greeks. One is based on physiology or humor theory and one is based on the geographical positioning of important cites where a site's position in the wind or altitude gives it and its inhabitants certain characteristics. By the end of Aristotle's life, several ideas about the relationship between people and the earth had been well established. Namely, a divine force could be discerned by looking at creation. This creator ordered chaos into the world that we see such tat there is a final cause inherent in all natural processes. There is a fullness and richness of life in nature and plants exist for animals and animals for people. In the exegetical work of Christians during the Patristic period three ideas solidified which became very influential: God as maker, God as artisan, and God manifest in creation. During the medieval period there were strong relationships between the ways that the environment was changed by human agency and its social and economic history. For example, forests were maintained for noble hunters at the expense of the less well-off who wanted to clear them to increase their arable land or use them as a food source. A great deal of time is spent in this book discussing the relationships that people drew between natural environments and the cultures of peoples. Over the centuries, broad interests narrowed for example, people began thinking about the relationship between environment and diet, religion, and technology rather than merely drawing conclusions about how ethnic character stereotypes relate to geography and climate. In the eighteenth century, the idea that the environment physically limits human population growth, human well being and consequently human aspirations and achievements was first recognized.
Along with the understanding that the three main questions were very important in reflection on the relationship between humans and their environment from the ancient times to the present, Glacken draws a few other conclusions. The growing natural history research of the eighteenth century encouraged interest in other forms of life and the physical environment as a whole. In particular, people began to recognize that "there is a primordial balance in nature that civilized man interferes with at his own risk," and that purposeful change can create a better environment, as evidenced by the effects of drainage and clearing on climate and health. By the end of the eighteenth century, several scholars understood more deeply than ever before the dramatic effects that people can have on the natural environment. However, people did not delve into the possible dangers of such tampering in a coherent way.
Golley, F. B. (1993). A history of the ecosystem concept in ecology: more than the sum of the parts. New Haven, Yale University Press.
Gottlieb, R. (1993). Forcing the spring: the transformation of the American environmental movement. Washington, D.C., Island Press.
Huges, J. D. (1995). "Ecology and development as narrative themes of world history." Environmental History Review 19(1): 1-36.
McClaren, J. (1993). New Pacific Literatures: Culture and Environment in the European Pacific. New York, Garland Publishing Inc.
This book examines literature of North America and the Pacific, particularly focusing on people's views of the land, and of their own and other cultures. The time from the first European explorers with their vision of the new world as exploitable to support Europe to the way native peoples coped with changing relationships to land and the loss of cultural identity with colonization to the present melting pot vision and image of the United States as paradise are all examined in detail. An interesting way to examine the ways people view the land, though it would be more interesting if one had read, or at least heard of more of the literature being discussed.
Merchant, C. (1980). The death of nature: women, ecology, and the scientific revolution. San Francisco, Harper & Row.
A historical examination of ecological perspectives that changed perceptions of nature from a living being to something mechanical to exploit. Merchant examines the relationship of women to nature in the Western perception focusing on the period from 1500-1800. Special attention is paid to the way nature and women are seen as related, views of women, and women's views on the natural world. A considerable emphasis is also placed on the way that agriculture, mining, technology, crafts and the economy changed people's interaction with nature and their views of it.
Merchant posits that three variations of the organic theory of society helped transition between organic views of nature and mechanism. These include, the medieval hierarchical society, the leveling of such hierarchies based on the experiences of village communities, and revolutions to overthrow the social hierarchy.
Besides providing a side of history not present in something like Traces on the Rhodian Shore, Merchant's book is also valuable because it describes the efforts made to preserve forests for hunting, ship building and other uses at a time when this resource was being quickly depleted and describes the relationship between the rate of tax and the destruction of the land. Namely, as peasants were taxed more heavily, fertilizers were introduced to get the most out of the land.
Merchant, C. (1989). Ecological revolutions: nature, gender, and science in New England. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press.
