Volume 55 Special Issue 18 (2010)
Brett Bennett The El Dorado of Forestry: The Eucalyptus in India, South Africa, and Thailand, 1850-2000
This article argues that because of the perceived and real evolutionary characteristics of the different species of the genus eucalyptus, imperialists and settlers, and later governments and the elites of developing nations, planted eucalypts widely and created new socioecological systems that encouraged and reinforced divergent patterns of economic, social, and ecological development. Planting eucalypts changed local ecologies and encouraged a movement towards market-based capitalism that benefited settlers, large landowners, urban elites and middle classes, and capital-intensive industries at the expense of indigenous groups living in and near forests. This article analyses the globalization of eucalypts in four broad phases: first, an enthusiastic expansion and planting from 1850-1900; secondly, failure in the tropics from 1850-1960; thirdly, increased planting and success rates in the tropics from 1960-2000, and fourthly, a growing criticism of eucalypts that begin in the late nineteenth century and blossomed in the 1980s during an intense period of planting in India and Thailand.
Stefan Halikowski Smith The Mid-Atlantic Islands: A Theatre of Early Modern Ecocide?
The Iberian rediscovery of the mid-Atlantic islands in the Late Middle Ages was accompanied by all kinds of utopian projections. However, within a hundred years, both human and animal populations were made extinct, and the rich forest cover was rapidly depleted for cash-cropping industries, primarily sugar. Historians view the migration of the international sugar industry from the mid-Atlantic islands to Brazil as an example of expanding economies of scale, but contemporary accounts indicate what now might be called widespread ecocide as a major contributing factor. This essay looks at the environmental ramifications of the sugar industry as well as other cultures, and assesses whether it is indeed appropriate to speak of ecocide in the context of the mid-Atlantic islands in the early modern period.
Raphael Morera Environmental Change and Globalization in Seventeenth-Century France: Dutch Traders and the Draining of French Wetlands (Arles, Petit Poitou)
Between 1599 and the end of the 1650s, the French Crown sustained a policy of land reclamation at a large scale. It has been lead by the French aristocracy who was helped by representatives of the merchant elites of Amsterdam, like van Uffelen or Jean Hoeufft. The both works of Arles (Provence) and Petit Poitou (Poitou) show that the land reclamation involved a radical change in the society, reinforced the authority of the Crown in the concerned areas and disrupted the former social balances built around the marshes. Thus, the land reclamation aroused several conflicts which revealed their deep impact on the environment. So, this article demonstrates how the making of the modern State backed by the development of European trade and banking have caused ecological and social changes by connecting political and financial powers at a European scale.
Joseph Horan The Colonial Famine Plot: Slavery, Free Trade, and Empire in the French Atlantic, 1763-1791
This essay examines the use of famine plot rhetoric in the course of disputes over free trade in the French Atlantic during the late eighteenth century. Seeking to discredit officially sanctioned trade monopolies, French plantation owners frequently suggested that the control exercised by metropolitan merchants over transatlantic commerce was responsible for food shortages among the enslaved population of the colonies. In reality, the planters themselves bore primary responsibility for malnutrition in the French Caribbean, thanks to their reliance on the slave trade and support for the expansion of plantation agriculture. While proponents of the colonial famine plot accepted that plantation slavery had made it impossible for the resources available in the colonies to sustain the growing enslaved population, they remained committed to the plantation system. In advocating expanded free trade as the best means to ensure the continued growth of the colonies, French planters anticipated a response to the environmental problems caused by colonial expansion that became increasingly prevalent among proponents of European imperialism during the nineteenth century.
Sayako Kanda Environmental Changes, the Emergence of a Fuel Market, and the Working Conditions of Salt Makers in Bengal, c.1780-1845
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the British East India Company monopolized salt production in Bengal, and the British sought a new market for English salt in India. As previous studies have emphasized, external political and economic forces devastated indigenous industry and its workers. However, working conditions were influenced more by the natural environments of the salt-producing localities, particularly the availability of fuel, which was indispensable to the process of manufacture. The industry had always benefitted from abundant grass and straw for use as fuel. However, as grasslands were lost due both to constant river encroachment and to land clearance for cultivation, straw prices increased with the emergence of a regional market for biomass fuels, so that increasing difficulties in procuring fuel gradually made the salt industry costly. That state of affairs was accelerated by the advance of economic activity in general and a shortage of coal in particular. The changes made workers much more dependent on the fuel market.
Andy Bruno Life in a Limiting Landscape: An Environmental Interpretation of Stalinist Social Conditions in the Far North
This paper offers an environmental history of a group of forced migrants who were sent to work on a Soviet industrial project in the far north during the 1930s. As part of the drive to industrialize the country rapidly, the Soviet state deported thousands of peasants who had been declared class enemies to the previously desolate Khibiny Mountains in order to serve as the labor force for a new socialist mining town. These forced migrants became known as "special settlers". I argue that the integration of the environment as a dynamic force in the social history of Stalinism enriches current explanations for why the Soviet state was often unable to carry out its intentions during industrialization. I also maintain that through the pursuit of the global process of industrialization, the Soviet government contributed to making the special settlers in the Khibiny Mountains vulnerable to natural hazards.
Guy Thompson "Pumpkins Just Got in There": Gender and Generational Conflict and "Improved" Agriculture in Colonial Zimbabwe
This essay explores how gender and generational dynamics in peasant communities in colonial Zimbabwe were reshaped between 1930 and 1965 by factors introduced by colonization. British rule brought dramatically greater market opportunities and access to new agricultural tools. Some peasants readily adopted ploughs, combining these new tools with indigenous methods of production and environmental management to increase output and market sales while developing new hybrid ways of working the land. These options allowed some young men to evade the demands of, and obligations to, their fathers, while the new methods often increased women's workloads, exacerbating gender tensions. In the wake of the Second World War, Rhodesian state agricultural programmes sought to dramatically reshape African farming practices, initiatives that were justified as protecting the environment and modernizing the peasant sector. These measures permanently allocated and demarcated peasant land, imposed onerous environmental protection measures, and encouraged peasants to follow labour-intensive production methods based on European techniques. These conditions restricted young men's access to land and imposed intense demands on women of all ages; in practice, however, these changes led to a renegotiation of gender and generational dynamics, most obviously in a wave of protests that threatened state control of the countryside.
Lucigleide Nery Nascimento and Mimi Larsen Becker Hydro-Businesses: National and Global Demands Influencing Meanings and Uses of the São Francisco River Basin Environment of Brazil
The São Francisco River provided very obvious, close-by forms of sustenance for local communities. Beginning in the mid-1950s, the river became the place for large hydroelectric facilities, large-scale flooding, and population resettlement. A decade later, the federal government began working on pilot irrigation projects that would lead to areas described today as the Brazilian California. Hydropower for Brazilian cities such as Recife and Salvador and irrigation for grapes and mangoes destined for the United States and Europe are among the ecosystem services this river supplies. The purpose of federal policies for the north-east went beyond mitigation of the consequences of droughts, the hydraulic approach, and started to follow an economic approach based upon development; as a consequence, river and user came to be distant from one another. The two major intensive uses of the river, electricity and irrigation, threaten the long-term sustainability of this system.