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Rethinking Environmental History

World-System History and Global Environmental Change

Edited by Alf Hornborg; J. R. McNeill and Joan Martinez-Alier - Contributions by Stephen G. Bunker; William H. Fisher; Rafael A. Gassón; Stefan Giljum; N Thomas Håkansson; Josiah Heyman; J Donald Hughes; Andrew K. Jorgenson; Robert B. Marks; Joan Martinez -Alier; Jason W. Moore; Roldan Muradian; Janken Myrdal; James Rice; Joseph A. Tainter; Immanuel Wallerstein; Helga Weisz; Mats Widgren; Richard Wilk and Michael Williams

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This exciting new reader in environmental history provides a framework for understanding the relations between ecosystems and world-systems over time. Alf Hornborg, J. R. McNeill, and Joan Martinez-Alier have brought together a group of the prominent social scientists, historians, and geographical scientists to provide a historical overview of the ecological dimension of global economic processes. Readers are challenged to integrate studies of the Earth-system with studies of the world-system, and to reconceptualize the relations between human beings and their environment, as well as the challenges of global sustainability. « less more »
AltaMira Press
Pages: 420Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7591-1027-4 • Hardback • January 2007 • $110.00 • (£75.00)
978-0-7591-1028-1 • Paperback • January 2007 • $49.00 • (£32.95)
978-0-7591-1397-8 • eBook • January 2007 • $48.99 • (£32.95)
Alf Hornborg is an anthropologist and professor of human ecology at Lund University. J. R. McNeill is professor of history, director of graduate studies, and Cinco Hermanos Chair of Environmental and International Affairs at Georgetown University. Joan Martinez-Alier is professor of ecological economics in the Department of Economics and Economic History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Introduction: Environmental History as Political Ecology

Part I The Environment in World-System History: Tracing Social Processes in Nature
1. Environmental Impacts of the Roman Economy and Social Structure: Augustus to Diocletian
2. "People Said Extinction Was Not Possible": Two Thousand Years of Environmental Change in South China
3. Precolonial Landesque Capital: A Global Perspective
4. Food, War, and Crisis: The Seventeenth-Century Swedish Empire
5. The Role of Deforestation in Earth and World-System Integration
6. Silver, Ecology, and the Origins of the Modern World, 1450-1640
7. Trade, "Trinkets," and Environmental Change at the Edge of World-Systems: Political Ecology and the East African Ivory Trade
8. Steps to an Environmental History of the Western
Llanos of Venezuela: A World-System Perspective
9. The Extractive Economy: An Early Phase of the Globalization of Diet, and Its Environmental Consequences
10.Yellow Jack and Geopolitics: Environment, Epidemics, and the Struggles for Empire in the American Tropics, 1640-1830

Part II Ecology and Unequal Exchange: Unraveling Environmental Injustice in the Modern World
11. Marxism, Social Metabolism, and International Trade
12. Natural Values and the Physical Inevitability of Uneven Development under Capitalism
13. Footprints in the Cotton Fields: The Industrial Revolution as Time-Space Appropriation and Environmental Load Displacement
14. Uneven Ecological Exchange and Consumption-Based Environmental Impacts: A Cross-National Investigation
15. Combining Social Metabolism and Input-Output Analyses to Account for Ecologically Unequal Trade
16. Physical Trade Flows of Pollution-Intensive Products: Historical Trends in Europe and the World
17. Environmental Issues at the U.S.-Mexico Border and the Unequal Territorialization of Value
18. Surrogate Money, Technology, and the Expansion of Savanna Soybeans in Brazil
19. Scale and Dependency in World-Systems: Local Societies in Convergent Evolution
20. The Ecology and the Economy: What is Rational?
The contributors to Rethinking Environmental History argue for a truly global, historical, and transdisciplinary approach to environmental history, even when analyzing the most localized instances of degradation. They show how and why environmental degradations have been uneven throughout history—and in the process employ, critique, and extend world-systems analysis.
Thomas D. Hall, Lester M. Jones Professor of Sociology, DePauw University, and editor of A World-Systems Reader


This book offers new perspectives on global environmental problems at a time when many of these issues are discussed and taught in a historical and political-economic vacuum. It is coherent in theme, interdisciplinary in scope, historically innovative, and geographically far-reaching. A 'world-system' perspective provides a thread for a multifaceted view of distributive aspects of our interlinked economic and environmental histories. Rethinking Environmental History offers carefully crafted studies and provocative essays by some of the most respected scholars (and best writers!) on the topic. This volume brings much-needed depth to the scholarship of globalization and environment, and inauguates a new phase of inquiry in political ecology, environmental history, and environmental sciences in general.
Eduardo S. Brondizio, Indiana University, Bloomington


Environmental history is new, exciting, and protean—a veritable stem cell of scholarly inquiry. To sample it while its insights are fresh and provoke new views of even your own origins, read Rethinking Environmental History.
Alfred W. Crosby, University of Texas at Austin


This is the best overview we have of political ecology, which tries to link environmental change to political economy and social injustice. Through a set of richly layered and well-argued chapters, the authors demonstrate how empires and powerful nation-states have long enriched themselves and protected their own environments by extracting wealth from faraway places. These authors restore both ecology and economy to the center of environmental history. All historians and environmental policy makers should read their contributotions carefully and incorporate their ecological perspective into our understanding of the past.
Donald E. Worster, University of Kansas


We like to think that we are free agents and that everything is possible. Yet technological development today is highly uneven, just as it was throughout the past. All development is subject to various ecological constraints. How actors deal with these constraints and who ends up bearing their burden are often more complex processes than they may seem from local perspectives. The chapters in Hornborg, McNeill, and Martinez-Alier help illustrate these multifaceted problems in a number of fascinating and globally conscious ways.
William Thompson, Indiana University, Bloomington, and past president of the International Studies Association


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