A historical look at ecological revolutions in New England and the movement away from sustainability. Agriculture, the attitudes of people toward the environment, and the relation of women to the land are emphasized most. The colonial revolution came first and shifted from Native American ecological views where humans, other animals, plants, and inanimate objects were all subjects to one where natural objects became a symbol of exchange. The horticulture of Native American women mimicked nature as much as possible while the Pilgrims and Puritans worked with geometrical fields and a patriarchal system of land ownership near their homes and rotated crops over a much smaller area. The multi-sensual experience of nature and oral memory were also replaced by a visual consciousness and analytic form of knowledge during this time. These trends were amplified during the capitalist ecological revolution, roughly from 1776-1860 when nature began to be viewed as a commodity -- the goal was now to farm for profit rather than subsistence. Farmers began using more fertilizers and viewed the soil and all of agriculture as a scientific experiment, asking what needs to be added to obtain the highest yields from all fields. The mechanistic view of nature grew and men increasingly took over farming, raising livestock and other tasks traditionally in the domain of women. The public sphere became more male dominated while the home became the focus of women. With increased opportunities to buy cloth, and increased quality and quantities of food, women began to spend more time in the home cleaning their extra clothes and making more elaborate meals. Additionally, their role began to be seen solely to produce and educate children. Though Merchant does not describe this in great detail, she suggests that we are in the midst of a third type of ecological revolution, one in which the whole planet is transformed at an amazing rate by humans. This text draws on many studies of historical data and is wonderfully detailed. Such detail points out that the unsustainable practices we now live with have been around for quite some time, and that such ingrained ideas and practices will be difficult to change.
Merchant, C. (2003). Reinventing Eden: The Fate of Nature in Western Culture. New York, Routledge.
Merchant examines narratives about nature, and finds that in the West, we try to recover the lost Eden by reinventing nature. Several different narratives describe this process. The mainstream recovery narrative is the most common. In it people strive to recover Eden by changing wilderness into gardens, "female" nature into civilized society, and indigenous folkways into modern culture. Merchant points out that this mastery of nature to reclaim Eden has nearly destroyed the nature that people try to recover. Consequently, she posits that a new narrative is needed to guide our relationship to nature.
The two major kinds of narratives are the progressive, described above in which Eden is reinvented, and the declensionist in which the decline of the quality of the environment from some initial paradise is discussed. Merchant claims both are present in Western history, but that the new sciences of chaos and complexity suggest that dominating or controlling nature is unlikely to succeed.
Merchant traces the evolution of the narratives, focusing on the ways colonialization, and the role of women shape the narratives. Merchant advocates a partnership narrative as a basis for a new environmental ethic. This narrative stresses that people are helpers, partners, and colleagues with each other and with nature, both being equally important to the other. She believes such a view will yield the greatest good for both human and nonhuman communities. To encourage such a view, we need to recognize the ways that humans are similar to the rest of nature, and also how we are different. Merchant does recognize that there are problems with the partnership narrative. In particular, the global capitalist system has the power to remover resources from the earth without thinking of reusing, restoring or recycling. The property rights movement and deep cultural differences among people also prevent the partnership narrative from being easy to attain. In the end, Merchant still champions the partnership narrative because she believes that narratives can help restructure our priorities and way of life around a common theme.
Nash, R. (1989). The rights of nature: a history of environmental ethics. Madison, Wis., University of Wisconsin Press.
Ponting, C. (1992). A green history of the world: the environment and the collapse of great civilizations. New York, St. Martin's Press.
Rothman, H. (2000). Saving the planet: the American response to the environment in the twentieth century. Chicago, Ivan R. Dee. [online]
Schwab, J. (1994). Deeper shades of green: the rise of blue-collar and minority environmentalism in America. San Francisco, Sierra Club Books. [online]
Worster, D. (1985). Nature's economy: a history of ecological ideas. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]; New York, Cambridge University Press.
Worster, D. (1993). The wealth of nature: environmental history and the ecological imagination. New York, Oxford University Press.
Worster, D. (1994). An unsettled country: changing landscapes of the American West. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press.
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