Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Wildfires in Siberia

An interesting, and sad, article about the wildfires in Siberia.

Of particular interest to the Network group who visited Lake Baikal last summer and experienced the lake shrouded in smoke from wildfires.

Monday, 4 July 2016

CFP: Chernobyl – Turning Point or Catalyst? Changing Practices, Structures and Perceptions in Environmental Policy and Politics (1970s-1990s)

Call For Papers

Chernobyl – Turning Point or Catalyst? Changing Practices, Structures and Perceptions in Environmental Policy and Politics (1970s-1990s)

International Conference, 2 - 3 December 2016

Heinrich-Boell-Foundation (HBS), Schumannstr. 8, D-10117 Berlin, Germany

Convenors: Christoph Becker-Schaum (Heinrich-Boell-Foundation), Jan-Henrik Meyer (Copenhagen/HoNESt) and Marianne Zepp (Heinrich-Boell-Foundation)

In cooperation with the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, HoNESt – History of Nuclear Energy and Society Project, and the Center for Metropolitan Studies (TU Berlin).

Does Chernobyl constitute a turning point in the history of environmental policy and politics? Around the world environmental policy was introduced in the early 1970s as a new policy area and arena of political and societal conflict. However, from mid-1970s onwards, as a result of the oil crisis, the new policy came to be increasingly challenged, and considered an obstacle to traditional economic growth objectives. Notably in West Germany, environmental policy’s great leap forward only happened in the 1980s. The debate about the dying forests led to the introduction of new filter technologies and catalytic converters to stop acid rain from killing trees and harming people. It was the shock of Chernobyl, however, that convinced the West German government to eventually establish a separate ministry of the environment at the federal level.

This conference has two aims:

First, it seeks to assess change in environmental politics and policy making – from its beginnings around 1970 until the 1990s, when the Rio Conference definitely lifted environmental issues to a global scale with the breakthrough of the sustainability agenda and the increasing dominance of the climate change issue. While the early phase of environmental policy is increasingly well-covered by environmental history, we know very little about the subsequent development of the policy.

Against this backdrop, we seek to examine to what extent and how environmental policy and politics changed during the first thirty years of their existence. Transformations may have concerned political, administrative, societal, and media practices and structures as well as problem perceptions. The conference’s goal is to uncover, in particular, the conditions for change, ruptures, intercepted developments and roads not taken.

Secondly, the conference aims at re-assessing the importance of the Chernobyl nuclear accident for change in environmental policy and politics. Did Chernobyl actually constitute a turning point? Did Chernobyl really strengthen environmental policy, by bringing environmental issues back to the centre of political attention? What were the consequences of Chernobyl for the perception of environmental policies? What was the impact on political and societal action, mobilisation and structures? Did Chernobyl offer new windows of opportunity for environmental policy makers.

We will also discuss an alternative interpretation: Is it more appropriate to consider Chernobyl rather as a catalyst where the different environmental debates, growing environmental consciousness and ecological concerns of the 1980s came together to accelerate and strengthen environmental policy. Next to the lasting conflict about nuclear power this included concerns about the visible environmental problems such as dying forests and polluted water, and increasingly also invisible and global concerns about the hole in the ozone layer and climate change. We will look beyond national borders: How does the West German response compare to other European countries – a question that seems relevant with a view to the German phase-out after Fukushima?

The conference seeks to focus on the different actors that shaped environmental policy:

(1) Political parties,
(2) Courts of law, government administrations and bureaucracies, and scientific experts,
(3) environmental movements,
(4) business groups, utilities and industry and
(5) media.

All of these different actors did not only discuss environmental issues from their respective perspectives. They also interpreted environmental problems differently and offered divergent solutions. These include, for instance, the growing interest in market solutions and ideas about green growth and ecological modernisation. These actors engaged in environmental policy at – but routinely also across - different levels – the local, regional, national, but also at the European and international levels.

The starting point of the debate will be the experience in the Federal Republic of Germany, which however needs to be understood in its European and international context, involving transnational linkages and experiences from other countries in a comparative perspective.
Conference languages are both German and English (simultaneous translation is provided). The event is open to the public.

The aim of the conference is to prepare for a tightly integrated publication. Thus all contributors are invited to explicitly address both questions outlined above. We suggest analysing the role of one or several actors in order to cover the issue of change in environmental policy in a broader perspective in a first part. In a second part, contributors may zoom in on the impact and consequences of Chernobyl on the policy and the responses and reactions of their respective actors.

Please submit your proposal (title, abstract [150 - 200 words], biographical note [150 words]) to;;

by 31 July 2016.

Travel and accommodation costs for speakers will be covered by HBS.

Download the English and German Version of the CFP:

Article published by Jan-Henrik Meyer on H-Net on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Congratulations to Alan Roe on his new job at William and Mary!

We offer our warmest congratulations to Alan Roe who has accepted a two year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Environmental Science and Policy program at William and Mary University, Virginia, USA.

Alan will be teaching three courses over that time as well as organizing a lecture series for the program.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Network fieldtrips to Chernobyl and the Urals

Today, ten network members from the UK and USA will meet in Kyiv to start a field trip looking at the history of the Chernobyl reactor accident and the consequences for both people and wildlife.

Tomorrow they will hear from local experts and share their knowledge at a workshop in Kyiv. On Thursday to Friday they will travel to the Exclusion Zone to see the place for themselves and meet with some of those who were evacuated after the accident but have since returned.

Then, on 11 July, another group of network members will gather in the city of Perm on the banks of the Kama River near the Ural Mountains. They will visit the cities of Perm and Ekaterinburg and surrounding areas, looking particularly at how a history of mining activities has shaped this region.

More information, including itineraries, participant lists, workshop programmes etc can be found on the Events page of the Network website

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

European Society for Environmental History: Call for Papers for 2017 Conference

The next biennial conference of the European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) will be held in Zagreb, Croatia, on 28 June to 2 July 2017.

The conference announcement and call for papers (deadline 1 October 2016) has just been posted on the ESEH website.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Our Russian partners win prestigious grant from the Russian Science Foundation!

A team of researchers led by Professor Julia Lajus of the Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg (HSE Spb), has been awarded a large grant for their project entitled:

Natural Resources in the History of Russia: Economic Institutes, Communities of Experts, and Infrastructures 

The full team is: Julia Lajus, Alexandra Bekasova, Marina Loskutova, Margarita Dadykina, Elena Korchmina, Elena Kochetkova and PhD students Ekaterina Kalemeneva and Vassily Borovoy (HSE Spb); Andrei Volodin (Moscow State University); Alexei Kraikovski  (European University at St Petersburg); Anastasia Fedotova (Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg). 

The project will make a significant contribution to the growing international scholarship in environmental history from a European as well as a global perspective. The environmental history of Russia will be analysed within an interdisciplinary framework incorporating a range of fields from across the humanities and social sciences. The project involves analysis of economic institutions, the activities of the expert community, and the development of infrastructures. The project comprises individual case studies of s , formed by major chronological periods , and the focus will be on lesser known historically significant natural resources (forests , water, fisheries , minerals ) over the period from the seventeenth century to the end of the Cold War in the late twentieth century.

The new knowledge obtained as a result of joint work of researchers specializing in the field of economic, environmental and technological history, will significantly improve the understanding of the interaction of people and nature in the past and will be useful in the development of informed decisions in the field of environmental management in the present.

The project is a very good example of what can be termed the ‘usable past’ i.e. knowledge and understanding of the past which has a practical relevance for addressing contemporary problems.

For the announcement on the website of the Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg (in Russian), please see: