A Historian’s Perspective on Rivers of the Anthropocene

  • Philip V. Scarpino
Chapter
Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA)

Abstract

The assertion by leading scientists that the Anthropocene has replaced the Holocene as the most recent geological epoch represents an important opportunity to promote interdisciplinary communication. Determining the existence of a new geological epoch and naming it the Anthropocene is largely the domain of science. Analyzing and explaining the long-term human impact on earth systems that produced and sustained that epoch is the domain of humanists and social scientists, such as historians and archaeologists, who address the complex and changing connections between culture and nature. Historians look at the evolving relationship between people and their environment. History adds both the longue durée and context to present-day understanding of the interplay between human and natural systems. Writing in Smithsonian Magazine (January 2013), Joseph Stromberg, journalist and science writer, posed an essential question: “Have human beings permanently changed the planet?” His question is simultaneously historical and interdisciplinary; it highlights the role of human agency driven by an evolving mosaic of human culture. Rivers offer a metaphor for understanding the human environmental experience. As such they present an opportunity for the real and sustained interdisciplinary study, communication, and collaboration that could yield a credible and effective answer to Stromberg’s question.

References

  1. Carson Rachel (1962) Silent spring. Houghton Mifflin Company, BostonGoogle Scholar
  2. Champion AS (1990) Managing a recovering salmon river—the river tyne. In: Mills D (ed) Strategies for the rehabilitation of salmon rivers: proceedings of the linnean society joint conference (November 1990), pp 63–72Google Scholar
  3. Commoner Barry (1971) The closing circle: nature, man, and technology. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Crosby Alfred (1986) Ecological imperialism: the biological expansion of Europe, 900–1900. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Crutzen PJ (2002) Geology of mankind. Nature 415:423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crutzen PJ, Steffen W (2003) Editorial comment: how long have we been in the Anthropocene era? Clim Change 61(3):251–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crutzen PJ, Schwagerl C (2011) Living in the Anthropocene: toward a new global ethos, environment 360. http://e360.yale.edu/feature/living_in_the_anthropocene_toward_a_new_global_ethos/2363/. Accessed 24 Jan 2011
  8. Flader SL (1974) Thinking like a mountain: Aldo Leopold and the evolution of an ecological attitude toward deer, wolves, and forests (Columbia. University of Missouri Press, ColumbiaGoogle Scholar
  9. Hassan John (1998) A history of water in modern England and Wales. Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp 123–147Google Scholar
  10. Lear Linda (1997) Rachel Carson: witness for nature. Henry Holt and Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Leopold Aldo (1949) A sand county almanac and sketches here and there. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. McCormick John (1989) Reclaiming paradise: the global environmental movement. Indiana University Press, BloomingtonGoogle Scholar
  13. Marshall MW (1992) Tyne waters a river and its salmon. HF and G Witherby, Ltd, LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. Meine Curt (1988) Aldo leopold: his life and work. University of Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  15. Milner NJ et al (2004) Environment agency: the role of stocking recovery of the river tyne salmon Fisheries,” Environment Agency, National Fisheries Technical Team, Fisheries Technical Report No. 2004/1 (2004): 6. http://www.wyeuskfoundation.org/problems/downloads/Tyne%20Hatchery%20Report.pdf
  16. Pearce F (2007) With speed and violence: why scientists fear tipping points in climate change. Beacon Press, Boston, p 44, http://www.gci.org.uk/Documents/wsav.pdf
  17. Robin L, Steffen WW (2007) History for the Anthropocene. Hist compass 5(5):1694–1719. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1478-0542.2007.00459.x/full
  18. Scarpino PV (1997) Large floodplain rivers as human artifacts: a historical perspective on ecological integrity. U.S. Geological Survey, Special Refereed ReportGoogle Scholar
  19. Scarpino PV (2010) Addressing cross-border pollution of the Great Lakes. In: Behiels M, Stuart R (eds) Transnationalism in Canada-United States history into the twenty first century. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal pp 146–167Google Scholar
  20. Schlereth TJ (1989) History museums and material culture. In: Leon W and Rosenzweig R (eds) History museums in the United States. University of Illinois Press, Champaign (On page 294 Schlereth quotes Deetz’s definition of material culture)Google Scholar
  21. Shepard Paul (1969) Ecology and man—a viewpoint. In: Shepard Paul, McKinley Daniel (eds) The subversive science: essays toward an ecology of man. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, BostonGoogle Scholar
  22. Steffen W et al (2003) Global change and the earth system: a planet under pressure. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  23. Stromberg J (2013) What is the Anthropocene and are we in It?” Smithsonian Magazine (January 2013). http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/What-is-the-Anthropocene-and-Are-We-in-It-183828201.html
  24. Ward B, Dubos, R (1972) Only one earth: the care and maintenance of a small planet. Norton & Company, New York (An unofficial report commissioned by the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on the human environment. Prepared with the assistance of a 152-member committee of corresponding consultants in 58 countries)Google Scholar
  25. Wooster D (1994) Nature’s economy: a history of ecological ideas, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (first published by Sierra Club Books, 1977)Google Scholar
  26. Zalasiewicz J et al (2008) Are we now living in the Athropocene?” GSA today (February 2008): 7, http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/18/2/pdf/i1052-5173-18-2-4.pdf

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip V. Scarpino
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History, IUPUIIndiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations