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Part II | HAP - Environmental History > Concepts > Flashcards

Flashcards in Concepts Deck (21):


What is the Paleotechnic, who coined the term?

  • Lewis Mumford
  • Paleotechnic depended on coal and iron; it represented an ‘upthrust from barbarism’ that was hardly progress at all. 


What is the Neotechnic, who coined the term?

  • Lewis Mumford
  • Electricity was the Neotechnic. Electricity would restore the workers to the countryside.


What is Vitalism, why is it important?

The early idea of a vital nature was also seen to have female characteristics, of a mother Earth, that were valued.


What is Peak Oil, who coined the term, and what were its implications?

Coined by M.K. Hubbert, head of USGS

Bell curve of oil supply, suggesting that past a point, where production was at its highest and cost lowest, a decent was bound to follow. Implications - hydrocarbon dependency could not last.


What is Oeconomy, what impact did it have?

Term ‘oeconomy’ entered circulation in 1700s, but not in terms of economics, but in the context of natural history and physiology 

Jean Francois Melon’s Essai politique sur le commerce (1734) - “a better oeconomy produceth more Men, and a greater plenty of all the Products of the Earth”.


The oeconomy of nature was conceived as one that was completely full of life. At creation, and, of course, immediately after the Flood, there were only pairs of creatures. But it did not take long, given the geometric rate of reproductlon, for species to spread throughout the globe.


What are Cybernetics, what impact did they have?

Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to control theory and Systems Theory. Both in its origins and in its evolution in the second-half of the 20th century, cybernetics is equally applicable to physical and social (that is, language-based) systems. Cybernetics is preeminent when the system under scrutiny is involved in a closed signal loop 


What is the Solow Residual, why is it important?

In 1956 Solow identified the chief reason for economic growth as being what came to be called the “Solow residual”, the gap between the sum of labour and capital inputs, and the value of output: this accounting “residual” was assumed to be the quantified impact of technological advance.


What is the Hotelling thesis? Why is it relevant?

Hotelling Rent - published in 1931, not really major until 1960s/70s. We can imagine a non-renewable resource (oil reserve) as being like a capital asset. All the units of this assets can be valued at Current market price - current marginal cost of extraction (after initial extraction, this is basically zero). This asset price is the rent of the resource. If you keep the asset in the ground, its marginal productivity is 0. So if the asset price is more than 0, its better to sell it all now and get a standard rate of return investing the money elsewhere. This incentivises extraction as fast as possible.

Hotelling suggests that you look at the price of the good and the interest rate (if you sold 100% of the asset and invested in stocks - then look at asset price over time) Price rises over time If the asset price is rising by less than the rate of interest, you’d still be better off selling and investing… if by more you are squandering future earnings by selling now. Cut back on production 


Who coined Soul 2.0? Why is it important?

A secularised form of soul - based on the Christian idea that humans are somehow distinct from nature from a divine creative spark.


What is the cryosphere, why is it relevant?

  • Describes the frozen world. 
  • Other spheres include:
    • Geosphere
    • Atmosphere
    • Hydrosphere
    • Stratosphere
    • Asthenosphere


Who coined the term 'ecosystem', what impact did it have on thought about the environment?

Coined by Arthur Tansley

Interrelationship should be understood as systems - especially the ecosystem - 1935

Applied the notion that vast interconnected circuits in nature existed, through which energy flowed- based on Freud’s notion of the mind as an electrical engine.


What are Epigenetics, why are they relevant?

The idea that genetic behaviour can change in realtime without impacting the DNA. This suggests that biology reacts to the environment in realtime.


What is the Tragedy of the commons? Who coined the term, what are the flaws in the model?

Garrett Hardin, 1958. Suggests that, when goods are publicly available, everyone seeks to maximise their return; through more efficient methods of competing. No one has incentive to maintain stocks, for they have no guarantee that others will not reap the benefits. 


Who coined the term sustainability? Give a brief timeline of how the term was employed over time (v. brief!)

- Mencius, arguably (300 B.C.)

In modern terms... -> Carlowitz, 1712 - Slyvicultura, in which he calls for 'continuirliche, bestandinge und nachhaltende nutzung' 


Holism - who coined it, why is it relevant?

Coined by Jan Smuts, referring to the whole. Brought botanical ecological and political economies together - bringing together into holism. 1925 - described in Holism and Evolution - holistic thinking - 1930s - established the botanical survey in the 1920s in s.Africa. If the virtuous Teutonic race was brought together in Africa, the best possible race would emerge


Gaia - What is it, why is it relevant?

Lovelock had worked as a missile expert during the Cold War and was thus deeply familiar with cybernetic feedback thinking in precisely the style laid down by Wiener, who had clarified his ideas while working on anti-aircraft fire in the 1940s, or Jay Forrester, the patron of the World3 model, whose wartime work also focused on missiles. Lovelock subsequently worked for NASA, researching the possibilities for life and habitation on Mars, encountering the challenge of thinking about a whole planet in a connected way.

1970s with the assistance of biologist Lynn Margulis (who published The Symbiotic Earth), Lovelock published several articles arguing for a view of the Earth as a

self-correcting, homeostatic system binding organic life and the inorganic elements which he named Gaia, the name derived from the Greek Earth goddess


The Jevon Paradox - What is it, why is it relevant?

• Jevons noted that the efficiency of coal use was likely to change with new technology, but in turn, these savings would actually stimulate future economic growth and thus not actually reduce consumption

Bluntly, if you make something more efficient you are likely to both use it more and invest the savings in something else, so it’s not clear that efficiency will lead to any less resources being consumed: and idea called the “Jevons paradox.”


Ecology - when was it coined, what impact did it have?

  • Aesthetics of nature, as well as science - Ernst Haeckel - coined the term ‘ecology’ in 1866
  • Not taken up in English until 1890s, and only in a limited sense
  • See the emergence of discussion of nature as a community
  • Communities of plants, communities of animals 
  • There was little interconnectivity in this study in the 19th c, but notions of broader environments did emerge - lakes, forests, hedgerows etc.Most influential figure in this regard - Stephen Forbes - avid reader of political economy 
  • Quotes show how political economy and expectations of society flowed into natural history - analogous to market economy or community


What are all the different types of '-cene' which could replace the Holocene?

- Thermocence (energy)

- Thanatocene (war)

- Phagocene (Consumption)

- Agnotocene (social construction of ignorance)

- Capitalocene (capital)

- Polemocene (resistance)

- Carbocene (age of hydrocarbon - LeCain)


Possibilism - what is it, why is it important?

Paul Vidal - idea that nature does not dictate but does set the limits   and offers a finite number of possibilities  - interested in not just what env did to humans but what they did to it – most famous work Principles  of Human Geography (1921).


What is the terrestial bias?

A focus on the lithosphere and atmosphere at the expense of the hydrosphere.