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Arming Mother Nature: Environmental Crisis and Human Vulnerability, Jacob Darwin Hamblin

How did we come to see the earth, and ourselves, as vulnerable? My presentation addresses this question by highlighting some themes from my recent book Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism.  The book itself challenges us to consider how much our views of global environmental change come from collaboration between scientists and the military as they planned to fight, and to survive, a third world war. It shows how early plans for biological and radiological weapons helped to normalize work on crop destruction, weather control, climate alteration, and ecosystem disruption. It reveals how imagining a war of this kind stimulated enormous amounts of work on the possibilities of anthropogenic change, and the vulnerability of humans to environmental catastrophes. The book establishes an alternative view of the rise of environmental thought by connecting it explicitly to the collaboration between scientists and the military.  As I wrote in a New York Times op-Ed called “Ecology Lessons from the Cold War,” several of the indispensable aspects of environmental thought—such as biodiversity—were perceived in the 1950s as strategies of surviving a global world war.

As part of my presentation, I will discuss some of the reactions to my argument by scientists, activists, and scholars, as a way of exploring the opportunities and pitfalls within the environmental humanities.

Location: Dickinson Hall, Room 211

Date/Time: 04/17/14 at 4:30 pm - 04/17/14 at 6:00 pm

Jacob Darwin Hamblin's biography

Jacob Darwin Hamblin is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, at Oregon State University.  His commentaries and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and many academic publications.  His books include Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism (Oxford, 2013), Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (Rutgers, 2008), and Oceanographers and the Cold War (Washington, 2005).

Although his talk at Princeton will focus on the issues raised in Arming Mother Nature, he welcomes discussion and new contacts about his previous and current work.  He is developing a new project that explores how a host of environmental problems—population pressures, energy shortfalls, potable water access, over-use of pesticides, and carbon emissions—became vehicles upon which nuclear power advocates created, often de novo, the infrastructure of the world’s nuclear programs.

Category: Sponsored & Affiliated Events

Department: Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI)