An imaginary scene depicting of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay showing the land, its people and the environment that the Europeans so totally misread. The European settlers were not able to mange the South African environment within its limits because they misinterpreted the nature of African nature and it created a legacy that still endures. (Painting by Charles Bell, 1813-1882). Source: Wikipedia.
On 14 and 15 November 2013, the 44th symposium of the Australian Academy of the Humanities was held at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. This year the meeting focused on the burgeoning field of the environmental humanities and the symposium was entitled The question of nature. The first two sessions of the symposium were devoted to an important component of the environmental humanities: environmental history.
The symposium opened with a keynote address by leading environmental historian Jane Carruthers, Emeritus Professor at the University of South Africa. Her talk, entitled “The question of nature, or the nature of the question?”, explored the nature and purpose of environmental history in South Africa. In this episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast professor Carruthers argues that the European settlers were not able to manage South Africa’s environment within its limits because they misinterpreted the nature of African nature and it created a legacy that still endures. She explores why and how environmental history has an urgent role to play in addressing this legacy and should contribute to discussions about issues such as environmental and social resilience and sustainability as well as social justice. Jane Carruthers argues that environmental historians are well equipped to raise questions related to environmental and social issues particular to emerging countries such as South Africa.
Links and sites mentioned in the podcast
Jane Carruthers, “Environmental History For An Emerging World”, Conservation and Society (2013), Download from the journal’s website.
Website Jane Carruthers
Programme 44th Symposium of the Australian Academy for the Humanities
“Where You Are Now” by Zapac, available from ccMixter
“Lhasa” by Nic Bommarito, available from The Free Music Archive
At present there are many environmental anxieties related to pollution, species extinction, climate change, acid deposition and many others. However, environmental anxieties are nothing new and were also experienced during the colonial period of the 19th and early 20th century. Colonial authorities and settlers in the British Empire encountered unfamiliar environments and the combination with environmental changes caused by their activities led to widespread environmental anxieties. The most important concern was anxiety over climate change. In 19th century debates surrounding this issue, highly emotive, highly alarmist arguments were made that are very similar to the ones used today. In this episode, James Beattie, Senior Lecturer at the Department of History of the University of Waikato in New Zealand explores these anxieties of settlers, scientist and colonial officials in India, Australia and New Zealand.
“Terra Incognita” by ditto ditto
Available from ccMixter
Extent of the Miramichi fire
Source: WF Ganong, Bull. Nat.
Hist. Soc. NB, 1906.
This edition of the podcast is devoted to two countries of European Settlement: New Zealand and Canada. Both countries received a significant number of settlers from Scotland and Ireland. Did these groups bring a particular set of land management techniques with them that had a particular impact on the landscape and environment? Did a particular conservation ethic develop among Scottish and Irish settlers? Tom Brooking of Otago University discusses these questions in this podcast. In addition he is looking at the unique nature of the environmental history of New Zealand and how the country has become as cultivated as most “old world” countries.
In the second part of the podcast Alan MacEachern, a historian of the University of Western Ontario, explores the confrontation of European settlers with the extensive forests in eastern Canada through the Miramichi fire of 1825. This fire is considered to be one of the largest ever recorded on the east coast of North America since European settlement. The fire took settlers by surprise because it was on a scale unknown to immigrants coming from a largely deforested continent. Alan discusses the causes of the fire, the responses to the fire and how it was reported in the European press.
The Interviews were recorded at a one day conference entitled “Irish and Scottish Migration and Settlement: Environmental Frontiers”, held at the AHRC Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies, University of Aberdeen, 21 June 2008.
Websites mentioned in this podcast:
Anne is a Man podcast reviews, anneisaman.blogspot.com
Second of two episodes devoted to environmental history of South Africa. In this episode South African historian Phia Steyn explores the environmental consequences of the industrial development and militarization of South Africa during the Apartheid era and how it influenced environmental policies in the post-apartheid period. In the second half of the podcast Phia talks about her present research which looks at the origins of the African rinderpest outbreak and its consequences for the young Orange Free State in the 1890s.
First of two episodes devoted to environmental history of South Africa. South Africa is one of the most culturally and ecologically diverse countries in the world. Different cultures interpret and understand nature in different ways and that was nowhere more visible than in colonial South Africa. In this episode Elizabeth Green-Musselman, a historian of science based at the Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, explores how a hybridized knowledge of nature developed in the cape colony blending local and European knowledge. The issues discussed include the impact of European cultivation, conflicts over natural resources and the role of naturalists in conservation and what they learned from local guides during botanical expeditions during the 18th and 19th centuries. The podcast concludes with a brief consideration of the benefits of the interactions and collaboration between environmental historians and historians of science.
Websites mentioned in this podcast: