‘Think globally act locally’ is a phrase that underscores the values of environmentalism, a topic that is becoming increasingly familiar in news coverage of current affairs. With warnings of deforestation, environmental threats, contamination and issues concerning nuclear energy, many people are attempting to gain a better understanding of environmentalism and the impact it has on lives across the globe.
Marco Armiero and Lise Sedrez unravel the historical complexity of this topic in their recent publication – A History of Environmentalism: Local Struggles, Global Histories. Unlike any book that has been published before, the editors have chosen to selectively highlight a series of narratives that explicate the evolution of environmental movements, cultures and histories. The lives and struggles of communities within areas such as the Amazonian forest or the antelope in Tibet are explored to provide a rich and varied insight into this issue, and the relationship between individual experiences and the wider global impact. Analysis is not solely limited to geographical or historical evaluation, but an investigation into the shifting cultural and social perceptions of the history and politics of ecology.
Since A History of Environmentalism is unique in its ambitions, much excitement has been generated ahead of its publication. At the summer book launch in Portugal the editors and contributors were met with high praise, making the entire evening a big success. Jan Carruthers, Professor Emeritus and environmental historian at the University of South Africa said during her speech at the event: ‘I couldn’t put it down. The perspectives are excitingly innovative, the views are presented through unfamiliar perspectives and there is a wide variety of issues and of geographies. The interaction and interplay between global levels of activism and government, nations and society are interestingly revealed. The editors and authors have adopted a transnational approach and focus, even though chapters are local studies. The simple narratives are made complex – as good histories should – and the stereotypes of victim are deftly unpacked.’
Describing the book as free from ‘arcane jargon,’ she was supported by Gregg Mitman, who is president of the American Society of Environmental History and the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an expert in the field, Mitman suggested: ‘You should buy the book for the introduction alone. In it, Marco and Lise offer a succinct, compelling, and beautifully written overview of not THE environmental movement, as early scholarship in environmental history was so prone to invoke, but the diverse and plural environmental movements that have shaped thought and action across the globe.’
With contributions from some of the most highly reputable authors in the field of environmentalism, the book is a versatile read and key book for scholars, students and the general reader alike. A History of Environmentalism simply goes beyond the title, it explores the diverse history of a topic that is still being carefully researched by scholars.