Historical Actors/ Philosophers Flashcards Preview

Part II | HAP - Environmental History > Historical Actors/ Philosophers > Flashcards

Flashcards in Historical Actors/ Philosophers Deck (80):


Early Modern

  • Philosopher, 19th Century. Conceptualised the dialectic, highly influential on Marx.
  • "Hegel saw Epicurus as the inventor of empiric natural science, and the embodiment of the so-called enlightenment spirit within antiquity." - Forster


Carl von Carlowitz

Early Modern

  • Director of Mines in Saxony
  • 1712: Sylvicultura Oeconomica
  • ”continuirliche, beständige und nachhaltende Nutzung” ('continuous, permanent and sustainable utilisation') 



Immanuel Kant

Early Modern

  • Fundamentally altered the landscape of Western philosophy by arguing that the true nature of things could never be comprehended by a merely finite human mind. Things did exist in and of themselves, Kant argued, even if we humans can only imperfectly apprehend them.
  • IMPACT: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason liberated economics from the determinism of a practical philosophy based upon Leibniz and Wolff.
    • ​Kant relocated reason, hitherto to be found in the planful activities of government, in the human person. (Tribe)


Arthur Standish

Early Modern

  • Commissioned by the crown to survey wood supply in Britain. Concluded that there were "too many destroyers" leading to the "general destruction' of the British woods. 
  • 1611 -  Claimed coal can never be the fuel of the future, as coal does not replenish - in the long term, Standish was correct, but he did not realise how much fossil fuels were accessible 


Francis Bacon

Early Modern

  • Accredited with starting the scientific revolution, with new, empirical means of analysis. 
  • Carolyn Merchant argues that Bacon led to the destruction of the vitalism concept - stating it to be OK to 'vex' (torture) nature.


Isaac Newton

Early Modern

  • Newtonian world view - nature governed by external mechanical laws determined by divine providence. (Foster)
  • Newtonian physics had become a mainstay from 1720 onwards in British academic thought. (Schabas)
    • ​Influential over Stephen Hales.



Early Modern

  • “Brute Nature is hideous.... Let us dry up these marshes... let us form them into rivulets, into canals; let us destroy all these rank weeds... By our hands will a second Nature be produced.”
    • ​Following the ethos of Bacon. 18th Century, French.
    • Responded to concerns about wood shortage. 


Rock Church

Early Modern

  • Wood Shortage: Gave quantifiable sense of how much woodland had disappeared over time. Provided means to understand how much destruction was being caused on wood stock.


Juan de Sepulveda

Early Modern

  • Opponent to Francisco de Vitoria, arguing that Amerindians were natural slaves, and thus lacked dominium, for lacking human rationality.


Marquis de Condorcet

Early Modern

  • 1743-1794
  • Dismissed the view that population could outstrip supply of food.
  • “It is equally impossible to pronounce for or against the future realization of an event, which cannot take place, but at an æra, when the human race will have attained improvements, of which we can at present scarcely form a conception."
    • Early Boserupian?


Charles Bonnet

Early Modern

  • 1720-1793, enlightenment nature, in league with Humboldt.
  • “everything in the world’s edifice is systematic. Everything is in connection, in relation, in combination”


John Locke

Early Modern

  • Understood capital as labour invested to transform nature.
  •  This also provides property rights - justification for Western colonisation.
  • “‘I think it will be but a very modest computation to say, that of the products of the earth useful to the life of man, nine tenths are the effects of labour: nay, if we will rightly estimate things as they come to our use, and cast up the several expences about them, what in them is purely owing to nature, and what to labour, we shall find, that in most of them ninety-nine hundredths are wholly to be put on the account of labour.”


John Cotton

Early Modern

“in a vacant soyle, hee that taketh possession of it, and bestoweth culture and husbandry upon it, his Right it is”



Early Modern

Montesquieu - Spirit of the Laws - 1748 - best place for the ideal constitution would be the West of France - Des lois, dans le rapport qu'elles ont avec la nature du climat

Readily ascribed industriousness to the lack of conveniences in northern climates and laziness to the ease of procuring necessities in the southern climates. Even drunkenness obeyed a gradient, increasing as one moved from the respective polar regions toward the equator.


