8. Past solutions for future transitions

Start Forums Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History 2015 8. Past solutions for future transitions

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May 5, 2015 at 16:31 #17417
Josefin Heed

Past solutions for future transitions. We do not have to comment.

May 5, 2015 at 16:32 #17418
Josefin Heed

Case study

The formulation of a problem
Food is not scarce but often produced using more energy than what is produced as calories. This development has some during a period when energy has been cheap and abundant, technology and the economy has therefore encouraged this. There is no sign that energy will become expensive in the nearest future, and food production is not reducing its energy use.
Sweden does not have its own politics to govern food production, it is all decided by the EU through the Common agricultural policy (CAP). The government is now in the process of developing a national food strategy, which is supposed to be adopted next year. Some researchers say that in the 1920s-30s the food production in Sweden was at its sustainability and welfare peak. Cheap energy had not yet entered the market but the democratization, higher education and building of the welfare system had begun. Can we go back to this period and simulate what type of development of food production we could have had if cheap energy had never entered the market? Can we find some ideas here for the future and the making of the Swedish national food strategy?

Research questions
What lessons can be learned from farming development in the 1920s-1930s for the Swedish national food strategy?

Suggested methods
– Choose one village/landscape as a study landscape (Börje socken)
– Studying old farm school books to see what type of things the farmers learned,
– Diaries from farms where the farmers write what they buy/sell and to what price and how that changes when cheap energy enters the market
– Interview old farmers who has some rememberance of farming development in the mid 20th century.
– Using the concept modes of production to study how the labour, means of production and social and technical relations changed due to cheap energy and what effect that had on the development of food production in Sweden in that breaking point.
– It would be interesting to combine this with economy theories and methods.
– You could also use systems theory to follow the cheap energy and its effect on prices, farming methods and technology development.

Literature; a certain book or a couple of articles
Agricultural history of Sweden in Fembandsverket, Kungliga Skogs- och Lantbruksakademien (KSLA): http://www.ksla.se/anh/amnessokning/allmant/fembandsverket/fembandsverket-band-5/
Banaju, Jarius. 2010. Theory as history: Essays on Modes of Production and Exploitation. Brill.
Articles/chapters by Donald Worster

May 6, 2015 at 18:16 #17419

Case study: Social movements

May 8, 2015 at 06:39 #17420
Miguel Núñez


¿How the economical modes of production in the capitalist system could be linked with massive starvation and sudden changes in the ecosystems producing catastrophes such as flooding in cultivated areas and droughts? What can we learn from past environmental events in order to improve our understanding around current concerns such as the ENSO (El niño southern oscilation) and the climate change? In what way can we associate environmental phenomena such as droughts and flooding with the consumption and production habits from postindustrial societies?


By the annals method we can improve our understanding about environmental history taking in consideration the human events registered in the past and analyze them from current social approaches. In this way, in the case about the history of the ENSO, we can learn about the great famines in the late nineteenth century in comparison with the industrial cultivations of sugar in the southeast Asiatic coasts, made by the British Empire. Because of today we count with better comprehension about the effects on the environment by the industrialization, we can build relevant theories based on historical facts which reveal new causes of the human famines in the late modernity.

Key concepts: Famine, starvation, ENSO (El niño southern oscilation), tropics, flooding, drought, Drought in northern china in the early Guang Xu (1876-1879).

*Late victorian holocausts. El Niño famines and the making of the third world. The mystery of the monsoons. Make Davis.

Between 30 and 60 millions of persons passed away in the last third of the nineteenth century in the tropical areas from China, India and Brazil because of chronic diseases caused by a continued famine. Likewise, the British Empire managed in the same age the sugar cultivations in the southeast Asiatic, and the mayor part of the produced food was imported to Europe. With certain data and through testimonies from the late XIX century, Make Davis sustains the theory about the victorian holocausts, which mean that those massive starvation was cause directly by the victorian empire. Also, the illustrations and photography included in the book, from this epoch, are awesome and awful, helping to reveal and measure one of the most incomprehensible events in the late modernity. At the same time, this book divulges the traditional Chinese modes in order to avoid the famine effects on the human being, based on strict systems to control the prices of the rice and mechanisms to protect to the peasants which worked the land.

*The travels of General Grant, Philadelphia 1881. Chapter III: Its suffering masses. Chapter IX: Dinner with Bismarck. Chapter XII: Grant starts from India.

