Tag: pollution

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 31: Environmental History of the 2012 Olympic site: the Lower River Lea

Map London

London and West Ham ca. 1901.
Map courtesy Jim Clifford

Former industrial sites worldwide are constantly reinvented and redeveloped reflecting changes in economies and societies over time. Nowhere else in Europe is regeneration of a former industrial site more spectacular than the 2012 Olympic site on the banks of the River Lea in West Ham, East London. The creation of the Olympic park promises the rehabilitation of the Lower Lea Valley by restoring its eco-system and revitalising the community of the area.

But the Lower River Lea has a long history, going as far back as the 11th century, of industrial development and associated environmental degeneration. Jim Clifford, a doctoral student at York University in Toronto, talks in this episode of the podcast about the environmental and social history of West Ham and the Lower Lea River. He highlights that there have been attempts in the earlier 20th century to improve the Lea River’s environmental and social conditions but that the high expectations of these schemes were not always met.

Blog mentioned in this podcast
Westham and the Lower Lea River – Blog by Jim Clifford

Music credit
Trawnicing” by Pitx
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 16: Urban air pollution in historical perspective

Urban air pollution is certainly not a new problem. During the Middle Ages the use of coal in cities such as London was beginning to increase. By the the 17th century the problems of urban air pollution are well documented.

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries was based on the use of coal. In addition the burning of coal in homes for domestic heat pusehed urban air pollution levels further up with sometime disastrous results. The Great London Smog of 1952 resulted in around 4,000 extra deaths in the city, and led to the introduction of the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968.

The problems realated to air pollution, past and present, are well known but less known is the cultural history attached to air pollution. In this edition of Exploring Environmental History Stephen Mosley of Leeds Beckett University explores how Victorians and Edwardians viewed air pollution and how they dealt with it. He also suggests that there is a continuation of perceptions of air pollution that links us with the Victorians.

Podcast 5: History of flood defences and waste

This podcast looks at the thousand year history of river flood protection in the Netherlands followed by a report on a conference held at the University of St Andrews (Scotland) exploring the complex nature of the relationship between modernity and waste.

Industrial water pollution in the Groninger Veenkoloniën, 1850-1980


Location of the Ven Colonies.

Location of the Ven Colonies.

In the north of the Netherlands, in the province of Groningen, is an area called ‘De Veenkoloniën’ (The Ven Colonies or Peat Colonies). This area once provided the main energy source of the Dutch Golden Age: peat. During the period between the beginning of 16th trough the start of the 20th century the peat moors were drained and cut away. In the second half of the 19th century the peat in the Veenkoloniën was almost gone1. What remained was a unique landscape dominated by huge fields and straight canals. This landscape formed the foundation for the agricultural industry that emerged in the second half of the 19th century, with potato starch and strawboard as their main products.

The emergence of the agricultural industry in the Groninger Veenkoloniën caused a quite serious problem: one of the worst episodes of industrial water pollution in the Netherlands. This gave the Veenkoloniën the negative image of a region with filthy and stinking canals, being the concern of the industry, government and population for more than a century. Continue reading


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