James Hutton

Early Modern

1788 - Theory of the Earth - conceived of earth as machine - lost soil from erosion is made up by the wearing of rocks elsewhere.



Early Modern

‘The husbandman is the only one whose industry produces more than the wages of his labour. He, therefore, is the only source of all wealth’

Wealth from soil.


Francis Quesnay

Early Modern

Physiocrat - producer of the Tableau Economique - conceptualised the economy as a body, with money as blood.

Productive classes - agricultural producers vs. sterile classes - manufacturers. 


Carl Linnaeus

Early Modern

“the epitome of wealth, and, hence, the primary objective of the science of economics, was the domestication of foreign plants such as tea and cinnamon”. At the end of time, humankind would restore the abundance and complete leisure of the Garden of Eden”


Humphrey Davis

Early Modern

Agricultural chemist, found soil exhaustion in situation where cattle manure was not spread on the ground. This stimulated Davis to suggest that labour and ingenuity would overcome the problem of insecure supply in the future - no real concern of general limits. 


John Stuart Mill

Early Modern

Critical in the denaturalisation of the economic order. Mill emphasised the problem of diminishing marginal returns to labour on the land, and devoted far more attention to soil and cultivation than either Smith or Ricardo. Yet he remained optimistic that the availability of land on the frontier and the existence of continued existence of spare cultivable soil in every nation meant limits remained distant.



Early Modern

Cameralist, 1772 - suggested that maintaining the welfare of the agriculturalist was critical to the oeconomy as the circulation of their goods was the staple of all industry.



Early Modern

18th century. Wolffian philosophy adopts a mathematical method for spoken delivery - as mathematics was seen as the foundation for certainty. Key driver of cameralism.



Early Modern

"it was clear commercial acumen could transcend local limits" "the matter is in itself as clear as the sun" - Schroder, 1680s



Early Modern

Advocate of geographical assessment of land to assess fertility and potential. Conception does not have a strict sense of economy - does not extend to general tax authority



Early Modern

Cameralist - two rules of the state:

  • Promote populous livelihood.
  • Promote inward migration of aliens.



Early Modern

Defines Cameralism in terms of the revenues of the state. But he does so at a time when the state (as he understood it) was undergoing a process of expansion and concentration.


John Evelyn

Early Modern

  • Formed the Royal Society - proponent of conservation in England in 17th century. Published Sylva (1664) which compained of prodigious havoc against trees from industry. 



Early Modern

Chemist, identified chemical properties in soil and plants. Liebig noted that political economy remained largely uninterested in the details of tillage, and indeed that Adam Smith’s engagement had been rather incidental. 

Liebig saw soil exhaustion as more profound - stating that future dependency rests on solving the issue of flushing waste into the sea. 


William Petty

Early Modern

Fascinated by quantification, political arithmetic. Believed a large population was integral for a large army and navy. Tried to define how Netherlands could be rich without fertile soil - concluded trade was critical. Long before Malthus, he noticed the potential of human population to increase. But he also saw no reason why such a society should not be prosperous.


Pierre Poivre

Early Modern

  • 1760s. Concerned with soil erosion. Linked the process of deforestation to descication. Moving trees led to deserts. From exposure to Mauritis in 1763. (Pointed out by Richard Grove)
    • ​No evidence to suggest this was influential.


Alexander von Humboldt

Early Modern

18th-19th century.

‘men in every climate prepare at once two calamities for future generations – the want of fuel and the scarcity of water.’ 

Prussian polymath and world traveller, noted and sought to measure “terraforming” caused by human action: processes such as deforestation, desiccation, and local climate change.



Charles Darwin

Early Modern

  • Countered Lamarck's suggestion of transmutation in a lifetime with evolution.
  • He used Malthus to explain natural selection - the competitive mechanism to compete for limited resources to determine whether you will survive.


Herbert Spencer

Early Modern

 Late 19th century. Survival of the fittest, social Darwinism. Uses term 'environment' - suggesting env was an external circumstance acting on the mind.


