Tag: nature conservation

Some thoughts on trees, documents and digital technology

How can digital technology unlock the secrets of an arboretum and make it available to a wide audience? That was one of the main questions of the keynote talk by Jennifer Gardner, curator of the Waite Arboretum at the University of Adelaide, opening the 9th conference of the Australian Forest History Society (AFHS).

In 1928 the arboretum was established on land that was given by Peter Waite (1834-1922), pastoralist and benefactor, to the University of Adelaide. Over time the collection of the arboretum evolved into a valuable resource for teaching, research and a bank of genetic plant and tree material. The collection has been meticulously documented and in the 1980s the handwritten system cards were transferred into a computer database. Continue reading

Podcast 68: Religion and the Origins of American Environmentalism

The Oxbow

Thomas Cole’s The Oxbow (1836). The New England landscape that inspired Calvinist and Puritan ideals about landscape, a scientific world view and moral notions about use of the land. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Ever since Lynn White’s 1967 essay on “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis”, it is common to read in many publications that Christianity is both too anthropocentric and not much concerned with the protection of nature and the environment. Subsequently the environmental movement has developed along very secular lines using science to underpin their arguments for the protection of nature and the environment. For religion there seems no place amongst modern environmentalists. But in in the late 19th century and early 20th century this was quite different and early American conservationists were often deeply religious but had no difficulties in combining this with new scientific ideas about nature. A recent book entitled Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism shows that religion provided early environmentalists both with deeply embedded moral and cultural ways of viewing the natural world which provided them with the direction, and tone for the environmental causes they advocated. It reveals how religious upbringing left its distinctive imprint on the life, work, and activism of a wide range of environmental figures such as George Perkins Marsh, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, E. O. Wilson, and others.

This podcast episode explores the history of conservation and religion in America with Mark Stoll, Associate Professor of History at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas. He is the author of Inherit the Holy Mountain.

 

Further reading and resources

Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism, Oxford University Press, 2015

Mark Stoll, “Rachel Carson: The Presbyterian Genesis of a Nature Writer,” in: Nicolaas Rupke, ed., Eminent Lives in Twentieth-Century Science and Religion, 2nd rev. and much exp. ed. (New York: Peter Lang, 2009)

Mark Stoll, “Creating Ecology: Protestants and the Moral Community of Creation,” in: David M. Lodge and Christopher S. Hamlin, eds., Religion and the New Ecology: Environmental Responsibility in a World in Flux (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006)

Lynn White Jr., “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis”, Science, New Series, Vol. 155, No. 3767 (Mar. 10, 1967), 1203-1207

Stephen Fox, The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy (Boston: Little, Brown, 1981).

Brian Donahue, The great meadow: farmers and the land in colonial Concord (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004)

Carolyn Merchant, Ecological revolutions: nature, gender, and science in New England (Chaper Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2nd. Ed. 2010)

Website Mark Stoll

Faculty page Mark Stoll, including information on previously published books.

Read Dan Allosso’s review of the podcast episode.
 
Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter

On the Threshold” by Stefan Kartenberg from ccMixter

Nature vs. culture or cultured nature?

Yosemite

Scenic landscape of Yosemite Valley. Source: Wikimedia Commons

When most people think of national parks they think of famous examples such as Yellow Stone and Yosemite in the United States or the Serengeti in Tanzania. These parks are large in scale with an emphasis on wild life conservation and the preservation of scenic landscapes.1 Human activity and presence is restricted and regulated and people are mainly visitors. This does not imply that the nature in these places has been untouched by humans. In Yosemite for example there was farming in the past and the management of he park is far from passive. The question is not wether untouched  nature is good and anthropocentric influence on natural systems is less desirable.2  The question is wether we would like to protect nature for the sake of nature or for the benefit of ourselves and other species. It is a question of grades of human interference and impact not one of untouched nature.

In recent years discussions of how to protect nature has been intensified with the debate surrounding the rewilding of landscapes outside of these national parks and some have propose to give more space to nature and restrict human activity.3 A new take on this debate will come from famous biologist E.O. Wilson  in a forthcoming book which proposes to set half of the land surface of the earth apart for wildlife. Unlike some others his take on rewilding is anthropocentric and he does not want exclude people from nature but regards them as an integral part of it.4 This sounds all quite novel but the reality is that in many countries nature conservation and human activity have never been separated like in Yosemite or the Serengeti. Continue reading

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 40: Reframing a vision of lost fens

Wicken Fen

The landscape of Wicken Fen
(Photo: Jan Oosthoek)

Wetlands were once common over a large part of eastern England. Of these so-called fens only two percent survives today and most of it is now situated in nature reserves. One of these reserves is Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire. It represents a landscape that was once common in the region, combining sedge fens, reed beds and woodland, and was once a major source of food and fuel for local communities. Wicken was one of the very first properties to be bought by the National Trust in 1899. Today Wicken Fen is the focus of a controversial proposal to radically expand the area of managed wetland around the reserve and to return arable land to its former wetland condition. On this podcast we interview Stuart Warrington, Nature Conservation Advisor for the National Trust at Wicken Fen, about these proposed changes and the role of history in recreating the wetlands.

Map Wicken fen

Map of Wicken fen and location.
Source: Ordnance Survey, One-inch
to the mile maps of England and Wales,
New Popular Edition, 1945-1947,
sheet 135.

The second half of the podcast is devoted to a talk delivered by Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University at a two-day workshop organised by the Histories of Environmental Change Network in November 2010. In his talk Ian analyses the attitudes towards the fens over the centuries and how these influenced the desire to drain thousands of square kilometres of wetland. He also considers the rich wild life in these wetlands and what a rich resources these provided for its inhabitants.

Website mentioned
Histories of Environmental Change

Literature cited
Rod Giblett, Postmodern Wetlands: Culture, History, Ecology (Edinburgh University Press, 1996)

T. C. Smout, Nature Contested: Environmental History in Scotland and Northern England since 1600(Edinburgh University Press, 2000)

Music credit
Mechanics in Love (Cue 3) flac Stems” by boomaga
Available from ccMixter
 

Taking the Pledge: A Study of Children’s Nature Conservation Movements in Britain 1870-1914

By Fred Milton

The late Victorian era saw an increased public concern for the welfare and protection of wildlife, particularly birds. This included the formation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the institution of bird protection legislation and the founding of children’s societies with the objective of educating and teaching children to be kind to wildlife. This relationship between children and their behaviour towards animals was of course not new. Continue reading

Podcast 1: What is Environmental History?

Environmental history is a rapidly expanding subfield of history. This podcast will introduce listeners to what environmental history is and why it is needed. In the second part of the podcast Fred Milton, a postgraduate student at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, will talk about his work on the development of children’s environmental societies in the period between about 1870-1914 in Britain.