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Germany's Nature

Germany's Nature: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental History

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    Germany's Nature
    Book Description:

    Germany boasts one of the strongest environmental records in the world. The Rhine River is cleaner than it has been in decades, recycling is considered a civic duty, and German manufacturers of pollution-control technology export their products around the globe. Yet, little has been written about the country's remarkable environmental history, and even less of that research is available in English.Now for the first time, a survey of the country's natural and cultural landscapes is available in one volume. Essays by leading scholars of history, geography, and the social sciences move beyond the Green movement to uncover the enduring yet ever-changing cultural patterns, social institutions, and geographic factors that have sustained Germany's relationship to its land.Unlike the American environmental movement, which is still dominated by debates about wilderness conservation and the retention of untouched spaces, discussions of the German landscape have long recognized human impact as part of the "natural order." Drawing on a variety of sites as examples, including forests, waterways, the Autobahn, and natural history museums, the essays demonstrate how environmental debates in Germany have generally centered on the best ways to harmonize human priorities and organic order, rather than on attempts to reify wilderness as a place to escape from industrial society.Germany's Natureis essential reading for students and professionals working in the fields of environmental studies, European history, and the history of science and technology.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3770-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Thomas Lekan and Thomas Zeller
  4. Introduction: The Landscape of German Environmental History
    (pp. 1-14)

    There is something odd about the state of environmental history in Germany. When Americans think of a Western country with a strong environmental record, Germany will be among the top contenders. The Rhine River is cleaner than it has been in decades, recycling is considered a civic duty, and German manufacturers of pollution-control technology are exporting their goods all over the globe. And yet, the very country that regularly elects Green politicians to its highest offices is relatively weak when it comes to scholarship in environmental history. Currently, at best only a handful of professorships in this country of some...

  5. Part I Seeing Like a State:: Water, Forests, and Power

    • Chapter 1 Germany as a Focus of European “Particularities” in Environmental History
      (pp. 17-32)

      In her autobiography, the German writer Ricarda Huch (1864–1947) recalls a telling episode about national styles of nature appreciation. Huch kept many pets for her daughter, whose father was Italian, including a dog, a cat, a raven, a squirrel, a parrot, and rabbits, assuming that the child would love them as much as the mother did. “My daughter, however, looked at these animals, which should have been brothers and sisters for her, with a reserved coolness which she had inherited from her Italian father.”¹ To be sure, Huch was far from being a Germanic racist; on the contrary, she...

    • Chapter 2 Conviction and Constraint: Hydraulic Engineers and Agricultural Amelioration Projects in Nineteenth-Century Prussia
      (pp. 33-54)

      Extensively used grazing and barren lands—too wet or too dry for intensive agriculture—characterized large parts of the German lowland plains at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Middle-class inhabitants of nearby villages and towns regarded these lands as little more than infertile deserts or putrid swamps containing miasmas. But the rural population living on the edge of poverty depended on them. These “barren” lands were vital to the traditional rural mixed economy, serving as the commons where the poor lived and supported themselves through subsistence farming, wage earning, and domestic textile production.¹

      During the course of the nineteenth...

    • Chapter 3 A Sylvan People: Wilhelmine Forestry and the Forest as a Symbol of Germandom
      (pp. 55-80)

      One of the more flattering stereotypes about Germans is that they have a special relationship with “their” forest. This affinity for the forest, often calledWaldgesinnung, Waldbewußtsein, or by similar terms best translated as “forest-mindedness,” supposedly makes Germans more likely to visit the forest and be particularly concerned about its health and aesthetics. Today, this alleged affinity is mainly interpreted as a cultural construction nourished by nostalgic idealizations of the forest in literature, art, and music that continue to form an important part of the German educational canon.¹ During the first half of the twentieth century, however, German public discourses...

