New Natures

New Natures: Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies

DOLLY JØRGENSEN
FINN ARNE JØRGENSEN
SARA B. PRITCHARD
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkgkn
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  • Book Info
    New Natures
    Book Description:

    New Naturesbroadens the dialogue between the disciplines of science and technology studies (STS) and environmental history in hopes of deepening and even transforming understandings of human-nature interactions. The volume presents richly developed historical studies that explicitly engage with key STS theories, offering models for how these theories can help crystallize central lessons from empirical histories, facilitate comparative analysis, and provide a language for complicated historical phenomena. Overall, the collection exemplifies the fruitfulness of cross-disciplinary thinking.

    The chapters follow three central themes: ways of knowing, or how knowledge is produced and how this mediates our understanding of the environment; constructions of environmental expertise, showing how expertise is evaluated according to categories, categorization, hierarchies, and the power afforded to expertise; and lastly, an analysis of networks, mobilities, and boundaries, demonstrating how knowledge is both diffused and constrained and what this means for humans and the environment.

    Contributors explore these themes by discussing a wide array of topics, including farming, forestry, indigenous land management, ecological science, pollution, trade, energy, and outer space, among others. The epilogue, by the eminent environmental historian Sverker Sörlin, views the deep entanglements of humans and nature in contemporary urbanity and argues we should preserve this relationship in the future. Additionally, the volume looks to extend the valuable conversation between STS and environmental history to wider communities that include policy makers and other stakeholders, as many of the issues raised can inform future courses of action.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7872-5
    Subjects: Technology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. CHAPTER 1 JOINING ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY WITH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STUDIES: PROMISES, CHALLENGES, AND CONTRIBUTIONS
    (pp. 1-18)
    SARA B. PRITCHARD

    This edited volume is the product of recent dialogue within and between the fields of environmental history and science and technology studies (STS). It is also the outcome of a workshop that examined one piece of this larger intellectual puzzle: how perspectives gleaned from STS might facilitate and ultimately extend the contributions of environmental history. Indeed, disciplinary hybridity has marked the professional identities and trajectories of the three editors of this collection (not to mention many of the authors whose chapters are included here). We self-identify as environmental historians who were also trained and publish in the history of technology...

  5. PART I. WAYS OF KNOWING
    • CHAPTER 2 THE NATURAL HISTORY OF EARLY NORTHEASTERN AMERICA: AN INEXACT SCIENCE
      (pp. 21-36)
      ANYA ZILBERSTEIN

      In 1795 Yale College president Timothy Dwight decided to write a book about New England and surrounding areas. It was a project motivated by two recuperative goals. The first was personal: his job was too sedentary, and he needed more exercise. To counteract these defects, he devoted vacations to exploring the region on horseback, and his health was “preserved.” The second goal was public: to rehabilitate the region’s image. Dwight bristled at the “misrepresentations, which foreigners, either through error or design, had published of my native country.” These outsiders—both Europeans and other Americans—drew a depressing “caricature” of the...

    • CHAPTER 3 FARMING AND NOT KNOWING: AGNOTOLOGY MEETS ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY
      (pp. 37-50)
      FRANK UEKOTTER

      In the modern world, ignorance is first and foremost a bad thing. With the omnipresent buzz about “knowledge societies,” there is a broad consensus that information is a key resource of modern societies, giving an inherently negative ring to the absence of knowledge. Historians of science have been particularly hesitant to challenge this rationale. Ever since Francis Bacon, the notion that “knowledge is power” runs through the Western philosophy of science, and that put a heavy burden on those who wanted to study ignorance dispassionately. Even more, Baconian science offered a simple remedy for the problem of ignorance: it implied...

