Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2015

Global Environmental History since 1945: Into the Anthropocene

Lecturer: Professor John McNeill,
Department of History and School of Foreign Service,
Georgetown University, USA

Main disciplines: Sociology, History, Politics,
Environment and Climate, Geography

Dates: 20 - 23 July 2015
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 25 participants


Objectives
The basic goal of this course is to acquaint students with the trajectory of environmental change in the modern world.  Subsidiary goals include acquainting students with the discipline of environmental history; with the background to contemporary environmental and climate politics; and with the ongoing intellectual, political, and moral debates surrounding the concept of ‘the Anthropocene.’ The course thus stands at the intersection of history and environmental science, but includes subjects that are more commonly found in courses on environmental sociology and environmental politics.

The specific subject matter of the course includes (a) an overview of the trends in climate, biodiversity, urban pollution, fisheries, water use, and soils; (b) examination of some of the driving forces behind modern environmental change, including population, energy, technology, ideology, and international politics; detailed discussion of (c) environmental history in Brazil, the USA, China, India; of (d) environmentalism and environmental movements; of (e) climate history and climate politics; (f) the Anthropocene.


Essential books for preparation to the course
Students should obtain and read this book in advance of the course.

  • Ramachandra Guha, Environmentalism: A Global History (Longman, 2000)


LECTURE SCHEDULE

NOTE! This course will take place 20 - 23 July 2015 (four days), and thus be one day shorter than the other summer courses. However, it will consist of the same amount of 20 lecturing hours in total over the course of 4 days.

Time Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
9.00 - 9.30 Registration      
9.30 - 12.00 Lecture 1 Lecture 3 Lecture 5 Lecture 7
12.00 - 13.00 Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
13.00 - 15.30 Lecture 2 Lecture 4 Lecture 6 Lecture 8
         
Social Events Reception 16.30 Guided bus tour 16.00    

 

LECTURE OUTLINE

Lecture 1: Trends since 1945: climate, biodiversity, urban pollution, fisheries, water use, soils
This lecture explains the trends in these three areas, mainly on the global scale.

Readings:

  • Gornitz, Vivien, Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013 (2014), pp. 142-65
  • Roberts, Callum, The Unnatural History of the Sea (2007), pp. 163-70, 184-213, 228-241, 273-302
  • Thorsheim, Peter, Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800 (2006), pp. 159-201


Lecture 2: Driving forces (A): population and energy
This lecture presents the long-term trends in population growth and energy use, and explores the nature of their connection to environmental changes.

Readings:

  • McNeill & Engelke, Into the Anthropocene, (2014), pp. 372-417
  • Smil, Vaclav, Energy Transitions (2010), ix, pp. 75-153


Lecture 3: Driving forces (B): technology, ideology, war & international politics
This lecture explores the impact of these variables on environmental change.

Readings:

  • McNeill & Engelke, Into the Anthropocene, pp. 492-516 (on war and militarism)
  • Pritchard, Sara, “Towards an Environmental History of Technology,” in Andrew Isenberg, ed., Oxford Handbook of Environmental History (2014), 227-58
  • Scott, James, Seeing Like A State (1999), pp 1-8, 262-306.
  • Lambin, Eric, The Middle Path: Avoiding Environmental Catastrophe (2007), pp. 80-104


Lecture 4: Brazil and the USA
This lecture outlines the environmental history of these two countries since 1945, with some direct comparison between the two most populous countries in the Americas.

Readings:

  • Dean, Warren, With Broadax and Firebrand (1995), pp. 265-364.
  • Steinberg, Ted, Down to Earth (2012), chapters 13-14 (pp. 206-38 in the 2002 edition)


Lecture 5: China and India
This lecture sketches the environmental history of the world’s two most populous countries, with some direct comparison.

Readings:

  • Marks, Robert, China: Its Environment and History (2012), pp. 265-346
  • Hill, Christopher V., South Asia: An Environmental History (2008), pp. 183-209
  • Rangarajan, M. and Sivaramakrishnan, K. (eds.), India’s Environmental History (2012), (selections yet to be finalized)


Lecture 6: Environmentalism and environmental movements
This lecture explores the variety of forms of environmentalism around the world, with attention to Brazil, USA, China, India and reviews concepts such as the ‘environmentalism of the poor.’

Readings:

  • Guha, Ramachandra, Environmentalism (2000), (selections yet to be finalized.)
  • Rome, Adam, The Genius of Earth Day (2013), pp. 9-56
  • Padua, Jose A., “Environmentalism in Brazil,” in J.R. McNeill and Erin Stewart Mauldin, eds., A Companion to Global Environmental History (2012), pp. 456-73.
  • Mahong, Bao, “Environmentalism and Environmental Movements in China since 1949,” in J.R. McNeill and Erin Stewart Mauldin, eds., A Companion to Global Environmental History (2012), pp. 474-92.


