Several Georgetown University scholars will participate in the ICEHO’s 3rd World Congress of Environmental History, taking place next week (July 22-26, 2019) at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil. Details are on our Coming Up page.
Matthew P. Johnson
This post is part one of a profile series in which Matthew and Natascha write about notable people in twentieth-century environmental history.
What the world knew about the environmental impact of China’s Three Gorges Dam during its early planning stages was largely thanks to the efforts of Chinese journalist Dai Qing. Three Gorges Dam is a giant dam on the Yangtze (Yangzi) River that the Chinese government erected during the 1990s and 2000s. It is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam in terms of installed capacity—it can produce an impressive 22,500 megawatts—and is one of the world’s most controversial dams because it had a gigantic social and environmental footprint. Read more on the blog.
A year ago, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria made headlines by wreaking havoc in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan took more than 6,000 lives in the Philippines. Thanks to modern meteorology and the ease of information dissemination on the internet, people knew these storms were coming and how strong they were and yet we still managed to end up with varying degrees of humanitarian disasters.
One can only imagine how these storms must have taken people by surprise in the past. Well, not exactly. Read more on the blog.
ECO-BINGO: The Historian’s Process, Environmental Thinking, and Why BINGO Is a Perfect Analogy for Professor McNeill’s Environmental History Seminar
“B seven. G twenty-four. O eighteen.”
As the announcer neatly ticks off the options that could let you take home that BINGO prize, the apparently random assortment of numbers in front of you begin to take on shape. Patterns emerge and your excitement increases with every square that connects. But, as any seasoned BINGO player will tell you, listening for the next one is as important as marking down the ones previously read. If you fall behind because you over-celebrated getting the second to last block, you may miss the announcement of your winning square. Finding what the pattern looks like, seeing the gaps of what you need next, and paying attention are, in my view, the fundamentals of BINGO.
As it happens, these could also be considered the fundamentals of my experience this past semester in Professor McNeill’s Environmental History Seminar.
Read more on the blog.
A old geographer that I know once asked me, “Isn’t environmental history just historical geography?” and then we had a long talk about methodology, the agency of non-human actors, and interdisciplinary research in general. I think I convinced him that EH is a field in its own right, though it may simply have been a case of my dad letting me win an argument. In any case, I’m absolutely convinced that maps are a very important part of any presentation of historical research, and I’ve made a few attempts to pick up GIS skills at Georgetown.
Professor Dagomar Degroot interviewed by PhD Candidate Robynne Mellor on the Climate History Podcast
As part of HistoricalClimatology.com's Climate History podcast, PhD candidate Robynne Mellor sat down with Professor Dagomar Degroot to discuss his new book, The Frigid Golden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560-1720. Though Degroot, who is the director of Historical Climatology, usually conducts the interviews, in this episode, he agrees to sit on the other side of the mic as the interviewee.
In the podcast, episode eight of the series, Degroot and Mellor talk about a range of topics including the main themes of the book, the process of writing and publishing, and how US and Canadian higher education compare.
The podcast will be of interest not only to scholars of climate change and the Dutch Republic, but also to those who are about to embark on a career in environmental history, as Degroot answers all of questions Mellor has about the field as she reaches the final stages of her doctorate.
This post is part two of a field trip series where Matthew writes about his visits to raw materials extraction sites and how he understands them as an environmental historian. Read part one here.
On March 15, 1910, the earth thundered underneath a crew of Union Oil geologists who were drilling for petroleum in a dusty patch of semi-arid desert and chaparral, a shrubland plant, on the southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley. The Lakeview No. 1 derrick rumbled and a huge column of oil and sand twenty-feet wide and two-hundred-feet tall shot into the air.
The geologists had struck oil. For the next eight months, the Lakeview No. 1 gusher spewed oil uncontrolled, coating the surrounding countryside in petroleum and creating a huge lake of oil and sand at the derrick’s base that soon swallowed the derrick and drilling equipment. Workers eventually contained the lake using sandbags, but for ten more months oil continued to pour out of the well. Very little of the oil was saved and most evaporated or seeped into the ground. On September 10, 1911, the bottom of the crater caved in and the well ceased gushing oil. Workers have since filled in the crater and erected a plaque to mark the site. Read more on the blog.