Richard Cantillon

Early Modern

17th/18th century. Land and labour as the progenitors of wealth. Defined the unit of labour to be the amount the labourer produced in an hour, and the amount of land required to feed the labour - found that labourer's food needs were culturally dependent. 


Adam Smith

Early Modern

Chair of moral philosophy. Saw nature as thought nature was wise, just and benevolent.  the best policy was to dismantle human designs and allow the “natural progress of opulence”. "Did not worry about limits." Labour was the essential source of wealth.

Original value might be in foodstuffs, but the division of labour incentivises improvment in agriculture. 

Desire for food is limited by stomach. Desire for goods is unlimited. People with surplus food will exchange surplus for durables. 


Thomas Malthus

Early Modern

Rate of population growth always outstripped resource growth - Malthus felt this was already in this system - oscillation between subsistence and wealth - cyclical process. NOT about limits, but differential. 

‘No limits whatever are placed to the productions of the earth’

Population checks would begin ‘very far short of what the earth is capable of producing’


Henry Carey

Early Modern Americans

  • mid 19th century. American protectionist. Saw trade as exploitative and commerce as benign. Wanted a closer relationship between producer and consumer. Believed Britain was extracting the wealth of raw goods from America.
  • Carey insisted that progress in technology and social organization (i.e., association) could overcome scarcity. 
  • 'Value . . . is simply our estimate of the resistance to be overcome, before we can enter upon the possession of the thing desired.'


David Thoreau

Early Modern Americans

  • 19th century. Anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism. Conceived of the environment in philospohical, sentimental terms.


Lewis Mumford

Modern Americans

  • creator of paleotechnic and neotechnic models. Believed in the power of Giant Power to liberate the people of America.
  • One of the convenors of the 'Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth' 1953 Conference.


Ralph Waldo Emerson

Early Modern Americans

19th century. Nature educated its students in the “doctrine of Use, namely that a thing is good only so far as it serves’. 

Emerson 'reconciled nature with the busy, manipulative world of American capitalism.'

'Art was nature passed through the alembic of man' 


George Perkins Marsh

Early Modern Americans

  • Influential commentator on soil exhaustion in US.
  • Read a lot about desiccation in Algeria. Book - Man and Nature - bought into stadial theory. Blamed the degradation of the Med on Catholics. 

1864 - George Perkins Marsh - “The vast extension of railroads, of manufactures, and the mechanical arts, of military armaments, and especially of the commercial fleets and navies of Christendom within the present century, has greatly augmented the demand for wood” 


Frederick Jackson Turner 

Early Modern Americans

1893 - American frontier historian - western frontier had provided an environmental safety valve that kept egalitarian enterprise alive, and the closing of the frontier around 1890 warned of social consequences.


Benjamin Franklin

Early Modern Americans

Time is Money. Productivity is raised through the division of labour.


de Vitoria

Mediaeval Europeans

Neo-scholastic fighting the case for Amerindians. Access to natural law through evidential signs of rationality granted them access to humanity, rather than natural slavery. 


Giovanni Botero

Mediaeval Europeans

16th century

Greatness of Cities - focused on urban life and hypothesised that density of living led to poor sanitary conditions + risk of epidemic - scaled it to a global problem.

Botero also hypothesised, if rather vaguely, that the world had reached some kind of population limit, that ‘the world was so full of people... such that the fruits of the earth, from which people must draw their sustenance, cannot feed a greater number’.



Mediaeval Europeans

16th century

Made husbandry political, in that he presented his subject as being of relevance to the fortunes of the polity. 


Jordanes, Isidore of Seville, Paul the Deacon, Cassiodorus

Mediaeval Europeans

Clarence Glacken notes that medieval historians of the northern barbarian peoples, such as Cassiodorus, Paul the Deacon, Isidore of Seville, and Jordanes, tended to give overpopulation and climate as reasons for their invasions of central and southern Europe.


Hugh Platt

Mediaeval Europeans

16th century

Believed in essential salts, which were lost with soil degregation; believed these could be restored to permit unending utilty.  


