Drift 13, Rm. 004 Organized Session Aspects of Scientific Practice/Organization
24 Jul 2019 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) Switch to local time
20190724T1600 20190724T1800 Europe/Amsterdam Managing Environments from a Distance: Transnational Science and Policy during the Great Acceleration

Environmental historians increasingly refer to the postwar epoch as the 'the Great Acceleration', a period characterized by a significant increase in human impacts on ecosystems across the globe. Meanwhile historians of science dedicate growing attention to attempts to monitor and manage these human impacts, especially across borders, in this same period. This session explores one important facet of these transnational initiatives: the tension between, on the one hand, universalizing conceptualizations of the global environment and the centralized institutions that attempted to realize these, and, on the other, the lived experiences and practical concerns of diverse local actors. Taking inspiration from the spatial turn, the session studies how global conservation schemes were translated into projects on the ground. The papers look into various instances of transnational, science-based conservation between the 1950s and the 1980s, including wildlife protection, water management, ocean conservation and the maintenance of crop diversity. Raf De Bont explores different types of 'ideal landscapes' promoted under the flag of ecosystem science by the International Union for the Protection of Nature. Etienne Benson studies controversies over data standardization that took place in the context of the International Hydrological Decade. Lino Camprubí looks into the local and international work necessary to make the ocean into an object of conservation. Finally, Helen Anne Curry examines the political geographies and technical realities of international crop genebanks. Overall, the papers show how in different institutional contexts the project of global environmental management was modified to accommodate particular local policies and ecologies.

Organ ...

Drift 13, Rm. 004 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

Environmental historians increasingly refer to the postwar epoch as the 'the Great Acceleration', a period characterized by a significant increase in human impacts on ecosystems across the globe. Meanwhile historians of science dedicate growing attention to attempts to monitor and manage these human impacts, especially across borders, in this same period. This session explores one important facet of these transnational initiatives: the tension between, on the one hand, universalizing conceptualizations of the global environment and the centralized institutions that attempted to realize these, and, on the other, the lived experiences and practical concerns of diverse local actors. Taking inspiration from the spatial turn, the session studies how global conservation schemes were translated into projects on the ground. The papers look into various instances of transnational, science-based conservation between the 1950s and the 1980s, including wildlife protection, water management, ocean conservation and the maintenance of crop diversity. Raf De Bont explores different types of 'ideal landscapes' promoted under the flag of ecosystem science by the International Union for the Protection of Nature. Etienne Benson studies controversies over data standardization that took place in the context of the International Hydrological Decade. Lino Camprubí looks into the local and international work necessary to make the ocean into an object of conservation. Finally, Helen Anne Curry examines the political geographies and technical realities of international crop genebanks. Overall, the papers show how in different institutional contexts the project of global environmental management was modified to accommodate particular local policies and ecologies.

