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Knowing Global Environments

Knowing Global Environments: New Historical Perspectives on the Field Sciences

Edited by Jeremy Vetter
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Knowing Global Environments
    Book Description:

    Knowing Global Environmentsbrings together nine leading scholars whose work spans a variety of environmental and field sciences, including archaeology, agriculture, botany, climatology, ecology, evolutionary biology, oceanography, ornithology, and tidology.Collectively their essays explore the history of the field sciences, through the lens of place, practice, and the production of scientific knowledge, with a wide-ranging perspective extending outwards from the local to regional, national, imperial, and global scales. The book also shows what the history of the field sciences can contribute to environmental history-especially how knowledge in the field sciences has intersected with changing environments-and addresses key present-day problems related to sustainability, such as global climate, biodiversity, oceans, and more.Contributors toKnowing Global Environmentsreveal how the field sciences have interacted with practical economic activities, such as forestry, agriculture, and tourism, as well as how the public has been involved in the field sciences, as field assistants, students, and local collaborators.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5027-5
    Subjects: Environmental Science, History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Jeremy Vetter

    We live in an era of great concern about environmental sustainability. Global problems such as climate change, resource depletion, and biodiversity reduction have worked their way into both public and scholarly consciousness with a force not felt in at least a generation. Public awareness of these and other environmental issues in the modern world has often rested on scientific knowledge and research practices. This is especially the case for problems that transcend the local level; everyday experiences have often proved insufficient to comprehend larger-scale environmental phenomena. Moreover, modern scientific knowledge has become centrally important for solving or mitigating these environmental...

  6. One From the Oceans to the Mountains: Spatial Science in an Age of Empire
    (pp. 17-38)
    Michael S. Reidy

    Empires operate through the establishment of order. Ordering the natural environment enables imperial regimes to project power more efficiently across space, but in the process, they also quite explicitly reorganize space to their own liking, a project that helps lubricate the mechanisms of control. For this reason, Western imperial powers attempt to standardize quantities of all types, both physical and imaginary. Part of the process of Romanization, for instance, entailed the re-spatiation of newly conquered territories. Through archaeological air photography, one can still detect the Roman centuriation patterns dotting the landscape in North Africa, France, and Britain.¹ Likewise, in France...

  7. Two Emigrants and Pioneers: Moritz Wagner’s “Law of Migration” in Context
    (pp. 39-58)
    Lynn K. Nyhart

    This is a tale of a traveler and his baggage.

    The traveler was Moritz Wagner (1813–1887), who roamed the globe from the late 1830s through the late 1850s. As a journalist and travel writer, he combined natural history, local human interest stories, and social and political commentary in a series of some half dozen books, as well as serving as a regular correspondent to the magazines and newspapers of the Cotta publishing empire. In the 1860s Wagner traversed two new boundaries: his professional career crossed over from world-traveler-cum-journalist to museum curator and professional scientist, while his intellectual surroundings shifted...

  8. Three Negotiating the Agricultural Frontier in Nineteenth-Century Southern Ohio Archaeology
    (pp. 59-86)
    J. Conor Burns

    In the early nineteenth century, the Greater Mississippi River watershed was home to innumerable large-scale mound and earthwork constructions generally attributed to an ancient “moundbuilder” civilization. The question of the mounds’ origins became central to nineteenth-century theories about the peopling of the New World, and yet by the end of the century almost all these sites had been obliterated by postcolonial development. Construction associated with towns, cities, and transportation routes was a factor, but agricultural practices—especially in the form of plowing—had the most widespread impact. In mere decades, regular cycles of plowing could greatly reduce the largest of...

  9. Four Managing Monocultures: Coffee, the Coffee Rust, and the Science of Working Landscapes
    (pp. 87-107)
    Stuart McCook

    Many of the field sciences aim to study a nature that is pristine—at least rhetorically pristine. Field scientists would—quite literally—climb the highest mountains and plumb the deepest oceans in the quest of pure, pristine nature. They would travel great distances from cities and settled areas, deep into the forests in pursuit of an undisturbed field to study, to examine plants and animals in their “wild” habitat. If some traces of human activity were present, field scientists developed conceptual tools that allowed them to treat landscapesas ifthey were wild. More recently, field scientists interested in conservation...

  10. Five Rocky Mountain High Science: Teaching, Research, and Nature at Field Stations
    (pp. 108-134)
    Jeremy Vetter

    Are there field sites where scientists can produce knowledge about global environments in one place? Today, field scientists often go into the mountains to study the effects of global climate change. It is on mountaintop biological islands that the devastating effects of climatic warming are often felt the earliest, since plants and animals adapted to such places usually have nowhere to go. Even when the effects are less dramatic than (local or global) species extinction, mountain environments are often considered especially sensitive to changes in the global climate.¹ The use of mountain stations for long-term climate change research reveals how...

  11. Six On the Trail of the Ivory-Bill: Field Science, Local Knowledge, and the Struggle to Save Endangered Species
    (pp. 135-161)
    Mark V. Barrow Jr.

    In early January 1937, James T. Tanner loaded up his car and headed south. Over the next three years the twenty-two-year-old Cornell graduate student would spend nearly twenty-one months in the field, logging more than forty thousand miles on his 1931 Model A Ford and covering untold additional terrain by train, foot, boat, and horse.¹ The goal of this long, arduous journey was to learn more about the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker, known to science asCampephilus principalis, but known variously to locals across its range as the “ivory-bill,” the “kent,” the “king of the woodpeckers,” and the “Lord God bird.”...

  12. Seven Playing By—and On and Under—the Sea: The Importance of Play for Knowing the Ocean
    (pp. 162-189)
    Helen M. Rozwadowski

    The ocean has, for most of Western history, been perceived as uniquely separate from human civilization, untouchable and unchangeable, even more so than, for example, the North American wilderness before the arrival of Europeans. One of the main outcomes of environmental history has been to redress the cultural perception of “virgin wilderness,” to explain how people have always changed nature, and to argue that people have been, and should be, considered part of nature. Scholars are just beginning to attempt the same for the ocean.

    One of the problems with considering the ocean in relation to human history emerges from...

  13. Eight Planetary-Scale Fieldwork: Harry Wexler on the Possibilities of Ozone Depletion and Climate Control
    (pp. 190-211)
    James Rodger Fleming

    “The subject of weather and climate control is now becoming respectable to talk about.” So began Harry Wexler’s speech “On the Possibilities of Climate Control,” given in early 1962 in Boston, Hartford, and Los Angeles.¹ Wexler, who studied meteorology at MIT and directed the office of meteorological research at the U.S. Weather Bureau, supported his claim by citing President John F. Kennedy’s recent speech at the United Nations proposing “cooperative efforts between all nations in weather prediction and eventually in weather control.”² Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, flush with the success of two space spectaculars carrying Russian cosmonauts into orbit, had...

  14. Nine History of Field Science: Trends and Prospects
    (pp. 212-240)
    Robert E. Kohler

    This volume of essays on the history of the field sciences—the (partial) record of an informal conference in May 2007—affords an occasion to reflect on the changes that have occurred in this subject sinceScience in the Field, the 1996 volume ofOsirisedited by Henrika Kuklick and myself.¹ Have our predictions been born out; and what new turns has the history of field science taken in the intervening ten-plus years? And where does it seem to be heading in the next ten or so?

    Kuklick and I had several purposes in assembling our volume in 1996. The...

  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 241-244)
  16. Index
    (pp. 245-263)