Environmental history


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From the Chansonnier of Zeghere van Male (1542), Bruges. Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 128B, Folio 116v. Courtesy ISMPL.org

Essay/
Environmental history
Human crap

We are demigods of discards – but our copious garbage became a toxic burden only with the modern cult of ‘disposability’

Gabrielle Hecht

The infamous ‘London fog’, seen here on 17 November 1949. Two generations after the Clean Air Act of 1956, London seems much cleaner with Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission zones. Photo by Keystone/Getty

Essay/
The environment
Slow hope

Climate change is an emergency but despair is not the answer. The world is full of untold stories of people-powered change

Christof Mauch

A firefighter battling the King Fire in Fresh Pond, California, on 17 September 2014. Photo by Noah Berger/Reuters

Essay/
Deep time
The planet is burning

Wild, feral and fossil-fuelled, fire lights up the globe. Is it time to declare that humans have created a Pyrocene?

Stephen J Pyne

Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (c1608), by Hendrick Avercamp. Avercamp was deaf and mute and specialised in painting scenes of the Netherlands in winter. Courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Environmental history
Little Ice Age lessons

The world’s last climate crisis demonstrates that surviving is possible if bold economic and social change is embraced

Dagomar Degroot

A hunting party brings back a bowhead whale during the spring whaling season near Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. Photo by Kate Orlinsky/National Geographic

Essay/
Animals and humans
Turn and live with animals

The slaughterhouse ethic of Soviet and American whalers tells us we must look beyond communism and capitalism to survive

Bathsheba Demuth

Herdsmen in the monsoon rain near the village of Walpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. Photo by James P Blair/National Geographic

Essay/
The environment
When the monsoon goes away

The imperious monsoon rains have ruled India for centuries. Already unstable, what happens if they shift fundamentally?

Sunil Amrith

Steel workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1955. Photo by W Eugene Smith/Magnum

Essay/
Environmental history
A lethal nostalgia

Steel mills, coal mines and blast furnaces have killed and poisoned thousands of Americans – so why mourn their passing?

Deborah Rudacille

Charcoal production in Brazil. Photo by Franz Lanting/Getty

Essay/
Environmental history
Out of the ashes

It took a lot of fossil fuels to forge our industrial world. Now they’re almost gone. Could we do it again without them?

Lewis Dartnell

Firefighters battle the Wallow Fire, the second largest wildfire in Arizona’s history. As of 10 June 2011, the fire had consumed 409,000 acres of forest. Photo EPA/Rick D'Elia/Corbis

Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
Burning like a mountain

Fire has come roaring back into America’s West after a century of attempted extirpation. Can our land take the wild heat?

Stephen J Pyne

A member of the Hopi tribe performs traditional ceremonial dances, June 2009, Arizona, United States. Photo by Dave Etheridge-Barnes/Getty Images

Essay/
Rituals and celebrations
The fire burns yet

Native American peoples are still here and still caring for their land. Can their conquerors say the same?

Peter Whiteley

A boarded-up bank near Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The town of White Bluff was evacuated during the Second World War, as Hanford produced plutonium for the Manhattan Project. Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
A people’s truth

The Hanford nuclear site was meant to be safe for its neighbours. Now they are fighting the experts to tell their story

Kate Brown