Not by human hands: five technological tenets for environmental history in the Anthropocene

Environment and History 20 (2014): 479-489

Technologies in the hands of humans have turned humans into a force of nature. Environmental historians have increasingly recognised the value of history of technology to explain many environmental changes. Scholarship at the environment-technology junction, deploying ideas developed with the framework of Science and Technology Studies (STS), has revealed the usefulness of seeing the whole constellation of science, technology, and environment as simultaneously human-made. Based on recent work at the intersection of history of technology and environment, I propose five technological tenets about human interaction with nonhuman living beings that should be adopted as central elements of environmental history. The tenets demand that historians break down conceptual barriers between artefacts and animals: animals and plants are themselves technologies; technologies provide means of controlling other living beings; technologies mediate our knowledge of animals; technologies affect our valuation of other living creatures; and technology is part of the ecosystem.

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