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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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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