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DHIS 25A00 - Earth 2.0: The Environmental History of the Modern World

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English


Fluency in English

Course Description

According to several scholars in the Earth sciences, we have entered a new epoch in the history of the planet, irreversibly marked by the presence and activity of humankind: The Anthropocene. The entire Earth system has shifted to a new mode - ‘Earth 2.0' - in which humans are a major geological influence and whose outcomes are uncertain and worrisome. Environmental history – the history of humans and the rest of nature - offers unique perspectives to weight these claims and understand the roots and implications of this condition. This course will explore the environmental history of the modern world to understand the making and implications of Earth 2.0. We will look at key processes of global history, from European colonial expansion to industrialization, from the perspective of their ecological underpinnings and impact. By looking at these apparently well-known chapters of our human past from this perspective, we will see that each one of them involved (and is partly explained by) a major rearrangement of human-environment interactions and contributes to explain the construction of Earth 2.0. Through this exploration, we will also learn more about the field of environmental history, its main themes and methodological strengths, and its contribution to present-day environmental debates. Students will gain a clear knowledge of the major themes of global environmental history with a focus on the last two centuries and the ability to apply the methods and perspectives of the discipline to their own knowledge goals.


PARRINELLO, Giacomo (Assistant Professor)

Course validation

Students will be evaluated on a mid-term and a final exam based on the content of readings and lectures (30%), on class participation and short reading comments (30%), and on a term paper (40%).

Required reading

  • William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness, or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: Norton & Co., 1995, 69-90
  • Edmond Russell, “Evolution Revolution”, chapter 6 of Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2011: 54-70
  • Alfred Crosby, “Ecological Imperialism: The Overseas Migration of Western Europeans as a Global Phenomenon”, in D. Worster, The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on Modern Environmental History, Cambridge University Press 1993, pp.103-118.
  • Thomas Zeller and S. Pritchard, “The Nature of Industrialization,” in M. Reuss and S. H. Cutcliffe (eds.), The Illusory Boundary: Environment and Technology in History, University of Virginia Press 2010, 69-100.
  • Emily Wakild, “Protecting Patagonia: Science, Conservation and the Pre-history of the Nature State on a South American Frontier, 1903-1934,” in Hardenberg, Kelly, Leal and Wakild (eds.) The Nature State : Rethinking the History of Conservation. Routledge 2017, 37-54.

Additional required reading

  • Matthew Evenden, “Aluminium, Commodity Chains, and the Environmental History of the Second World War,” Environmental History 16, 1 (2011): 69-93. 
  • Lise Sedrez, “Rubber Trees and Communities: Rubber Tapers in the Brazilian Amazon in the Twentieth Century”, in Armiero and Sedrez, A History of Environmentalism, Bloomsbury 2016: 147-166.
  • Dennis Cosgrove, “Contested Global Visions: One World, Whole-Earth, and the Apollo Space Photographs,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 84, 2 (1994): 270-294.”
  • William Steffen, et al. “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical perspectives,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 369 (2011): pp. 842-867.