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40.2 - Climate and Beyond

HSR Vol. 40 (2015) No. 2: Special Issue: Climate and Beyond. Knowledge Production about the Earth as a Signpost of Social Change, Andrea Westermann & Christian Rohr (Eds.)

The recent historicization of today’s climate-related studies and concerns has been invigorating the history of the earth and environmental sciences. Much of the new work comes from environmental historians. In environmental history, the desire to learn more about society by analyzing its ‘other’ side – nature and the environment – has long been a driving force. Environmental historians often deal with the same topics as historians of the geosciences: the climate, rivers, oceans, mountains, the atmosphere, natural resources, or nuclear waste storage. In doing so, they very successfully extract the stories and images society has and creates of itself or the basic principles of its economic and political organization by examining a society’s relationship to its natural environment.

In a similar approach, this HSR Special Issue “Climate and Beyond” aims to explore the history of the earth sciences: What does the production of geoscientific knowledge tell us about the social world generating and demanding this knowledge? What can we learn about societies, their norms and collective mentalities from analyzing how people dealt with planet earth, its history, climate, surface patterns, or the mechanisms underlying its dynamic structure?

The collected articles suggest that environmental history and the history of the earth and environmental sciences are now converging in three fields of research: analyzing the politics of deep time, reconstructing the making of natural disaster knowledge, and exploring the national and transnational devices and strategies of earth governance established in the twentieth century.