May 02, 2018 | 11:00—12:00
What can environmental history bring to debates about sustainability? The sustainability debate needs to acknowledge the mortgage we have already put on the future by producing Plutonium, by the underground labyrinths of abandoned mines and soils drenched with POPs (including Dioxin in Vietnam). Risky and long-lived products are a defining feature of the Anthropocene, as are world-wide degradation of land and ocean ecosystems which will not easily heal anytime soon. Regulated rivers and hydropower plants cannot be left alone, constant investments are necessary. If the care of legacies is not included into plans for the future, these plans are likely to fail.
By looking into the past to identify and assess hazardous legacies, we can gain a better understanding of the challenges ahead. Examples range from mine-filling and some of the most pertinent nuclear facilities to soil degradation and river course changes. The environmental humanities look at society as a source of these legacies and ask how and why such legacies aroseto offer reflection and potential alleviation of such legacies.