Spring 2009

Environmental History of Latin America

Listed in: History, as HIST-54


Rick A. Lopez (Section 01)


(LA) Environmental history has taken off in exciting new directions. Lamentations about the felling of the trees have given way to larger questions that connect environmental history with social, political, and economic issues. What links exist between environmental problems (such as environmental degradation, desertification, soil salination, species extinction, biotic invasions, deforestation, and animal grazing) and human problems (such as declining subsistence, income inequality, scientific racism, regional underdevelopment, incomplete capitalist transformation, social marginalization, and political violence)? Taking environmental history seriously forces us to revise our understanding of social changes, the rise and fall of civilizations, and contemporary problems of political instability. And putting current environmental debates into historical context enables us to ask: What models of environmental activism have worked in Latin America, and which have not? Why? Can history guide us in our current efforts to develop a sustainable approach to the environment that helps the land and its fauna but does so in a way that brings greater justice and self-determination to the people who live there, while at the same time balancing the interests of the state and of investors? Discussion and secondary readings will be supplemented by original documents, testimonials, on-line materials, movies, images, and art. One meeting per week. Spring semester. Professor Lopez.