Environmental history in America
materialized as a distinct field only after the wake of modern
environmental movement in early 1970s which fought against capitalist degradation
of ecology. Vast academic resources recognize primary research agenda as study
of past environmental crimes in USA and later resource exhaustion by the
capitalist economy. Secondary schema of research revolves around factors
that have confronted the progress of ecological destruction.
Author identifies diverse ideological
approaches taken by early environmentalists in USA. While
utilitarian forester Gifforth Pinchot emphasized on exploiting the natural
resources more efficiently, preservation oriented naturalist John Muir insisted
on more considerate approach towards nature. Author has acknowledged Donald
Worster’s work Nature’s economy which shows dust strom was a
result of capitalist economy. In Rivers of Empire he has shown how
states policy has degraded the ecological balance in the name of development.
Though through description of environmental history of USA he has beautifully
portrayed two incidences but he only has concluded ‘capitalism’ as an ideology
responsible for environmental degradation without representing the role of others.
Author also identifies similarities
in writing environmental history in USA and India. He concludes that
contemporary environmental movements have influenced the writings
of two countries. These writings state that capitalism of colonial era as
well as policies of post colonial states
are equally responsible for resource depletion and social conflict.
Writer observes that French approach
to writing environmental history is different from Indian and American as it is
not influenced by environmental movement
rather by correlation between History and Geography. The expression longue
duree of Annles tradition explains that economic life must endure within a
natural environment which includes terrain, climate and soil. longue duree
also influences writing of agrarian history of India which also has
included role of soil types, climatic pattern and population densities in
directing agrarian change. Author observes a limitation in their approach as
they have assumed natural environment unchanging. They have completely ignored
the fact that it’s the humans who themselves have altered the environment
according to its utility.
There are also prominent differences
in the ecological tradition of France and USA. Author says that American
ecological tradition was completely influenced by European conquest which
entirely finished the native Americans. Conflicts and change has been an
important elements in the American environmental history. Comparatively France
which was never ruled by a colonial power witnessed continuity as well as
change. Indian environmental history has similarities in both American as well
as French ecological tradition. Though India was colonized by Europeans but
this never actually resulted in genocide of its native people. Industrial
advancement took place but traditional agricultural practices also sustained at
the same time.
The Author emphasizes
that developmental environmental must not be justified in ideological terms but
as major development of academic perspective of history. To prove this he has
divided the society into 4 bands viz. economy, polity, social structure and
culture. He states that an environmental perspective would add a fifth basic
class to this system i.e. ecological infrastructure of human society. He
explains that that few moments in the history can be understood without
taking ecological infrastructure into account but there are many
instances where environmental perspective can’t be missed.
By dividing, elements
of society he tries to make an inter relationship of ecological
infrastructure with each element and shows its importance in human life. With
this model he tries to identify potential areas where studies can be carried
out by Indian environmentalists. India being one of most diverse country itself
provides many young researchers to study history of environment.
Finally throwing light on
the future of the environmental history as a discipline in India, author says
that India has never ending possibilities in this field which is still
untouched by the previous generation . Ecological perspectives also provides a
new perception in understanding the history of mankind. Similarities in
European colonies of past in India and Africa provides another interesting area
of research. He concludes that methodology must be the basis of studying
environmental history rather than moral grounds.