Bernard of Clairvaux

Mediaeval Europeans

12th century - observed the changing landscape outside the monastery, as a result of monk management. 



Mediaeval Europeans

18th century. Stephen Hales - influenced by Newtonians. Hales spent much time devising models of the motions of the planets, and the circulation of blood. Stephen Hale discovers the hydrological cycle and plant transpiration.




Chinese Philosopher, follower of Confucius  - 4th Century BCE - described deforestation in his homeland, and detailed the relationship between man and nature, as well as providing land management ideas.
    ⁃    Quote: said, “There was a time when trees were luxuriant on Ox Mountain. As it is on the outskirts of a great metropolis, the trees are constantly lopped by axes. Is it any wonder that they are no longer fine?





Islamic Philosopher - references the environmental influence on human history. In ‘Muqaddimah’, Khaldûn attributed characteristics of various human groups to environmental influence. 




 Commenting on how the Persian emperor reacted to the environment. Where a landscape was well cultivated and planted with trees, he rewarded the local governor with honours and expanded territory; but where he found neglected fields and deforestation, he removed the governor from office and appointed a better administrator. 




‘Republic’ and ‘Laws’ - includes advice concerning environmental problems in his ideal states. Observed historical deforestation of the mountains of Attica in the Critias, with archaeological evidence.




 father of medicine - in ‘Airs, Waters, Places’, he maintained that the health, temperament, and energy of people living in a place is governed by its position in relationship to solar exposure, prevailing winds, climate, and the quality of its water supply. (Environmental determinism)




Environmental influences - because Attica, the district around Athens, had soil that was thin, dry, and relatively infertile, he maintained that its unattractiveness to potential invaders saved it from war and consequently preserved it from depopulation. He also noted the need of the warring Greek cities for natural resources - esp. Timber for shipbuilding

When the Spartans conquered Amphipolis, a northern colony of Athens, he says, “[t]he Athenians were greatly alarmed … The main reason was that the city was useful to them for procurement of timber for ship-building.”




Recorded change in natural environment through human agency. Believed massive works like bridges and canals demonstrated an overreaching human pride that might call forth punishment from the Gods. Wrote at time the Cnidians started to dig a canal for city defence. In legend, the oracle of Delphi stated “Do not fence off the isthmus; do not dig. Zeus would have made an island, had he willed it.”

After Cleomenes of Sparta set fire to a sacred grove and burned 5,000 Argive soldiers to death, Herodotus reports that he was driven mad by the thought of divine punishment – for destroying a god's forest as much as for killing the men in a place of refuge – and cut himself to bits.




Ellsworth Huntington 1876-1947 racist explanation of racial characteristics, Climate and Civilization (1915)




 Japanese psychologist and social Darwinist Okaasa Jiro warned that the effects of modern o material “progress” were destroying Japanese society “like termites eating away at a temple.”




“technology is in no sense an instrument of man’s making or in his control” but is rather “centrally determining of all Western history.”




Tanaka Shōzō - humans were often blind to the power of material things. Tanaka warned in his diary, the supposed “progress of material, artificial civilization casts society into darkness.” Humans may create new technologies, but Tanaka suggested they do not fully control them. “Electricity is discovered,” he wrote, “and the world is darkened.


Ellen Churchill Semple


Ellen Church Semple - 1911 - Influences of Geographic Environment - Humans and their cultures could not be understood apart from their immersion in their material environment: Man is a product of the earth’s surface. ‘Man can no more be scientifically studied apart from the ground which he tills, or the lands over which he travels, or the seas over which he trades, than polar bear or desert cactus can be understood apart from its habitat.’ NOTE GENDER, TIME.


Madison Grant


1916 book ‘The Passing of the Great Race, or the Racial Basis of European History’, embraced an unapologetic biological racism. The so-called Nordic peoples, he argued, had evolved in northern environments, where the challenging climate eliminated “defectives” and favoured humans who were “naturally” civilised, noble, and generous. The material environment, Grant suggested, determined material biology, and biology in turn determined culture. By comparison, the darker hued peoples who had evolved in “Alpine” and “Mediterranean” environments were not just culturally inferior – rather, their cultural inferiority stemmed from a deeper genetically determined biological inferiority which could not be rapidly changed.
Hitler admired.