Lecture 7: Climate history and climate politics
This lecture will address some of the very long-term trends in climate and the recent efforts of states to forge agreements on greenhouse gas emissions.

Readings:

  • Maslin, Mark, Climate: A Very Short Introduction (2013), pp. 109-40
  • Maslin, Mark, Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction (2009), pp. 114-35
  • Giddens, Anthony, The Politics of Climate Change (2011), pp. 1-32, 76-93, 203-32


Lecture 8: The Anthropocene
This lecture will explore the concept of the Anthropocene, a proposed addition to the geological time scale intended to recognize the scale of human influence on global ecology.

Readings:

  • Steffen, Will et al., "The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369 (2011)
  • Malm, Andreas and Hornborg, Alf, “The Geology of Mankind?  A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative,” The Anthropocene Review (2014)


Complete reading list:

  • Dean, W. With Broadax and Firebrand (1995). University of California Press. pp. 265-364.
  • Giddens, A. The Politics of Climate Change (2011). Polity. pp. 1-32, 76-93, 203-32.
  • Gornitz, V. Rising Seas (2014). Columbia University Press. pp. 142-65.
  • Guha, R. Environmentalism (2000). Longman. (selections not finalized).
  • Hill, C. V. South Asia: An Environmental History (2008). ABC-CLIO. pp. 183-209.
  • Lambin, E. The Middle Path: Avoiding Environmental Catastrophe (2007). The University of Chicago Press. pp. 80-104
  • Mahong, B. “Environmentalism and Environmental Movements in China since 1949,” in McNeill, J. R. and Mauldin, E. S., (eds.), A Companion to Global Environmental History (2012). Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 474-92.
  • Malm, A. and Hornborg, A. “The Geology of Mankind?  A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative,” The Anthropocene Review (2014). pp. 62-69.
  • Marks, R. China: Its Environment and History (2012). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 265-346.
  • Maslin, M. Climate: A Very Short Introduction (2013). Oxford University Press. pp. 109-40.
  • Maslin, M. Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction (2009). Oxford University Press. pp. 114-35.
  • McNeill, J. & Engelke, M. Into the Anthropocene, (2014). Harvard University Press. pp. 372-417, 492-516.
  • Padua, J. A. “Environmentalism in Brazil,” in McNeill, J.R. and Mauldin E. S., (eds.), A Companion to Global Environmental History (2012). Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 456-73.
  • Pritchard, S. “Towards an Environmental History of Technology,” in Andrew Isenberg, (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Environmental History (2014). Oxford University Press. pp. 227-58.
  • Rangarajan M. and Sivaramakrishnan, K., (eds.), India’s Environmental History (2012). Orient Blackswan. (selections not finalized)
  • Roberts, C. The Unnatural History of the Sea (2007). Island Press. pp. 163-70, 184-213, 228-241, 273-302.
  • Rome, A. The Genius of Earth Day (2013). Hill and Wang. pp. 9-56.
  • Scott, J. Seeing Like A State (1999). Yale University Press. pp. 1-8, 262-306.
  • Smil, V. Energy Transitions (2010). Praeger. ix, pp. 75-153.
  • Steffen, W. et al., "The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369 (2011). Pp 842-867.
  • Steinberg, T. Down to Earth (2012). Oxford University Press. Chapters 13-14 (pp. 206-38 in the 2002 edition).
  • Thorsheim, P. Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800 (2006). Ohio University Press. pp. 159-201.


The lecturer
J.R. McNeill is Professor of History and University Professor at Georgetown University, where he has taught for 30 years. He earned his PhD at Duke University in 1981. His environmental history books include The Mountains of the Mediterranean World (1992); Something New under the Sun (2000); Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1640-1920 (2010); as well as several edited and co-edited volumes such as The Environmental History of the Pacific World (2000); A Companion to Global Environmental History (2012).

His books have been translated into 12 languages. (One of them, implausibly, was listed in The Times of London among the ten greatest science books ever written, together with works by Darwin and Newton.) Lately he has been co-authoring papers in scientific journals with geologists and atmospheric chemists on the theme of the Anthropocene.

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Tags: History, Sociology, Environment, Climate change, Summer School, PhD, Geography, Political Science
Published Aug. 21, 2014 9:24 AM - Last modified Aug. 14, 2017 1:10 PM