HSHM 211 Lecture 18: Global Catastrophe 18

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Yale University
Hist of Science, Hist of Med
HSHM 211
William Rankin

HSHM 211: GLOBAL CATASTROPHE SINCE 1750 4/17/17: From Ecology to Environmentalism  Intellectual history of ecology 1. How scientific ideas about nature have changed 2. Biogeography and ecology are not the same as postwar environmentalism a. No strong historical continuity between them b. Environmentalism is as much cultural and political as scientific c. Biogeography and early ecology did not lead to predictions of global crisis o Rather, they lead to environmentalism as politics and that lead to predictions of global crisis  Is environmentalism old or new? 1. Old a. Long succession of thinkers, disasters, and gradually increasing importance? o Benjamin Franklin o Ancient Greeks o The Bible 2. New a. Roughly late 1950s to early 1970s o Popular consciousness  Books such as Pale Blue Dot o Major disasters  Great Smog of 1952  Mercury poisoning o Institutions (law, government, parties)  1956: UK Clean Air Act  1970: US Clean Air Act  US EPA  UK Department of Environment  “earth first” and Green parties 3. Instead of choosing between two simple stories, consider what parts of the movement were new a. How did it redirect old concerns?  Pre-environmentalism 1. Conservation: the management of natural resources (fish, the Dust Bowl) a. Conservation of forestry o 1713: first use of “sustainability” o Gifford Pinchot (US)  Forestry is “the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man” 2. Preservation: protecting nature from economic use a. US: national parks 3. Public health: confronting threats with government action a. The Great Stink of 1858 o Lead to 1,100 miles on new sewers b. Pollutants in the home or workplace o Lead paint o Coal dust 4. All projects for the benefit of humans a. Elite reformers, not radicals  What’s different about environmentalism? 1. From specific sites of management to a pervasive toxic environment 2. Invisible threats
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