Tag: forestry

The Role of oral history in environmental history

The advantage of an historian researching the second half of the 20th century is that he or she can interview people involved in the events being studied. Oral history is often used to supplement and confirm the information found in the documentary evidence. Documentary evidence is sometimes missing or inaccessible lacking because of the fact that archives are still closed because of the 30 years rule, like in the UK, or simply because material is lost or does not contain the information one is looking for. Oral history is a tool that can plug gaps in the documentary record or literature and provide new insights into historical developments and events.1

Oral history is certainly not a historical research tool that is exclusive to environmental history. There are however a few characteristics that makes it a challenging technique for environmental historians. It seems that oral environmental history has a unique characteristic that makes it stand out in comparison to other environmental histories. Continue reading

Podcast 60: Origins, entanglements and civic aims of the early forestry movement in the United States

Northrop

Birdsey Grant Northrop. Source: Peck, Ellen Brainerd, “The Founder of Arbor Day”, The New England Magazine, Vol. XXII (new series), No. 3, May, 1900, pp. 269-275

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.

Literature mentioned
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

Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
Greensleeves Jazz” by Doxent Zsigmond, available from ccMixter
One Way” by Rey Izain, available from ccMixter

Podcast 51: The Scottish forestry experience and the development of forestry in India

Since at least the 18th century Scotland has been the centre of forestry knowledge in Britain. Many foresters and botanists trained on Scottish estates went into the colonial service in during the 19th century and what they brought with them was a unique set of forestry skills. This paper examines the influence of Scottish foresters on the development of empire forestry in British India. Scottish-trained foresters aided the adaptation of continental forestry models, mainly German and French, to the Indian conditions, drawing on their experience gained in Scotland. Returning from their service in India they went on to advocate the creation of a forestry service in Scotland, which resonated with landowners who believed that forestry would make the Highlands more productive.

This podcast is the registration of a seminar talk given by Jan Oosthoek in the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, 22 March 2013.

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

 

Podcast 50: Conquering the Highlands. History of the afforestation of the Scottish uplands

Forest plantation

Large forest plantation in the Scottish
Highlands. Photo: Jan Oosthoek

By the end of the nineteenth century, Scotland’s woodlands were reduced to about six per cent of land cover. Over the course of the twentieth century, foresters worked to establish timber reserves in the Scottish Highlands, creating forests on marginal lands that were not easily adapted to forestry following millennia of deforestation. Using a variety of techniques and strategies drawn from modern forestry practices, the Scottish uplands were afforested in the twentieth century, tripling the forest cover. The creation of new forests to serve strategic and economic interests, however, altered the ecology of the Scottish uplands and eventually came into conflict with the interests of environmentalists in the late twentieth century.

Conquering the HiglandsThis fascinating history of the afforestation of the Scottish uplands is explored in a new book by environmental historian Jan Oosthoek called, Conquering the Highlands: A History of the Afforestation of the Scottish Uplands. This episode features an interview with the author Jan Oosthoek of this book and he talks about the largest environmental transformation of the Scottish Highlands in the 20th century.

Links & sites mentioned in the podcast
Download Conquering the Highlands as a free e-book from the ANU Press website.
Buy a print copy of Conquering the Highlands from Amazon.
Nature’s Past podcast

Music credits

Lark in the Morning. The Atholl Highlanders” by Sláinte
Available from freemusicarchive.org

Scotland the Brave” by Shake That Little Foot
Available from freemusicarchive.org

Podcast 49: Kielder: the story of a man-made landscape

Kielder houses

Former Forestry Commission workers houses in Kielder Village withforestry plantations in the background. Source: geograph.org.uk/Stephen Richards.

Around the world, rural landscapes have been transformed by human activity as never before. In England, one of the most striking locations of such anthropogenic changes is Kielder Forest and Water in Northumberland. Since the 1920s, this site has seen a massive tree planting effort, creating one of the largest man-made forests in Western Europe. During the 1970s a large dam and reservoir were constructed at Kielder in order to create a secure water supply for the industries at Teeside. As a result Kielder has witnessed significant and dramatic environmental changes over the course of the twentieth century, as it was transformed from a pastoral agricultural landscape, to that of a commercial forest and finally it received the addition of a large man-made lake.

Construction Kielder Reservoir

The construction of Kielder Dam
and Reservoir. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

To tease out how people have experienced and perceived the man-made environment of Kielder, the Kielder Oral History Project was conducted. On this episode of the podcast, the two researchers who carried out the Oral History project, Professor David Moon of the University of York and Dr Leona Skelton of Durham University, will discuss some of their findings.

 

 

Books and articles mentioned

Christine McCulloch, Dam Decisions and Pipe Dreams: The Political Ecology of Reservoir Schemes (Teesdale, Farndale and Kielder Water) in North East England (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag, 2008)

R. McIntosh,’The history and multi-purpose management of Kielder Forest’, Forest Ecology and Management, 79 (November 1995) 1–2, pp 1–11.

Ruth Tittensor, From Peat Bog to Conifer Forest: An Oral History of Whitelee, its Community and Landscape (Chichester: Packard Publishing, 2009).

Relevant links
Kielder oral History project report
Kielder Village Website
Kielder Water and Forest Park website
Kielder Water Wikipedia page
Kielder Forest Wikipedia page

Music credits

Memories of an Old Dog” by Fireproof_Babies
Available from ccMixter

Where You Are Now” by Zapac
Available from ccMixter


Acknowledgements:
The interviews were conducted by Dr Leona Skelton at Kielder during the week 15-19 October 2012. We would like to acknowledge the support of Northumbrian Water plc, especially Andrew Moore and Tonia Reeve, the Forestry Commission, in particular Graham Gill, Julie and Steve Webb of the Kielder Village Store, Duncan Hutt of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, and the staff of the Calvert Trust Kielder for their assistance in setting up the interviews and, especially, all those who agreed to be interviewed.