    • CHAPTER 4 ENVIRONMENTALISTS ON BOTH SIDES: ENACTMENTS IN THE CALIFORNIA RIGS-TO-REEFS DEBATE
      (pp. 51-68)
      DOLLY JØRGENSEN

      In his oral presentation in June 2010 of a report commissioned by the California Ocean Science Trust, Brock Bernstein highlighted a conundrum facing Californians interested in establishing a policy for the decommissioning of obsolete offshore oil and gas production platforms: not only did the individual characteristics of each platform affect which disposal option was most favorable, but value judgments played a vital role in the decision-making process. His presentation slide titled “Desired Option” said it all: “Choice of option depends heavily on preferences.” If a person valued ecosystem integrity, strict legal compliance, clear ocean access, and limiting potential state liability,...

    • CHAPTER 5 THE BACKBONE OF EVERYDAY ENVIRONMENTALISM: CULTURAL SCRIPTING AND TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEMS
      (pp. 69-84)
      FINN ARNE JØRGENSEN

      The iconic face of Norwegian recycling is a small round hole in the wall. More than a billion beverage containers pass through this hole every year, bringing vast amounts of glass, aluminum, and plastic back into the recycling loop. Bottles and cans are made from raw material and are then sold—or leased—to bottlers, who fill them with beverages and send them through distributors to grocery stores. From the stores they end up in shopping bags that go to private homes where the beverages are consumed. This is where the recycling loop comes to a critical point; the empty...

  6. PART II. CONSTRUCTIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTISE
    • CHAPTER 6 THE SOIL DOCTOR: HUGH HAMMOND BENNETT, SOIL CONSERVATION, AND THE SEARCH FOR A DEMOCRATIC SCIENCE
      (pp. 87-102)
      KEVIN C. ARMITAGE

      Addressing the 1941 meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Hugh Hammond Bennett, chief of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), pleaded for scientific solutions to the nation’s agriculture problems:

      Shall science allow silt, the product of erosion, to continue to shoal our streams and turn them into swamps and marshes where malarial mosquitoes may breed and multiply? Shall science allow erosion to continue to strip off layer after layer of productive soil, leaving behind nothing but raw unproductive subsoil, so that man cannot produce enough on it to make a decent living? … Shall science allow erosion to continue to...

    • CHAPTER 7 COMMUNICATING KNOWLEDGE: THE SWEDISH MERCURY GROUP AND VERNACULAR SCIENCE, 1965–1972
      (pp. 103-117)
      MICHAEL EGAN

      According to its members, Carl-Gustaf Rosén’s editorial in the Swedish dailySvenska Dagbladetofficially marks the formal creation of a rather informal and unofficial group of scientists who immersed themselves in the early science and politics of mercury pollution in Sweden and challenged the traditional patterns of social and environmental inquiry.¹ Frustrated with the inertia surrounding both the process and the conclusions of addressing mercury along more formal channels, Rosén and a group of younger scientists—from a variety of disciplines, who had left their independent research and turned their attention to mercury problems—forged a new kind of hybrid...

    • CHAPTER 8 SIGNALS IN THE FOREST: CULTURAL BOUNDARIES OF SCIENCE IN BIAŁOWIEŻA, POLAND
      (pp. 118-132)
      EUNICE BLAVASCUNAS

      There are multiple ways to know nature, particularly nature that is forested and “wild.” But which experts do people trust when those experts speak about nature, about the ontology of the forest? Which compositions of plants and animals belong there? And why might it matter to scholars of science technology studies and environmental history if those experts produce facts in the new borderlands of the European Union in post-Socialist Poland?

      In ecological promotions for tourists and nature lovers, the Białowieża Forest’s most frequently associated trait is its primeval character. In such portraits, roots of alders reach their way out of...

  7. PART III. NETWORKS, MOBILITIES, AND BOUNDARIES
    • CHAPTER 9 THE PRODUCTION AND CIRCULATION OF STANDARDIZED KARAKUL SHEEP AND FRONTIER SETTLEMENT IN THE EMPIRES OF HITLER, MUSSOLINI, AND SALAZAR
      (pp. 135-150)
      TIAGO SARAIVA

      In May 1944 Heinrich Himmler wrote to the SS Brigadenführer Körner urging him to take charge of a karakul sheep flock recently arrived at the SS-Truppenübungsplatz Böhmen, a vast Waffen-SS training area located in the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.¹ The flock had been brought in by agriculture officers of the Military Administration of Russland-Süd and arrived in Bohemia following rapid German retreat on the Eastern front. Himmler made clear his personal interest in the fate of the sheep herd and even inquired about the possibility of buying part of it. The ownership of the animals was...

