Tag: resources

Resources exploitation and nature protection in the border lands of Qing China

Book cover World trimmed with fur

Much research has been devoted to the impact of the expanding European empires and settler colonies in the 18thand 19thcenturies and their impacts on nature and resources. Not much attention has been paid to a similar story unfolding at the same time in Qing China: the increasing expansion of the exploitation of natural resources such as fur, mushrooms, pearls and timber in China’s expanding imperial frontiers. China’s demand for these products was so pronounced, that by the first decades of the 19thcentury many of these resources were commercially exhausted and many of the animals that provided these products were on the brink of local extinction. In response the Qing rulers created protected areas and limited harvests in response to these environmental impacts.

Jonathan Schlesinger, a scholar of imperial China at Indiana University in Bloomington, studied Manchu and Mongolian archives to track the trade in furs, pearls and mushrooms across the Qing empire’s borderlands in the 18th and 19th centuries. On this episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast Schlesinger discusses how Qing rulers responded to declining resources and negative environmental impacts. In addition he considers if it is possible to compare “western” environmental history with Chinese environmental history or whether we need to think outside a Western paradigm.

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Podcast 64: Tin: a historical perspective on a networked resource

The history of human civilization is closely linked to the exploitation of mineral resources. It is no coincidence that the periodization of prehistory and antiquity has been chosen according to the main metals in use: stone, bronze and iron. It shows the centrality of the exploitation and production of these mineral resources in human history. Since the Industrial Revolution metals have become global commodities, including tin. The importance of tin increased with the invention of canned food in the 19th century, and during the 20th century with the rise of the electronics industry. Both of these factors made tin a strategic resource not seen since the days that it was used in the production of bronze for weaponry.

Tin mining

The heart of the Cornish tin-mining district, looking from Dolcoath Mine
(on an unusually smoke-free day), ca. 1890. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A new edited book entitled Tin and Global Capitalism, 1850-2000: A History of the “Devil’s Metal”, explores the evolution of the global tin industry, from mining through the trade networks and the politics surrounding the strategic importance of tin. Interrogating the rhetoric of “strategic” raw materials is important in order to understand the social, political, and environmental effects of displacement of communities, environmental degradation and pollution, and ‘resource conflicts’.

This edition of the podcast explores these themes with the editors of Tin and Global Capitalism: Andrew Perchard, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University; Mats IngulstadPostdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Historical Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU); and Espen StorliAssociate Professor in History at the NTNU.

Websites mentioned
History and Strategic Raw Materials Initiative
Details of the book on the publisher’s website

Music credits
Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
Nightride” by remaxim, available from ccMixter
Unfriendly Me” by Martijn de Boer (NiGiD), available from ccMixter

Podcast 39: Slavery, fossil fuel use and climate change: past connections, present similarities

What is the connection between the abolition of slavery, the Industrial Revolution, the use fossil fuels and climate change? Jean-François Mouhot of Birmingham University recently discussed this question in an article in the journal Climatic Change. In this episode of the podcast Mouhot presents his idea that that slaves in the past and fossil-fuelled machines at present play similar economic and social roles: both slave and modern societies externalised labour and both slaves and modern machines freed their owners from daily chores. Consequently, modern society is as dependent on fossil fuels as slave societies were dependent on bonded labour. Mouhot also suggests that, in differing ways, suffering resulting (directly) from slavery and (indirectly) from the excessive burning of fossil fuels are now morally comparable. The pocast concludes with some suggestions of the lessons which may be learned from the abolition of slavery in the 19th century for dealing with modern climate change and the associated energy transition.

Literature cited
D.B. Davis, Inhuman bondage, the rise and fall of slavery in the new world (Oxford: University Press, Oxford, 2006)

Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery by (Macmillan, 2005)

J.R. McNeill, Something new under the sun. An environmental history of the twentieth century (London: Penguin, 2000)

J. R. McNeill and William H. McNeill, The Human Web: A Bird’s Eye View of World History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2003)

Jean-Francois Mouhot, “Past connections and present similarities in slave ownership and fossil fuel usage”, Climatic Change, Published online, 25 November 2010,http://www.springerlink.com/content/w310wk5g49w83650/ (freely accessible until 31 December 2010).

Relevant links
Jean-François Mouhot, “Slavery and Climate Change: Lessons to Be Learned”History & Policy (2009)

Jean-François Mouhot, “Cancun Summit: The True Reasons for the ‘Failure’ of the Green Movement”, ActiveHistory.ca (2010).

Podcast 4: Resources, the past and the present

This podcast reports on the annual meeting of British Environmental Historians held at the Open University in Milton Keynes on 19 May 2006. The theme of this day conference organized by the EAEH-UK Branch was the use of sources in Environmental History. Interviews with participants cover the use of historical records in modern natural resource management, the Soil Association and Lady Eve Balfour and the history of the stratosphere.

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