GAH 2207: Environmental Histories

This course studies the world’s environmental history from the long-term ecological impact of the earliest civilizations to the many problems faced by contemporary nations balancing development and resource management. The emphasis is on the problems and possibilities of human interaction with regional, continental, and global ecosystems. We trace the historical influence of growing populations on fragile water, agrarian, and forest resources. We follow dynamics and problems tied to the growth of cities and urbanization processes, including changes in gender roles. We detail the great intercontinental ecological “exchanges” of food crops and disease that followed in the wake of the voyages of discovery after 1492. We outline the environmental impact of modern industrialization and the effects of over a century of global economic forces in search of raw materials. Readings explore the rise of intellectual, artistic, and political awareness of the fragility of the world’s environment-often competing interpretations and “histories”. A focus on recent issues, protests, and eco-activism includes Asian women’s organizations dedicated to protecting forest-based wood and water resources. Readings prepare students to conceptualize, research, and write their own analyses and case studies of particular, including local and regional, environmental issues and problems.