Exploring Environmental History is the podcast about human societies and the environment in the past. The periodic programmes feature interviews with people working in the field, reports on conferences and discussions about the use and methods of environmental history. You can listen to these audiocasts on your own computer simply by clicking on the "Listen to podcast " links in the list below. Podcast of previous years can be found in the annual archives. The following years are available: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
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While the origins of forestry in the United States have been the topic of sustained interest amongst environmental and forest historians, the history of the early forestry movement itself remains neglected. This is partly due to the manner in which later professional foresters often air brushed their “forest sentimentalist” predecessors out of the story and forest historians focused their narratives on of the development of forestry science and the modern Forestry Service, isolating that institution’s history from the broader social movement in which it originated. This broader movement advocated forestry not just as a means to produce timber for an increasingly industrialized nation but also as a vehicle of social reform and religious awakening. One of the pioneers in this movement — and a key advocate of Arbor Day, village improvement and forestry education — was Connecticut educator Birdsey G. Northrop. This episode of the podcast explores the alternative origins, entanglements and civic orientation of early forestry in the US through Northrop’s forgotten tour of Europe’s Forestry Schools in the summer of 1877. This journey and the impact it had on American forestry is a theme studied by the guest on this episode of the podcast, Jay Bolthouse, a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at the University of Tokyo.
Richard Grove, "Scotland in South Africa: John Croumbie Brown and the roots of settler environmentalism", in: Tom Griffith and Libby Robin, Ecology & Empire. Environmental History of Settler Societies (Melbourne University Press, 1997), pp. 139-153.
Harold Steen, The U.S. Forest Service : a History (Forest History Society in association with University of Washington Press, 2004)
Greg Barton, Empire Forestry and the Origins of Environmentalism (Cambridge University Press, 2002)
James Beattie, "Natural history, conservation and health: Scottish-trained doctors in New Zealand", 1790–1920s. Immigrants & Minorities, 29 (2011) 3, 281-307
Jan Oosthoek, "Worlds Apart? The Scottish Forestry Tradition and the Development of Forestry in India", Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, 3 (2010) 1, 69-82
The term sustainability and phrase sustainable development were popularised with the publication of Our Common Future, a report released by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. Also known as the Brundlandt report, it introduced the widely quoted definition of sustainable development: "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
The report argued that economic development and social equity were necessary in order to protect the environmental and that the goals of economic well-being, equity and environmental protection could be reconciled if social and environmental considerations were systematically integrated into all decisions affecting the economy. Since the publication of the Brundtland report sustainable development has been widely accepted as a guiding principle, and yet the concept remains elusive and implementation has proven difficult. This is caused by the fact that economic development, social equity, and environmental protection are contradictory areas that are difficult to be reconciled. As a result the report is seen by many as a landmark in environmental politics and diplomacy while others decry it as a missed opportunity.
In a newly published book entitled Defining Sustainable Development for Our Common Future. A History of the World Commission on Environment and Development Iris Borowy critically examines the history and impact of the Brundtland Commission. The book explores how the work of the Commission brought together contradictory expectations and world views in the concept of sustainable development as a way to reconcile these profound differences.
This episode of Exploring Environmental History examines these contradictions as well as the historical context of sustainability with the author of Defining Sustainable Development, Iris Borowy. She is a researcher at the Institute of History, Theory and Ethics in Medicine of RWTH Aachen University, in Germany.
Sites and literature mentioned
Defining Sustainable Development for Our Common Future. A History of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Routledge, 2013.
Original report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, from un-documents.net
Christian Pfister, "The "1950s Syndrome" and the Transition from a Slow-Going to a Rapid Loss of Global Sustainability", In: Frank Uekoetter (ed.), The Turning Points of Environmental History (Pittsburgh, 2010), pp. 90-118. Download paper.
Solutions to environmental issues such as climate change, toxic waste, deforestation and species extinction, have been mainly framed as scientific, technological and economic problems. The slow progress of dealing with these issues has made us realise that science and technology do not have all the answers. Increasingly the humanities are called upon to provide perspectives on the environment and natural world that includes humans and human cultures. In response the environmental humanities have emerged as a new research arena that aims at infusing a humanities perspective into complex issues surrounding environmental problems and questions of the place of humans in the environment itself and of what the human actually is.
In this edition of the podcast Thom Van Dooren, Senior Lecturer in the Environmental Humanities at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, explores what the environmental humanities are and why it has so rapidly emerged in recent years. Thom’s current work focuses on the philosophical and ethical dimensions of species extinctions. In the second half of the podcast Thom discusses his work on the Hawaiian Crow or Alalâ, which is extinct in the wild, and how this research connects the humanities with ecology, biology, and ethology.
Sites mentioned in the podcast & relevant links
Blog by Thom Vandooren
Environmental Humanities at the University of New South Wales
Journal Environmental Humanities
Environmental Humanities Now
Thom Vandooren, "Science can’t do it alone: the environment needs humanities too", The Conversation, 2 October 2012.
Jennifer Hamilton, "Explainer: what are the environmental humanities?", The Conversation, 3 December 2013.
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