AHRCThe Kielder Oral History Project and the production of this podcast was funded by the AHRC Landscape & Environment Programme.

This podcast was simultaneously published on the Histories of Environmental Change website.

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 37: The First World War and the transformation of forestry in British Columbia

Canadian Forestry Corps

Canadian Forestry Corps in France
unloading timber during World War I.
Source: National Library of Scotland

During the First World War thousands of foresters left the logging camps of British Columbia and other parts of Canada to serve in the Canadian Forestry Corps in Europe. The Forestry Corps was set up to help European allies producing sufficient amounts of timber from their forests for the war effort. In Europe, these Canadian foresters were confronted with intensive forest management practices, unknown to them back home.

After the War the British and other European governments appealed to Canada for tree seed to replant the devastated European forests. To meet this demand the British Columbia provincial government established a system for fir cone harvesting, seed extraction and overseas shipment. Although this was deemed appropriate for forests in Europe, the hand planting of tree seedlings was considered neither economically feasible, nor desirable as a method of forest regeneration in Canada. In this podcast episode David Brownstein of the University of British Columbia explains how the coincidence of the exposure of Canadian foresters to European forestry management practice and the post-war seed collection were to transform Canadian forestry, leading to the abandonment of the policy of natural regeneration.

Website mentioned 
AAC2010: Environments

Music credit
The Way” by Pitx
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 33: Distance learning environmental history and Scottish forestry

The creation of a conventional classroom based environmental history course is challenging because of the diversity of topics involved. A distance learning course in environmental history delivered trough the Web is even more challenging. This requires a different approach to integrate written material, audio, video, map material and online datasets and to put it in a coherent package to make it relevant to the context of each student. This edition of the podcast features Richard Rodger, Professor in Social and Economic History at the University of Edinburgh, who talks about a new distance learning masters programme in Landscape, Environment and History. This interview is followed by an audio extract from a video lecture about Scottish forest history to illustrate the type of content that the masters programme has on offer. Jan Oosthoek talks in this interview about the importance of land management agencies such as the British Forestry Commission in influencing the appearance, nature and use of the landscape in modern times.

Website mentioned in this podcast
MSc in Landscape, Environment and History – University of Edinburgh (link and MSc programme are no longer active).

Music credit
Piano Sketch 01” by Mario Mattioli
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 30: Green Colonialism in Zimbabwe

Environmental history of the British Empire seems to revolve around the theme of imperial forestry and Zimbabwe is no exception. In this edition of the podcast Vimbai Kwashirai, Lecturer in African History at Durham University, examines the debates and processes of woodland exploitation in Zimbabwe during the colonial period (1890-1980). He is doing this along the lines of Richard Grove’s thesis of Green Imperialism, but he goes beyond that by placing conservation and forest history into the broader social, political and economic history of Zimbabwe and the wider British Empire.

More information on Book Green Colonialism in Zimbabwe 
Cambria Press website

Music credit
Soon, this is it!” by DrGoldklang. Available from ccMixter

The colonial origins of scientific forestry in Britain

Around 1850 Britain had no forestry service and there was no formal training of foresters. Forestry was still practised in the context of estates mainly owned by the aristocracy and managed by foresters who had learned the traditional management techniques under an apprentice system from their predecessors. British forestry was fragmented, not formalised, and far from centralised during the entire 19th century. Most of the forestry remained concentrated on large privately owned estates, especially in Scotland, where it served the double purpose of ornamental woods and, to a lesser extent, wood production for local use.1The British Government and many landowners did not feel the necessity to increase timber production and introduce modern formalised forestry practices from the continent because the British had direct access to the large timber reserves of their Empire, of Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Importing timber from overseas was much cheaper than to produce it back home in Britain.2  Continue reading

Podcast 8: Australian environmental and forest history

This podcast is entirely devoted to Australian environmental history. Libby Robin talks about the unique nature of Australian environmental history including the connection between deep and modern history, poor soils, fire, Aboriginal history and European settlement. John Dargavel, former president of the Australian Forest History Society discusses the issues and interests in Australian forest history.

Podcast 7: Climate history and a forest journey

In this edition climatologist Dennis Wheeler talks about the use of 18th and 19th century ship logs for historical climate reconstruction. The main focus will be on the CLIWOC project. In the autumn of 2006 a second edition of the ground breaking global forest history A Forest Journey: The Story of Wood and Civilization has been published. The author, John Perlin, will reflect in the latter part of this podcast on the importance of forest history and the current situation in which forests have become imperative for humanity’s survival.

A walk through the Forest

This paper on the perceptions of Scottish forestry was presented at a research seminar of the Department of History of the University of Stirling on 24 February 1999. The theme of this seminar was “Environmental History: Interdisciplinarity and Where this Leaves History”. Continue reading

The Role of Wood in World History

The destruction of the world’s forests is a major concern in our age. According to the UN about 40 percent of Central America’s forests were destroyed between 1950 and 1980 and during the same period Africa lost about 23 percent of its forests. A whole range of environmental problems is associated with deforestation, among them severe flooding, accelerated loss of soil, encroaching deserts and declining soil productivity1. Sometimes we get the impression that these problems are unique to our time, but vast areas of surface of the earth were stripped of their tree cover well before the modern period.

Continue reading