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Environmental History

Climate Change and Energy Scarcity

The future is not what it used to be because we can no longer rely on the comforting assumption that it will resemble the past. Past abundance of fuel, for example, does not imply unending abundance. Infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible.

Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests

Greater knowledge and transparency are often promoted as the keys to solving a wide array of governance problems. In Instituting Nature, Andrew Mathews describes Mexico’s efforts over the past hundred years to manage its forests through forestry science and biodiversity conservation. He shows that transparent knowledge was produced not by official declarations or scientists’ expertise but by encounters between the relatively weak forestry bureaucracy and the indigenous people who manage and own the pine forests of Mexico.

Sewage Treatment and the Contradictions of the Industrial Ecosystem

Biological sewage treatment, like electricity, power generation, telephones, and mass transit, has been a key technology and a major part of the urban infrastructure since the late nineteenth century. But sewage treatment plants are not only a ubiquitous component of the modern city, they are also ecosystems--a hybrid variety that incorporates elements of both nature and industry and embodies multiple contradictions.

The Unmaking of America's Environment, Security, and Independence

Americans take for granted that when we flip a switch the light will go on, when we turn up the thermostat the room will get warm, and when we pull up to the pump gas will be plentiful and relatively cheap. In The End of Energy, Michael Graetz shows us that we have been living an energy delusion for forty years. Until the 1970s, we produced domestically all the oil we needed to run our power plants, heat our homes, and fuel our cars. Since then, we have had to import most of the oil we use, much of it from the Middle East.

Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

Global warming skeptics often fall back on the argument that the scientific case for global warming is all model predictions, nothing but simulation; they warn us that we need to wait for real data, "sound science." In A Vast Machine Paul Edwards has news for these skeptics: without models, there are no data. Today, no collection of signals or observations—even from satellites, which can "see" the whole planet with a single instrument—becomes global in time and space without passing through a series of data models.

Consequences for the Global Environment

An environmentalist maps the hidden costs of overconsumption in a globalized world by tracing the environmental consequences of five commodities.

The Remaking of American Environmentalism

For over half a century, the biologist Barry Commoner has been one of the most prominent and charismatic defenders of the American environment, appearing on the cover of Time magazine in 1970 as the standard-bearer of "the emerging science of survival." In Barry Commoner and the Science of Survival, Michael Egan examines Commoner's social and scientific activism and charts an important shift in American environmental values since World War II.

In The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster, Werner Troesken looks at a long-running environmental and public health catastrophe: 150 years of lead pipes in local water systems and the associated sickness, premature death, political inaction, and social denial. The harmful effects of lead water pipes became apparent almost as soon as cities the world over began to install them.

Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America

In The Landscape of Reform Ben Minteer offers a fresh and provocative reading of the intellectual foundations of American environmentalism, focusing on the work and legacy of four important conservation and planning thinkers in the first half of the twentieth century: Liberty Hyde Bailey, a forgotten figure in the Progressive conservation movement; urban and regional planning theorist Lewis Mumford; Benton MacKaye, the forester and conservationist who proposed the Appalachian Trail in the 1920s; and Aldo Leopold, author of the environmentalist classic A Sand County Almanac.

Negotiating Environmental Agreements for the World, 1973-1992

As Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) from 1976 to 1992, Mostafa K. Tolba had as much insight into, and influence on, the development of international environmental policy as anyone. In this book, he tells the story of the negotiations that led to a number of landmark agreements, such as the Vienna Convention on Ozone and its Montreal Protocol, the Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes, and the Biodiversity Convention.