Every month I carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. You can read all of our past #EnvHist Worth Reading lists right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from March 2022:
In this HistoryNet article, Wayne E. Lee provides a detailed explanation of the way in which Mongol military history intersects with environmental history. He begins by recounting the Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241; using the campaign as an example of the Mongols’ impressive logistical operations that enabled them to move with blinding speed that put their opponents at a serious disadvantage. Lee then goes on to describe how the logistics of grass determined these military maneuvers and also governed the greater nomadic pattern of civilian movement on the Eurasian steppe. The availability of grass, both for militaries and general nomadic existence, determined the timing and location of their movements and was critical to being able to feed their forces, as well as their livestock. “The Mongol imperial armies, and very likely their steppe predecessors and successors, were thus natural practitioners of synchronized separate operations in pursuit of a single strategic objective. The logistics of grass encouraged the wide distribution of forces. The traditional tactics of the hunt lent their shape to widely spaced operations of encirclement. In combination, those operations produced decisive strategic results,” Lee concludes.
2. Is Climate Change Influencing the Invasion of Ukraine? Possible Connections Echo Little Ice Age Histories.
In his latest piece for Historical Climatology, Dagomar Degroot reflects on the influence of climate change on the current Ukrainian invasion and draws on some lessons from the past. Degroot notes that at the request of China, Putin delayed the Ukrainian invasion until the end of February, thinking that the ground would still be frozen in March and able to support the heavy weight of Russian tanks. However, after the invasion began, images surfaced of Russian tanks and rocket launchers abandoned in the mud, suggesting that the earlier melt, likely caused by human-induced climate change, may have had a hand in slowing the invasion. Degroot then reflects back on the sixteenth century and how climatic variability during this time period affected military operations. “The history of the Little Ice Age may reveal that climate change most profoundly affects wars by transforming how they can be fought, occasionally to the detriment of one side and the salvation of another,” Degroot writes.
In this Conversation article, Benjamin J. Richardson reflects on the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the world’s first Green Party. The impetus for the creation of this party was the flooding of Tasmania’s Lake Pedder caused by a hydro-electric project. “The flooding saw heavy ecological losses. The massive hydropower dam drowned about 250 square kilometres of surrounding wilderness. This included a mosaic of diverse ecosystems including wetlands, temperate rainforest and buttongrass moorlands, along with several rare plant species,” Richardson writes. In 1972, in reaction to this project, the United Tasmania Group was formed that supported candidates in that year’s election; this group was the forerunner to the Australian Greens. Richardson provides more details of how the Green party came out of this event and what is being done today to restore the ecology of Lake Pedder and its surrounding environs.
In this Future Planet article, Marcello Rossi turns to the example of Valmeyer, Illinois, a town that experienced two severe floods in one month in 1993 that damaged 90% of the town’s structures. Instead of rebuilding in the original location, the residents of the small town decided to move the town to higher ground. “In the years that followed, hundreds of people moved out of the floodplain as the entire town was rebuilt from scratch on a bluff a mile uphill. In doing so, the town has become an early example of one of the most radical ways a community can adapt to a warming world: moving people and assets out of harm’s way,” Rossi contends. The article recounts the details of this decision-making process, as well as the work that went into moving the community, which is now thriving and has added 4,000 residents.
5. An Environmental History of the Late Ottoman Frontier
In this episode of the Ottoman History Podcast, Susanna Ferguson speaks with Chris Gratien about his new book, The Unsettled Plain: An Environmental History of the Late Ottoman Frontier. Interspersed with music that relates to the environmental history of the Ottoman empire, this episode covers a wide range of topics that explore how approaching the history of the late Ottoman Empire from this angle reveals fresh perspectives on the political and social history of the empire. Ferguson and Gratien discuss the role of malaria as an existential and bodily threat that was affected by policy, agricultural practices, and science, the way in which environmental conditions interplayed with interactions between the Muslim and Christian populations, and how this history can help inform how we approach environmental justice situations today.
Feature Image: “Dam Wall, Lake Pedder, Tasmania” by Arthur Chapman is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
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