    • CHAPTER 10 TRADING SPACES: TRANSFERRING ENERGY AND ORGANIZING POWER IN THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY ATLANTIC GRAIN TRADE
      (pp. 151-163)
      THOMAS D. FINGER

      A shared commitment to uncovering the complicated process of recursive feedback is the best place to look for overlap between science and technology studies (STS) and environmental history.¹ This chapter centers the process of nature-human feedback on the concepts of energy and power. As certain individuals harness and organize energy from nature, their ability to apply that energy to realize a modicum of power is increased. Often, that power is then redirected simultaneously toward other humans and the natural world. Energy is often harnessed to create power, and that power tends to accelerate the flows of energy on which it...

    • CHAPTER 11 SITUATED YET MOBILE: EXAMINING THE ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF ARCTIC ECOLOGICAL SCIENCE
      (pp. 164-178)
      STEPHEN BOCKING

      For centuries the Arctic has captured scientists’ attention. Features found nowhere else—polar bears, tundra, permafrost, months-long days and nights—underscore its distinctive nature. These phenomena have long attracted and challenged scientists, as have the region’s extreme conditions, remoteness, and reputation as pristine wilderness.¹ There is also a rich history of cultural meanings associated with the Arctic, expressed through art and literature.² As a region with special intellectual significance, yet situated on the margins of human activity, the Arctic presents an opportunity to explore how scientific practices and knowledge relate to the environment: how, in other words, one might write...

    • CHAPTER 12 WHITE MOUNTAIN APACHE BOUNDARY-WORK AS AN INSTRUMENT OF ECOPOLITICAL LIBERATION AND LANDSCAPE CHANGE
      (pp. 179-194)
      DAVID TOMBLIN

      In 1960 D’Arcy McNickle—the famous Salish scholar, activist, and writer—predicted that American Indians will “probably use the white man’s technical skills for Indian purposes” and that “Indians are going to remain Indian … a way of looking at things and a way of acting which will be original, which will be a compound of these different influences.”¹ This prediction came true. Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in American history is the political resurgence of some Native American nations in the latter half of the twentieth century.² Some nations have demonstrated more success than others, but one key...

    • CHAPTER 13 NEOecology: THE SOLAR SYSTEM’S EMERGING ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY AND POLITICS
      (pp. 195-211)
      VALERIE A. OLSON

      For two decades, scholars concerned with perceptions of the global environment have examined how remote sensing technologies serve as social tools. They call attention to the scientific and political uses of satellite and astronautical views of Earth from orbit, asking how these downward views open up new ways to spatialize forms of governance,¹ legitimize forms of environmental knowledge of the Earth,² and, as anthropologist Tim Ingold asserts, promote a flat topology of global surfaces that obscures experiences of livingwithina three-dimensional environment.³ These analyses overlook an equally interesting question: How do space technologies make it possible to perceive outer...

  8. EPILOGUE: PRESERVATION IN THE AGE OF ENTANGLEMENT: STS AND THE HISTORY OF FUTURE URBAN NATURE
    (pp. 212-224)
    SVERKER SÖRLIN

    Preservation and conservation are standard tropes of environmental history, nowadays often cited as icons of the field’s backward past rather than its bright future. In this chapter I argue that, on the contrary, there is currently a major transformation regarding how we understand the social-ecological processes of protecting nature and how previous dichotomies between nature and culture can be transcended in order both to better understand preservation as a social phenomenon and to inform policy. Environmental history can play an important role in this transformation. This chapter attempts to demonstrate that concept and theory from the field of science and...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 225-276)
  10. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 277-280)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 281-292)