Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism

Author(s): Jacob Darwin Hamblin

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Famines. Diseases. Natural catastrophes. In 1945, scientists imagined these as the future faces of war. The United States and its allies prepared for a global struggle against the Soviet Union by using science to extend "total war" ideas to the natural environment. Biological and radiological weapons, crop destruction, massive fires, artificial earthquakes and tsunamis, ocean current manipulation, sea level tinkering, weather control, and even climate change-all these became avenues of research at the height of the Cold War. By the 1960s, a new phrase had emerged: environmental warfare. The same science-in fact, many of the same people-also led the way in understanding the earth's vulnerability during the environmental crisis of the 1970s. The first reports on human-induced climate change came from scientists who had advised NATO about how to protect the western allies from Soviet attack. Leading ecologists at Oxford also had helped Britain wage a war against crops in Malaya-and the Americans followed suit in Vietnam.
The first predictions of environmental doomsday in the early 1970s came from the intellectual pioneers of global conflict resolution, and some had designed America's missile defense systems. President Nixon's advisors on environmental quality had learned how to think globally by imagining Mother Nature as an armed combatant. Knowledge of environmental threats followed from military preparations throughout the Cold War, from nuclear winter to the AIDS epidemic. How much of our catastrophic thinking about today's environmental crises do we owe to the plans for World War Three?


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"With this book Jacob Hamblin makes a major contribution to our understanding of the decisive role of military priorities and military funding in the shaping of a wide range of environmental sciences. As a contribution to the historiography of science as conditioned by its political, ideological, social, and financial contexts, Arming Mother Nature shows how the ideologies and international institutions of the Cold War shaped the rise of fundamental environmental sciences.... A carefully crafted, powerfully articulated study of one of the most important dimensions of today's environmental policy debate.... The book is a weighty example of the importance of environmental history research in relation to the public realm." --Richard P. Tucker, Environmental History"[A] fascinating and often disturbing history" --American Scientist"In Arming Mother Nature, Jacob Hamblin offers a far-reaching and provocative account of just how dependent narratives of global climate change are upon the military support, apocalyptic scenarios, and political ideology that shaped the growth of the modern environmental sciences during the Cold War." --Science Magazine"[T]hought-provoking" --New Scientist"This book advances the intriguing idea that 'catastrophic environmentalism' is not standard rhetoric warning the public about climate change and extinction of species, but a strategy developed by the Pentagon to fight the Cold War. Recommended." --CHOICE"A well-written and -documented challenge of some of the assumptions on both sides in the debate about global warming." --Kirkus Reviews"Jacob Hamblin's new book is a clearly and calmly told tale of the American effort to conscript nature -from the seafloor to the stratosphere -for potential active duty during the Cold War. Well researched in U.S. and European archives, it finds the roots of modern apocalyptic environmentalism in the hair-raising deeds and often hare-brained schemes of an American scientific-military complex under pressure to find ways to prevail against the USSR. It sheds new light on the old adage that is a miracle anyone survived the Cold War." --J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University

Associate Professor of History, Oregon State University. Author of Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (Rutgers University Press, 2008), Oceanographers and the Cold War: Disciples of Marine Science (University of Washington Press, 2005), and Science in the Early Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia, 1900-1950 (ABC-CLIO, 2005).

Acknowledgments ; Introduction: Total War and Catastrophic Environmentalism ; Part I Pathways of Nature ; Ch. 1 War as a Clash of Civilizations ; Ch. 2 Bacteria, Radiation, and Crop Destruction in War Plans ; Ch. 3 Ecological Invasions and Convulsions ; Part II Forces of Nature ; Ch. 4 Earth Under Surveillance ; Ch. 5 Acts of God and Acts of Man ; Ch. 6 Wildcat Ideas for Environmental Warfare ; Part III Gatekeepers of Nature ; Ch. 7 The Doomsday Men ; Ch. 8 Vietnam and the Seeds of Destruction ; Ch. 9 The Terroristic Science of Environmental Modification ; Ch. 10 Adjustment or Extinction ; Conclusion The Miracle of Survival ; Notes ; Index

General Fields

  • : 9780199740055
  • : Oxford University Press Inc
  • : Oxford University Press Inc
  • : June 2013
  • : 239mm X 162mm X 27mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Jacob Darwin Hamblin
  • : Hardback
  • : 363.7009045
  • : 320
  • : 20 halftones