Co-directors Dr. Dagomar Degroot and Dr. Bathsheba Demuth have launched their "Tipping Points Project." The project includes an interactive map where visitors can click on marked locations and read in-depth, mostly undergraduate-written descriptions of past, present, and future impacts of climate change.
The articles linked to the map give information about the impacts of these shifts for local environments and populations. The directors hope their project "turns climate change from an abstraction to a tangible force in people's lives."
Each write-up explains how the authors reached their conclusions and what information they used to do so. In addition, the website provides guests with the tools authors used in order for visitors to understand how climate change might impact them. Through transparency and a push for participation, the project helps promote accessibility to what often seems like a large and incomprehensible topic.
"Tipping Points Project" has already sponsored one successful and informative event at Georgetown, "The Arctic: Past, Present, and Future," with plans for more in the future.
To learn more about the project, discover great research tools, read some of the fantastic articles, visit the website here.
Skies raining blood, clouds catching fire, and beasts running amok—a surreal mix of fact and fantasy, the kind of which only a malnourished graduate student could conjure up before drifting off to sleep in a cold, dim library.
The Ottoman scholar Katib Çelebi (d. 1657) would beg to differ. The setting for these disturbing images, he reported in his chronicle Fezleke, was Hungary in late June 1619, soon after the breakout of Europe’s Thirty Years’ War. The story is loaded with enigmatic symbolism that I dare not explain, at least not today. Below is a rough translation of the Ottoman text based on the version found in Mustafa Naʿima’s (d. 1716) chronicle, whose prose in this passage is a bit clearer than Çelebi’s. Read more on the blog.
This April will be a busy month for environmental history at Georgetown with some really exciting upcoming events. The workshops and discussions below cover large stretches of time, from the Medieval period through to the future, and various topics, from disease, to teaching, to climate change. See below for details, and if you are in the DC area and interested in environmental history, please join us.
April 4, 12:00 - 5:30 pm, 391 Regents Hall, Georgetown University
Pathogens and Climates in Motion: Multidisciplinarity Perspectives on Disease in Late Antiquity
A workshop sponsored by the Georgetown Environmental Initiative & Medieval Studies Program. The workshop hopes to untangle disease-climate interaction in the distant past. It will be an interdisciplinary event, with disease ecologists, dendro-climatologists, palaeo-genomicists and historians. Click here for full schedule. Please contact Timothy Newfield if attending.
April 11, 1:00 pm, 450 Intercultural Center, Georgetown University
Teaching Environmental History: Insights from a Trailblazer
Richard Hoffman (Professor Emeritus, York University)
Dr. Richard Hoffman will discuss a lifetime of teaching and studying the environmental history of the pre-modern world. He is a pioneer in the scholarship of medieval and aquatic environmental histories, and his recent book, An Environmental History of Medieval Europe, is a landmark in his field. Dr. Timothy Newfield and Dr. Dagomar Degroot will begin the event by asking Dr. Hoffman some big questions about his discipline, and then will open it up to questions from anyone else is the room.
April 18, 1:00 - 3:30 pm, CCAS Boardroom, Intercultural Center, Georgetown University
The Arctic: Past, Present, Future
Speakers: Dagomar Degroot (Georgetown University), Bathsheba Demuth (Brown Univerity), Matthew Druckenmiller (National Snow and Ice Data Center)
Dr. Dagomar Degroot will begin by offering case studies on the environmental history of the early modern Arctic. Dr. Bathsheba Demuth will then introduce her work on the environmental history of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Arctic. Finally, Dr. Matthew Druckenmiller will explain how the Arctic is changing today, project how it might change in our imminent future, and explain what it all means for communities in the far north. This should be a fun, thoroughly interdisciplinary event that offers fresh perspectives on a unique and fast-disappearing environment.