Podcast archive 2011

Podcast 44: Silent Spring at 50: a comparison perspective

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson ca. 1944.
Credit: USFWS

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring”. This publication is often regarded as the beginning of the modern environmental movement, in particular in the US. Silent Spring documents the effects of pesticides on the environment, and in particularly on birds. In addition, Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and government officials of accepting industry claims uncritically. Silent Spring had a profound impact on the development of environmental consciousness and led to the regulation of the use of pesticide in North America and Europe.

In order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring this episode of the podcast explores the significance of this book with Mark Wilson, a PhD candidate at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, England. Mark has written a study which compares the response to Silent Spring in the US and Britain. He also agues that Silent Spring is a typical product of its time that was closely connected with the Cold War and the rise of the counter culture at both sides of the Atlantic.

Relevant Websites
The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, http://www.rachelcarson.org/
Wikipedia page Rachel Carson

Further reading
Graham Jr., Frank, Since Silent Spring (London, 1970)

Hamilton Lytle, Mark, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring & the Rise of the Environmental Movement (New York, 2007)

Mellanby, Kenneth, Pesticides & Pollution in Britain (London, 1967)

Rome, Adam, ‘“Give Earth a Chance”: The Environmental Movement & the Sixties’, Journal of American History, 90 (2003), pp. 525-554

Sheail, John, Pesticides & Nature Conservation: The British Experience, 1950-1970 (Oxford, 1985)

Smith, Michael B., ‘“Silent, Miss Carson!”: Science, Gender & the Reception of Silent Spring’, Feminist Studies, 27 (Autumn 2001), pp. 745-746.

Walker, Martin J., ‘The Unquiet Voice of Silent Spring: The Legacy of Rachel Carson’, The Ecologist, 29 (1999)

Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac
Available from ccMixter

2012Piano” by snowflake
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 43: A transformed landscape: the steppes of Ukraine and Russia

Sea of grain

Sea of grain: agricultural landscape on former steppe land resembling the colors of the Ukranian flag. Source: Wikipedia.

The steppes of Ukraine and Russia were once a sea of grass on rolling plains on which pastoral nomadic peoples grazed their herds of livestock. From the eighteenth century, the steppes have been transformed into a major agricultural region. This process started after the region was annexed to the Russian Empire and settled by migrants from forested landscapes in central and northern Russia and Ukraine and also from central Europe. By the twentieth century, the former steppe landscape had almost disappeared, save a few remnants protected in nature reserves (zapovedniki).

Map Ukraine

Map of the steppe region showing Ukraine and location of Askania Nova Biosphere Reserve. Modified from Pontic/Caspian vegetation zones map. Source: Wikipedia.

In this podcast episode, David Moon, Anniversary Professor in History at the University of York, UK, talks about his recent visit to the Ukrainian steppes. In addition to conventional historical research in archives and libraries in Odessa, he travelled through the steppes, visited nature reserves, and met scientists to help him understand how the landscape had been transformed over time. This episode provides fascinating insights into the environmental history of the steppes and the way that environmental historians go about studying the history of landscapes and environments.


Relevant web links
Guest blog on OUP website by David Moon
Book by David Moon: The Plough that Broke the Steppes Agriculture and Environment on Russia’s Grasslands, 1700-1914 (Oxford: OUP, 2013)
Wikipedia page Askania Nova.

Music credits
“Echo of the Steppe” by Julian Kytasty on the Bandura, Link Media, Inc. From: Internet Archive,http://www.archive.org/details/linktv_world-music-blog-videos20090504.

Where You Are Now” by Zapac
Available from ccMixter

Sooner or Later” by Geert Veneklaas
Available from ccMixter

The production of this podcast episode was supported by theAHRC

Podcast 42: Teaching and discovering environmental history online

From 27 June to 2 July 2011 the sixth conference of the European Society took place in the city of Turku in Finland. The meeting consisted of many parallel sessions on a wide range of topics exploring the interactions between human societies and nature in the past. This podcast will report on a paper discussing the results of a novel experiment in environmental didactics involving the web and e-learning technologies carried out by Martin Schmid of the Institute of Social Ecology, Alpen-Adria University Vienna and Rogerio Ribeiro de Oliveira of Pontifícia Universidade Católica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They used web technologies to teach an intercontinental course in urban environmental history involving classes in Rio de Janeiro and Vienna.

The second part of the podcast reports on a roundtable entitled “Towards an online environmental history of Europe”. This panel discussed the technical, structural and thematic issues of an online environmental history of Europe which is under development by the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society in Munich. The project, dubbed “Arcadia”, will be an encyclopedia-like resource with articles in the form of localized histories and each entry will include time, theme and location metadata as well as information about relevant organizations, people and species in order to visualize it on a map and make the material searchable. The site will provide visitors with exploratory tools to aid the discovery of material. The Arcadia online environmental history will be launched in early 2012 as part of the umbrella Environment and Society Portal.

Websites mentioned
Environment and Society portal
ESEH 2011 conference website

Podcast 41: Energy utopia or dystopia? – A historical perspective on nuclear energy

Fukushima plant

Satellite image showing damage after an Earthquake and Tsunami at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant, Japan, 16 March 2011. Source: Wikimedia Commons

For the past decade nuclear energy has been increasingly promoted as a carbon neutral source of energy. By 2010 governments around the globe were seriously considering the construction of new power plants. The Japanese Tsunami of March 2011 threw a spanner in the works when the Fukushima One nuclear power plant was flooded destroying its cooling system. This resulted in a partial core meltdown, hydrogen explosions and venting of nuclear contaminated steam. The accident highlighted the potential hidden risks of nuclear technologies and fuelled fear of radiation and contamination of the environment with nuclear materials among the general public. It is also likely to stall the enthusiasm of a nuclear revival for the foreseeable future.

Considering past nuclear incidents it is doubtful if the Fukushima emergency will prevent the construction nuclear plants in the long run. On this episode of the podcast Horace Herring of the Open University in Britain will explore the utopian origins of nuclear energy and how it became a dystopian illusion. He argues that economics and distrust in science and big government undermined nuclear energy more than environmental or health concerns.

Literature cited
Horace Herring, From Energy Dreams to Nuclear Nightmares: Lessons for the 21st century from a previous nuclear era (Charlbury, Oxon: Jon Carpenter, 2005).

“Lessons from the past”, Nature, 471 (2011), p. 547.

Mark Peplow, “Chernobyl’s legacy”, Nature 471 (2011), pp. 562-565.

Music credit
LOVELESS” by Caster Seven
Available from ccMixter