Integrated History and Future of People on Earth Thu, 17 Jun 2021 17:24:15 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 32 32 Ecosystem interaction on the Laikipia Plateau, Kenya – New paper from Paul Lane Thu, 17 Jun 2021 17:23:07 +0000 Abstract:

East African ecosystems have been shaped by long-term socio-ecological–environmental interactions. Although much previous work on human–environment interrelationships have emphasised the negative impacts of human interventions, a growing body of work shows that there have also often been strong beneficial connections between people and ecosystems, especially in savanna environments. However, limited information and understanding of past interactions between humans and ecosystems of periods longer than a century hampers effective management of contemporary environments. Here, we present a late Holocene study of pollen, fern spore, fungal spore, and charcoal analyses from radiocarbon-dated sediment sequences and assess this record against archaeological and historical data to describe socio-ecological changes on the Laikipia Plateau in Rift Valley Province, Kenya. The results suggest a landscape characterised by closed forests between 2268 years before present (cal year BP) and 1615 cal year BP when there was a significant change to a more open woodland/grassland mosaic that continues to prevail across the study area. Increased amounts of charcoal in the sediment are observed for this same period, becoming particularly common from around 900 cal year BP associated with fungal spores commonly linked to the presence of herbivores. It is likely these trends reflect changes in land use management as pastoral populations improved and extended pasture, using fire to eradicate disease-prone habitats. Implications for contemporary land use management are discussed in the light of these findings.


Read the full paper here:

SSC member Douglass named Carniege Fellow Sat, 08 May 2021 13:04:53 +0000 Kristina Guild Douglass, archeologist and IHOPE SSC member, is one of only 26 scholars nationwide selected for this honor in 2021. The Carnegie Corporation launched its Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program in 2015 to reinforce the importance of the social sciences and humanities in academia. The fellowship advances research focused on important and enduring issues confronting society, including U.S. democracy, the environment, technological and cultural evolution, and international relations.

“I believe that the next frontier in climate studies and the key to developing effective and equitable solutions to climate change is fully engaging stakeholder communities in all aspects of research.”

Full article here:

Crowdfunding effort to LiDAR scan the Amazon Sun, 25 Apr 2021 19:37:02 +0000 A new crowdfunding effort has been launched on Kickstarter with the purpose of LiDAR scanning the entire planet, starting with vulnerable areas, such as the Amazon. The Earth Archive project says they could use this data to:

“We could map trees and document their size, height, width — maybe even their species — and calculate how much carbon they contain.

We’d discover where water moves through the landscape.

We’d learn about the rich history and prehistory of this region, find unknown archaeological sites, ancient road networks, and ecological treasures.”

They also state that “In just 45 minutes, the LIDAR scan collected the same amount of data as what would’ve taken decades by hand!

The crowdfunding can be visited here:

Chris Fischer has also produced a TED Talk on the topic:


New book! Sun, 25 Apr 2021 19:17:55 +0000 Scott Madry’s new book on how to learn and use the QGIS Open Source GIS has been published recently by Locale Press:

Introduction to QGIS comes with a download of sample data and is an introductory guide to the use of the QGIS system.

Today the digital version is available from the website, and the print edition will be available soon.
We hope this can get more people involved in using these powerful Open Source geospatial tools.
Historicizing Climate Change – New paper by Sverker Sörlin and Melissa Lane Wed, 31 Mar 2021 10:50:39 +0000 Abstract

This introduction to a special issue of Climatic Change argues that it is timely and welcome to intensify historical research into climate change and climate as factors of history. This is also already an ongoing trend in many disciplines. The article identifies two main strands in historical work on climate change, both multi-disciplinary: one that looks for it as a driver of historical change in human societies, the other that analyzes the intellectual and scientific roots of the climate system and its changes. In presenting the five papers in this special issue the introduction argues that it is becoming increasingly important to also situate “historicizing climate change” within the history of thought and practice in wider fields, as a matter of intellectual, political, and social history and theory. The five papers all serve as examples of intellectual, political, and social responses to climate-related phenomena and their consequences (ones that have manifested themselves relatively recently and are predominantly attributable to anthropogenic climate change). The historicizing work that these papers perform lies in the analysis of issues that are rising in societies related to climate change in its modern anthropogenic version. The history here is not so much about past climates, although climate change itself is always directly or indirectly present in the story, but rather about history as the social space where encounters take place and where new conditions for humans and societies and their companion species and their life worlds in natures and environments are unfolding and negotiated. With climate change as a growing phenomenon histori-cizing climate change in this version will become increasingly relevant.

