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Environment and History

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Environment and History

On the Contribution of Environmental History to Current Debate and Policy

Stephen R. Dovers

Environment and History 6(2000): 131-150

This article proposes a strong role for environmental history in informing current policy and debate in the policy field of sustainability (or, sustainable development). The policy agenda of sustainability is noted, and the unique attributes of these policy problems identified. A three part 'typology of relevance' is proposed, comprising general historical perspectives, ecological and human baselines, and direct policy and institutional lessons. The idea of more immediate lessons is discussed further, with some indicative examples drawn from Australia. Environmental history is argued to have potential as an antidote to policy amnesia and ad hocery. Furthermore, if environmental history is to prosper, then environmental historians must construct explicit connections with pressing current issues.


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