In the journeys by all the world of the General Grant accompanied by the ex-presidential family from the United States in 1887, is possible read about their perceptions around the free commerce as principal base for the development of capitalism such as experiences in Asia in this hungry age. We quote an interest fragment:

“The new retired president from United States, Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia and son Jeff left Philadelphia in spring 1877 for Europe. The ex-first family plotted an itinerary: up the Nile to Thebes in upper Egypt, back to Palestine, then on to Italy and Spain, back to Suez Canal, outward to Aden in India, Burma, Vietnam, China and Japan, and finally, across the Pacific to California.“

CASE STUDY DESCRIPTION: To discuss about how it is possible distinguish between the ENSO phenomena and the climate change phenomena, based on the next case:

“Flooding in the Chilean dessert: In late March 2015, flash floods and mudslides devastated northern Chile’s Antofagasta, Atacama, and Coquimbo regions. By the standards of most of the world, the rainfall totals were not extraordinary. But in a desert region that sees miniscule amounts of rainfall in any year, the heavy rains were disastrous. The rare rainfall in northern Chile was caused by a cold front that moved across the Andes. Normally such a storm would have brought snow to the mountains, but air and sea surface temperatures in the region have been several degrees above normal—turning the snow into rain. Some meteorologists suggested that this fits with El Niño weather patterns”. (It was took from: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85685&src=eoa-iotd )

May 9, 2015 at 06:34 #17433

Ghide Habtetsion Gebremichael
Uppsala University
Global Environmental History
A case study on Current Debates/ GEH
Spring, 2015

Case study :The Impact of Migration and on Enviironment

Now a day’s migration is among top headlines in most parts of the world. Particularly people from Middle East and Africa migrate to Europe for different reasons. Out of the many their main causes are war, famine, education and employment. For example in the year of 2015, more than 5000 illegal immigrants entered Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea and still they are continuinghttp://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/22/most-migrants-crossing-mediterranean-will-be-sent-back-eu-leaders-to-agree).

However little is known about the spontaneous increase of immigrants on the European environment. For example how the new immigrants will affect the European land? What is the narrative behind all this impact? Is it the effect of war, terrorism, famine and unemployment or the overall effect of climate change? What are the key roots to this immigration and how will it affect the European environment socially, politically and above all environmentally?

The famous American professor and among the main founders of global environmental history-Donald Worster on his April, 2015 speech at Uppsala University said that there is a direct correlation between environmental protection and democracy. Which means countries with better democracy has a better environmental conservation and protection regulation. In my opinion this will be the main idea of the case study to be discovered. Is it possible fighting for climate change means fighting for democracy, fighting for repression and dictatorship?

To start with, the case study will select a country with high number of immigrant [probably Italy] and assess its environmental conditions. How this problem will affect the country in the long run? What kind of measurement can be taken to tackle with? What about the ethical aspect of it?
Methodologically, I can use the archival record of country under study mainly stressing its history with in the 20th century where there was a lot of migration. At the same time I will make interview with the immigration department authority and old people that they could have a memory about the past history of the environment and how could they relate with the emergence of immigrant and what solution should we can take.

I can use a theoretical frame work of Actor’s Network Theory (ANT). My assumption is that everything is connected to each other. Therefore once you make some changes in the global south, then it will in turn affect the global north and vise-versa. I believe that by helping people in getting freedom could be one of the solutions to environmental crisis. Now, it is becoming apparent that the effect of climate change can cause people to migrate form countries such as Sub-Saharan countries, Middle East and other part of Africa. At the same time as the population increase in other part of the world like Europe and USA, the environmental problem in turn will increase.


Anand S and Sen A. 1997. Concepts of human development and poverty: a multi-dimensional perspective. In: Fukuda-Parr S and Shiva Kumar AK (Eds). 2004. Readings in human development: concepts, measures and policies for a development paradigm. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.

Migration and environment in the context of globalization (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu.sci-hub.org/viewdoc/download?doi=

Migration and environment in Ghana: a cross-district analysis of human mobility and vegetation dynamics (http://eau.sagepub.com.sci-hub.org/content/22/1/107.full.pdf)

May 15, 2015 at 16:48 #17465
Flavia Manieri


June 15, 2015 at 17:37 #17548
Vincenza Ferrara


Globalisation has been accused to have destroyed local identities, unifying almost all the globe also regarding people´s food habits.
As an immediate consequence of such complex dynamics, on the other side of no- global movement several organisations and NGOs protecting and promoting sustainable development, rural identities, local food and ancient varieties have arisen worldwide.
These movements claim places have a taste, meaning with this sentence that real local food products (food grow and produced locally at a small-scale level) reflect in their taste the “terroir”.
Used in the past only by enologists to characterise the qualitative properties of niche wines, “terroir” is an extremely fascinating French word expressing the combination of biophysical and cultural elements that together produce place-based tastes and flavours.
And nowadays it has been more and more applied also to understand the links other products (which pretend to be local) have with their own territories (cheeses, oils, marmalades, meat, liquors, and so on).

A first question for the case study will be then if the concept of “terroir” could be useful to define what a real local product is, supporting then local producers and no-global movements to fight against the negative effects of globalisation, preventing them as well.
An immediate consideration should then be related to the notion of local product: to what degree we may consider a “local product” only a product which is simply grown and produced at a local level? Or there may be some kind of social dimension in what we define local product? In other words, could a local food product also be socially produced?
Moreover, how really old is food globalisation?
And finally, could a place have a taste?

Slow Food Foundation

Sofie Joosse, 2014. Is it local?A study about the social production of local and regional foods and goods, Geografica 5.

The Globalisation of Food and Plants, YALE Global Online,

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