Full paper available at:

New Book by Enrique Leff Sun, 21 Mar 2021 11:58:13 +0000

Political Ecology – Deconstructing Capital and Territorializing Life

  • Critiques the dominant geopolitics of “sustainable development”
  • Explores how the development of eco-territorial conflicts has affected environmental thinking
  • Introduces new concepts for the development of a sustainable world order

This book offers a conceptual framework for the critical understanding of the present socio-
environmental conflicts. It reflects on the evolution of subject and thought, a shift in
environmental thinking triggered by the development of eco-territorial conflicts and the
social responses given to the environmental question. Bringing together 40 years of the
authors writing and research, the book explores the transition from ecological economics and
historical materialism to ecological Marxism. It unpacks the forging of political ecology from
value theory in political economy, to ecological distribution and ecologies of difference; a
transition to an environmental rationality grounded in the ontology of diversity, a politics of
difference and an ethics of otherness. This evolution in thinking gives consistency to a
theoretical discourse able to respond to the territorial conflicts generated by the
radicalization of the environmental question as a key social issue of our times. The book is a
call to respond to the urgent challenge of reversing the tendency towards the entropic death
of the planet and to building a sustainable world order.

Enrique Leff is Senior Researcher for the Social Research Institute and a professor in the
Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He is
an environmental theorist working in the fields of Political Ecology, Environmental
Epistemology and Philosophy, Ecological Economics and Environmental Education. He was
UNEP’s Coordinator of the Environmental Training Network for Latin America and the
Caribbean (1986-2008) and UNEP’s Coordinator for Mexico (2007-2008).

Interview with Vernon Scarborough on Archaeology and Climate Change Sat, 20 Mar 2021 21:40:04 +0000 This interview was conducted as a part of the podcast ‘Mergers & Acquisitions’ by the Society of Economic Anthropology, and can be watched in full below:

The significance of climate variability on early modern European grain prices Wed, 10 Mar 2021 11:04:57 +0000 IHOPE Steering Committee member Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, of the History Department at Stockholm University and BOLIN Climate Centre affiliate has recently published a paper on the historical impact of climate variability on European grain prices.

The full paper can be read here:

‘The Political Ecology of Pandemics’ – Call for applications, Ph.D. course Wed, 24 Feb 2021 13:25:50 +0000 Call for applications, Ph.D. course: ‘The Political Ecology of Pandemics’ 

Date: 9 – 11 August, 2021 

Venue: Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo, Norway 

Organised by:  Centre for Development and the Environment, The Norwegian Political Ecology Network (POLLEN-Norway) and the Norwegian Researcher School in Environmental Humanities (NoRS-EH),  

Application deadline: 15 March, 2021 (Application form). 

The objective of this interdisciplinary PhD course is to critically approach the relationship between food production and food consumption and pandemics in an environmental perspective. This involves addressing issues like the links between global food and fodder production and the transformation of rural areas. Against this backdrop the course will address questions such as:  

  • What are the relations between the global food system and pandemics? 
  • How can perspectives from political ecology and environmental humanities contribute to new ways of thinking about non-humans in the relationship between food production and pandemic entanglements? 
  • How have local and national environmental histories shaped and been shaped by industrial systems for food production (and meat in particular), and what are the consequences for animal and human health, welfare and wellbeing at large? 
  • How are food production systems organized in terms of labor and how do workers in industrial food production cope with pandemic outbreaks and their aftermaths?    

Students will 

  • Obtain a nuanced understanding of the links between food production and -consumption and pandemics both empirically and theoretically;     
  • Be well acquainted with the major theoretical and empirical approaches to studying food production and consumption at local, national and global levels;     
  • Engage in critical discussion, become acquainted with the work of others on food production and food consumption and build networks within their chosen field of research.     


Who may apply? 

The interdisciplinary nature of the course will be most suitable for doctoral students engaging with different disciplines within the social sciences – such as anthropology, sociology, political science, geography, and development studies, as well as doctoral students working within the various branches of environmental humanities. 

Doctoral students will be prioritized, although other applicants may be considered if space permits.     

Application procedures and funding 

Please visit our website or consult the attached course document for information about application procedures and funding. Course applications are accepted from 11 January until 15 March, 2021.  

An early application is highly recommended due to space constraints. Should you have any practical enquiries, please do not hesitate to email the course secretariat at

Follow us 

Twitter: @sum_uio | #Pandefood2021 

Paper on climate variability & social change in Europe Wed, 16 Dec 2020 17:08:21 +0000 What are the causal links between changes in climate and in human societies? In a new paper in WIREs Climate Change, Charpentier Ljungqvist et al discuss human history and past climate variability and change in medieval and early modern Europe in the time period from AD 700–1815. The paper is based on an extensive review of 165 studies published between 2000 and 2019 and from various disciplines. The review suggests geographical biases, and a disproportional attention to extremely cold periods, and periods of crises. Furthermore, it is concluded disciplinary approaches have limitations that can be successfully overcome through interdisciplinary collaborations and needs to be expanded.

Read the full paper here

Illustration from the paper