Organized by Raf De Bont

Regional Universals: The Ecologies of the International Union for the Protection of Nature, 1950-1960View Abstract
Organized Session 04:00 PM - 04:30 PM2019/07/24 14:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC
After World War II, the global conservation community went through a period of institutional restructuring – which culminated in the foundation of the International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN, later IUCN) in 1948. From the start, ecology served as the lead science of the new organization. Several prominent voices within IUPN believed that ecology’s universal laws would give coherence to the Union’s program. Yet, when in the 1950s IUPN members finally got new conservation projects off the ground, it quickly turned out that ecology could inspire very different approaches. In the Middle East, the Union’s ecologists became involved in highly interventionist and utilitarian programs that ultimately aimed to ‘make the desert bloom’. In Western Europe, then, IUPN members focused on the protection of historical landscapes such as heath and moorland – which they conceptualized as a valuable form of ‘half-nature’. And in sub-Saharan Africa, finally, ecology-led conservation aspired to maintain a ‘pristine’ wilderness that was seemingly devoid of human influence. In this paper, I will explore the ambiguities of IUPN’s ‘global mission’ of the 1950s, and explain why – despite a universalizing rhetoric – its ecological program would give rise to such divergent regional approaches.
Presenters
RD
Raf De Bont
Maastricht University
The Data of Development: North-South Tensions in the International Hydrological Decade, 1965-1974View Abstract
Organized Session 04:30 PM - 05:00 PM2019/07/24 14:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC
The International Hydrological Decade (1965-1974) was a UNESCO-led program of research and training in the water sciences that laid the foundation for the International Hydrological Programme, which is still active today. Inspired by the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) and other Cold War-era projects of scientific internationalism, the IHD was initially launched with the aim of modernizing hydrology in a way that would solve urgent global problems. One of its leaders, the U.S. hydrologist Raymond L. Nace, justified the IHD in the following terms: “Studies on continental, hemispheric, and global scales are necessary to cope with the future problems of water supply in a world that seems destined to be overpopulated, defaced, and polluted.” With these anxieties in mind, Nace and the other architects of the IHD sought to standardize international water data collection in ways that would serve both basic science and applied needs and would appeal to hydrologists in both developed and developing nations. At the IHD’s Mid-Decade Conference in 1969, however, it became apparent that developing-nation hydrologists were deeply unsatisfied with the IHD’s implementation of these aims. They were particularly vocal in their criticism of efforts to standardize water data in ways that served developed-world hydrologists but disregarded the practical water needs of developing countries. This paper examines data collection, storage, and sharing in the IHD as sites for the negotiation of an alternate view of scientific internationalism that focused less on establishing universal standards and creating centralized databases than on ensuring equitable access to expertise and resources.
Presenters
EB
Etienne Benson
University Of Pennsylvania
From Green to Blue: Ocean Conservation and Earth System SciencesView Abstract
Organized Session 05:00 PM - 05:30 PM2019/07/24 15:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC
Environmental activists and environmental historians were not particularly concerned with the oceans until recent times. While transformation (and degradation) in land was clearly visible, it seemed that the ocean well could take all kinds of poison without great distress. While there was a long tradition of conservation for fisheries and marine mammals that attracted the attention of organizations like Greenpeace in the 1970s, the ecosystems approach to conservation like that developed by Max Nicholson at the International Union for the Protection of Nature and the International Biology Program largely took the world ocean for granted. The Apollo pictures of the earth from above that accompanied the rise of global conservation efforts depicted a Blue Marble, and yet environmentalism remained green. This paper documents the move from Green to Blue in two separate but interconnected realms: the local and the global. The first is provided by the efforts for understanding and halting marine degradation in the Mediterranean through the 1975 Mediterranean Action Plan (and part of the United Nations Environmental Programme). The second is illustrated by the rise of Earth System Sciences in the 1980s (with Lovelock’s Gaia and the NASA) and the increasing importance granted to the world ocean, for instance as a climate regulator. Simultaneously, oceanographers were now looking at ocean circulation as subject to cycles and sudden changes. The conveyor belt, a new theoretical entity, needed not only to be described but also monitored. Although oceanography, geochemistry and atmospheric sciences were key in this shift to blue, looking at their different approaches and scales sheds light on processes of integration and disintegration in global conservation.
Presenters
Managing Mexican Crop Diversity from RomeView Abstract
Organized Session 05:30 PM - 06:00 PM2019/07/24 15:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 16:00:00 UTC
In 1983, member states of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) adopted the non-binding International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources. Although ostensibly motivated by concern over "genetic erosion"—that is, the loss of genetic diversity in crop plants as a result of agricultural industrialization and environmental degradation—the 1983 Undertaking is better understood as the product of a North-South conflict over ownership of and access to seeds. Many scholars have discussed the Undertaking, aptly attending to its place within the histories of ideas about intellectual property in and national sovereignty over so-called genetic resources. Here I return focus to the place of the Undertaking within the longer history of efforts to conserve crop diversity. Placing the often-neglected practical aspects of managing collections at the forefront, I explore the implications of the recourse to international agreement as a measure to conserve genetic diversity in crops on actual conservation practices. While Mexican delegates to the FAO led the protracted battle of the 1980s to set up an "international genebank" headquartered in Rome, Mexican scientists in charge of the country's most significant crop collections labored with limited resources to keep these alive and usable in Mexico. In this realm, the same North-South exchanges deplored by Mexican delegates to the FAO often provided the only means for ensuring the continuity of collections and their availability to Mexican scientists. High-level consultations in Rome therefore necessitated new forms of cross-border negotiation and collaboration among scientists.
Presenters
HC
Helen Anne Curry
University Of Cambridge
Maastricht University
University of Pennsylvania
Lino Camprubi
University of Cambridge
Yale University
Seoul National University (SNU)
Southern Adventist University
University of Glasgow
Dr. Xan Chacko
The University of Queensland