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Environment and History

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Environment and History

The Concept of Climate Improvement: Colonialism and Environment in German South West Africa

Harri Olavi Siiskonen

Environment and History 21 (2015): 281-302. doi: 10.3197/096734015X14267043141507

The desiccation theories formulated in the eighteenth century pointed out the connection between deforestation, rainfall reduction and climate change. After the ‘Scramble for Africa’ the conservation philosophy of the European colonial powers was based on anti-desiccation forest policy. This article seeks to consider how the concepts of ‘desiccationism’ were taken into account by the German colonists in forest and land management of their new colony: South West Africa. The conservation policy carried out by the German colonial administration was very controversial because they were interested only in areas suitable for European settlement. The early twentieth century idea of improving the climate of South West Africa by greening the Central Highland and the Namib Desert was an excellent indication of a firm belief in science. The other side of the coin was that no environmental responsibility was taken for the African reserves.

KEYWORDS: Desiccation, conservation, forest management, environment, South West Africa, Namibia

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