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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


"Historicizing Climate Change – Or, what could climate change history be?", 1st October, 2014


There has been a revolution in knowledge about climate change in the past couple of decades. The same is true for our knowledge of the history of climate change. We have had a broad range of books and papers mostly in environmental and science history that have made us understand the chronology and the context of the science that has brought us to our current understanding.

However, given the pervasive nature and complex politics of the issue, wouldn’t it be useful to consider the future historicizing of climate change as an undertaking that would engage wider strands of history and related disciplines? Could climate change history be fruitfully sorted as a dimension of the history of global capitalism? As part of a nowadays much-debated ‘species’ history of mankind (Chakrabarty), or a Big History on the planetary level? Should it be located in a historical discourse which is much more to do with justice, distribution, rights and that engaged postcolonial scholars and social historians?

In this lecture I will address these questions against the background of the intense debates on global equity and sustainability issues spurred in recent years by the concept of Anthropocene -- the current era when human societies impact nature on the planetary level. My ambition is to arrive at identifying some possible ways forward for the necessary undertaking to locate climate change more centrally in our historical understanding of human societies and the human enterprise.

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