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The Environment

A History of the Idea

Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin

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An in-depth look at the history of the environment.

Is it possible for the economy to grow without the environment being destroyed? Will our lifestyles impoverish the planet for our children and grandchildren? Is the world sick? Can it be healed? Less than a lifetime ago, these questions would have made no sense. This was not because our ancestors had no impact on nature—nor because they were unaware of the serious damage they had done. What people lacked was an idea: a way of imagining the web of interconnection and consequence of which the natural world is made. Without this notion, we didn't…

An in-depth look at the history of the environment.

Is it possible for the economy to grow without the environment being destroyed? Will our lifestyles impoverish the planet for our children and grandchildren? Is the world sick? Can it be healed? Less than a lifetime ago, these questions would have made no sense. This was not because our ancestors had no impact on nature—nor because they were unaware of the serious damage they had done. What people lacked was an idea: a way of imagining the web of interconnection and consequence of which the natural world is made. Without this notion, we didn't have a way to describe the scale and scope of human impact upon nature. This idea was "the environment."

In this fascinating book, Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin trace the emergence of the concept of the environment following World War II, a period characterized by both hope for a new global order and fear of humans' capacity for almost limitless destruction. It was at this moment that a new idea and a new narrative about the planet-wide impact of people's behavior emerged, closely allied to anxieties for the future. Now we had a vocabulary for talking about how we were changing nature: resource exhaustion and energy, biodiversity, pollution, and—eventually—climate change.

With the rise of "the environment," the authors argue, came new expertise, making certain kinds of knowledge crucial to understanding the future of our planet. The untold history of how people came to conceive, to manage, and to dispute environmental crisis, The Environment is essential reading for anyone who wants to help protect the environment from the numerous threats it faces today.

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The Environment

Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin

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Reviews

Our relationship with nature goes far beyond resources, amenity, or the scientific idea of an archive we learn to read. There are, as The Environment shows, ethical complexities in how we use and abuse the planet—and in how we frame its improbable riches.

This engaging and accessible book should be required reading for anyone concerned with the development of 'the environment' as a conceptual lodestone of both science and politics in the mid- to late-twentieth century. Moreover, it will be richly rewarding for anyone wishing to teach, research, or simply better understand the path dependencies and political dynamics of environmental issues today.

Demonstrates the power of history to speak into the present. A wonderfully succinct, compelling, and revealing piece of writing.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5
x
8
Pages
256
ISBN
9781421440026
Illustration Description
2 figures
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue
Chapter 1. Road to Survival
Chapter 2. Expertise for the Future
Chapter 3. Resources for Freedom
Chapter 4. Ecology on the March
Chapter 5. Climate Enters the Environment
Chapter 6.

Acknowledgments
Prologue
Chapter 1. Road to Survival
Chapter 2. Expertise for the Future
Chapter 3. Resources for Freedom
Chapter 4. Ecology on the March
Chapter 5. Climate Enters the Environment
Chapter 6. "The Earth Is One but the World Is Not
Chapter 7. Seeking a Safe Future
Notes
Bibliographic Essay
Index

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Paul Warde

Paul Warde is Professor of environmental history at the University of Cambridge, England.
Featured Contributor

Libby Robin

Libby Robin is Emeritus Professor at The Australian National University.
Featured Contributor

Sverker Sörlin

Sverker Sörlin is Professor of environmental history at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and a cofounder of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory.
Resources

Additional Resources