TeacherServe Essays

The American Civil War: An Environmental View

Author: Kirby, Jack Temple

Civil War scholars and environmental historians have not so much debated as ignored each other. Environmental works on the South are few and fewer still directly address the war. A consciously ecological view of the Civil War is actually required, I think, for two compelling reasons. FIRST: the environmental movement itself. Since World War II and especially since 1970 and the first Earth Day, Americans have belonged to a culture steeped in ecological language and politics. Everyone understands that humans are connected creatures, obligated partners in a dynamic natural community. Nature sometimes presents change without human agency, but human action—making civilizations, technology, warfare—has enormous consequences. SECOND: the knowledge of war as an ecological disaster. No one alive at the dawn of the twenty-first century, from the oldest among us to our most immature students, can conceive of war without environmental danger if not disaster.

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Subjects
History / Environment and Nature / Education Studies / American Civil War / Reconstruction Era / Diseases / Agriculture / Environmental History / Forestry /