John Muir


Instrumental in conservationism in the US, and founder of the Sierra Club - inspired national parks - famously pictured with Roosevelt above Yellowstone. Preserving wilderness was tied up with American progressivism. 


Jan Smuts



  • Smuts was S. Africa, involved in war cabinets of WWI WWII 
  • Saw races as something that should be kept independent - founded RAF
  • Believed all races would develop to similar level
  • Developed term 'holism', and created Apartheid.


Garret Hardin


“The Tragedy of the Commons” (Hardin 1968) -> Hardin highlighted the natural tendency of private actors to exploit the public/environmental commons to the point where it can no longer support economic activity.


Dudley Stamp


    •    Rise of de facto env history can be traced to the 1930s – convergence of geographers, anthropologists and archaeologists
    •    Typified by Dudley Stamp – oil geologist in Burma, published first work in newly founded Journal of Ecology 1923. 1930 book The vegetation of Burma; from an ecological standpoint 


Paul Ehrlich


1968 - Ehrlich expressed concern that the appetite of a growing population may not be met by a fixed resource base in his book The Population Bomb. 

Julian Simon challenged Ehrlich to pick resources which would decline by end of 1980s - Ehrlich selected copper, tungsten, chromium, nickel, tin - all of which increased. Simon's victory bolstered FMC.




 The Hungry Planet in Swedish in 1953 - relentless in his pursuit of issues such as top soil erosion, waning soil quality and the loss of virgin forest. Borgström was, if possible, even more pessimistic than Vogt and Osborn. He also brought a stronger apocalyptic element to his prose, talking of sin and punishment, of a cosmic doom which would come down on humanity should it not heed the calls of the new environmental experts.


Rachel Carson


Silent Spring, 1962. which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented portion of the American public. Silent Spring spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy-leading to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. Popularised environmentalism.


Barbara Ward


  • Spaceship Earth (1966), for instance, Ward asserted that “our planet is not much more than the capsule within which we have to live as human beings…. We depend upon a little envelope of soil and a rather larger envelope of atmosphere for life itself. And both can be contaminated and destroyed."

  • Only One Earth (1972) - 

    Ward wrote that the “charge of the U.N. to the [Stockholm] Conference was clearly to define what should be done to maintain the earth as a place suitable for human life not only now, but also for future generations”.




 coined the term “Anthropocene” in 2002.


Gro Harlem Brundtland


Our Common Future, 1987.

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”




Early C20 Paul Vidal possibilism 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).


Club of Rome


Limits to Growth, 1972 - Computational models; 


Arthur Tansley


Developed the term ecosystem in 1935.

⁃    Tansley understood ecosystems and their successional processes generally to include anthropogenic change. 
    ⁃    The “ecosystem” was Tansley’s way to ensure key concepts in ecology meant the same thing on both sides of the Atlantic, and therefore for “New Ecology” throughout the world, and its use of that term “system” signalled connections with systems theory.


Ellen Swallow Richards 


Richards became the first American to apply the concept of ecology to her scientific studies of nutrition, chemistry and sanitation. Influential to home economics and the Progressive Era municipal housekeeping reforms.



1895 - Classical ecological text - Plantesamfund - Warming argued that no environmental disturbances would result in a balanced community - the Final Community.


Mencius II

‘If you do not interfere with the busy seasons in the fields, then there will be more grain than the people can eat; if you do not allow nets with too fine a mesh to be used in large ponds, then there will be more fish and turtles than they can eat; if hatchets and axes are permitted in the forests on the hills only in the proper seasons, then there will be more timber than they can use.’


Georg Hartig

“…Every wise forest directorate must therefore have the wooded areas ... assayed, without losing time, and give them the highest priority possible, while seeking to make use of them in such a way that succeeding generations will be able to glean at least as much benefit as those now alive…”