    • Chapter 4 Forestry and the German Imperial Imagination: Conflicts over Forest Use in German East Africa
      (pp. 81-108)

      Between 1904 and 1914 German officials demarcated thirty forest reserves in the Rufiji-Kilwa region of southeastern Tanzania encompassing some 74,000 hectares, one-tenth the extent of all forest reserves in German East Africa by 1914.¹ These reserves enclosed a one-hundred-mile stretch of coastal mangroves, including the entire delta of the Rufiji River, eastern Africa’s biggest drainage system. In addition, some 445,000 hectares of game reserves had been demarcated in Kilwa and Rufiji districts that would eventually grow into the Selous reserve, today the largest wildlife reserve in Africa.² In areas where the colonial state did not establish forest and wildlife reserves...

  6. Part II The Cultural Landscapes of Home

    • Chapter 5 Organic Machines: Cars, Drivers, and Nature from Imperial to Nazi Germany
      (pp. 111-139)

      Auto manufacturers produced one billion cars in the twentieth century. In view of the enormous impact this prodigious output had not just in the United States but throughout the globe, one would assume that scholarship would make the automobile a primary subject of investigation. But in fact, as Rudi Volti argued in 1996, “as a subject of scholarly inquiry the automobile remains vastly underexamined.”¹ Even more surprising is the fact that within the extant literature on the automobile, research on the history of driving is limited.² An older automotive history generally favored accounts of inventors, manufacturers, designers, traffic planners, engineers,...

    • Chapter 6 Biology—Heimat—Family: Nature and Gender in German Natural History Museums around 1900
      (pp. 140-158)

      Reflecting upon nature means grappling with culturally constructed notions of nature. This process, in turn, involves analyzing, overturning, or upholding historically constituted constructs in order to reorganize them in new or different ways over and over again. Numerous social institutions have taken on this task, one of the most enduring being the museum. It links objects, spaces, and people and, in applying categories from the present, uses a historical or natural past congealed into collections as a marker of the future. The museum is thus engaged in an ongoing process of interpretation: collecting, ordering, filing, researching, and presenting are all...

  7. Part III The Politics of Conservation

    • Chapter 7 Indication and Identification: On the History of Bird Protection in Germany, 1800–1918
      (pp. 161-182)

      Around 1900 a programmatic debate over the general principles of nature conservation reached its climax within German bird protection. Conservationists asked: Why should birds be protected? Why do animals living freely need the preserving care of man? What are the reasons why nature should be protected by culture from culture? One pole of this debate was based on a utilitarian point of view. Hans von Berlepsch (1857–1933), a leader of the bird protection movement, justified his motive for protecting birds with an argument grounded in the “Practical Enlightenment” tradition. He considered nature to be a pseudomechanical and, therefore, adjustable...

    • Chapter 8 Protecting Nature between Democracy and Dictatorship: The Changing Ideology of the Bourgeois Conservationist Movement, 1925–1935
      (pp. 183-206)

      Returning to nature became a common aim of organized popular-cultural organizations in early twentieth-century Germany. Conservationist, “life reform” (Lebensreform), hiking, and youth movements gained a substantial degree of popular support between 1900 and 1914 by endeavoring to improve both the German individual and the German nation through exposure to the rural environment. These naturist projects were by no means peculiar to Germany, but they became arguably most popular there in response to the unusually rapid industrialization and urbanization of the country. When total war, economic disaster, and political unrest in the years 1914–1923 further destabilized the country, back-to-nature movements...

    • Chapter 9 Protecting Nature in a Divided Nation: Conservation in the Two Germanys, 1945–1972
      (pp. 207-244)

      The two Germanys inherited a common tradition in conservation that provided foundations for postwar efforts to protect nature. In the quarter century between the end of World War II and the emergence of global environmentalism, groups and individuals concerned about the natural world broadened the scope of nature conservation (Naturschutz) as they confronted unprecedented threats to nature and human health that accompanied the “economic miracles” in East and West Germany. In an era when both governments and the general public prioritized economic growth and tolerated the exploitation of natural resources as one of the costs of prosperity, conservation appeared to...

  8. Notes on Editors and Contributors
    (pp. 245-248)
  9. Index
    (pp. 249-266)