Three Lessons from Environmental History: An Introduction
Hey there, I’m Matt Gwozd, one of the editors here at The Green Medium. I’ve been running and contributing to this blog for over four years now. In fact, the first article ever published on this site was one I wrote: A Brief History on Environmentalism. And now that my time with The Green Medium is winding down, I’d like to return to that topic and see what history can teach us about climate/environmental issues and what we as environmentalists can (and should) do about them.
The first article in this new three-part series is called How One Book Changed The World: A Lesson from Enviro-History and it explores the story of Rachel Carson and her seminal book, Silent Spring. In 1962, Carson published Silent Spring, which warned the world of the dangers of the pesticide DDT. Carson’s book ultimately lead to a ban on DDT in the United States and paved the way for the modern environmental movement. Rachel Carson’s story illustrates how one book can change the world and how seemingly small actions can have unexpected outcomes.
The second article in the series is, admittedly, less hopeful and inspiring than the first. It’s called Climate Change & The Collapse of Civilizations: A Lesson from Enviro-History and it takes a look at how some of the most powerful civilizations of ancient history collapsed because of climate change. However, unlike the ancients, we in the present have the knowledge and agency to address the current climate crisis. We need not fear the future if we heed the lessons of the (ancient) past.
Finally, the last article in this series is called Energy Transitions are Nothing New: A Lesson from Enviro-History. The article explores “energy transitions”, or how societies transition from using one source of energy to another, and examines the numerous energy transitions that have happened in the past. The article ultimately argues that energy transitions are nothing new in human history and that the current transition away from fossil fuels is just another step in that history. This latest energy transition is not only necessary, but inevitable.
History has a lot to tell us, but only if we listen. In order to address the current climate/environmental crisis, we need to heed what environmental history can teach us. Ultimately, in order to move forward, we need to look back.