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Environmental Diplomacy during the Cold War

Sat, April 2, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Westin Seattle Hotel, Vashon

Session Submission Type: Panel


This year's meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations featured an unprecedented focus on the environment, complete with a plenary session on the environment in foreign policy featuring Kate Brown, Paul Sutter, and Jacob Hamblin. Our panel builds on that conference, as well as past panels at ASEH meetings, to further blend the fields of environmental and diplomatic history. Still, environmental historians have an opportunity to shape how people understand and study environmental diplomacy because our colleagues in diplomatic history have been slow to take on the challenge. Given the rising importance of contemporary international environmental problems, we should seize the opportunity.
Chronologically our four papers cover from the early 1950s to the late 1970s, but more important is their geographical scope, from the Indian Ocean to the Canadian borderlands to East Berlin to Moscow. MacFarlane’s paper takes on the challenge of defining environmental diplomacy through the lens of US-Canadian relations; Reyes’ paper furthers our understanding of the role of oceanography in the ideological struggle at the heart of the Cold War; Kirchhof’s paper blazes a new path by showing how East Germany used environmental issues to achieve its goal of equal treatment on the world stage; and Dorsey’s paper takes a traditional topic from diplomatic history, the 1972 Moscow Summit, and examines the environmental assumptions and consequences of one of its major agreements.
With Jacob Hamblin chairing and David Kinkela commenting, we have renowned scholars to frame the assembled papers and lead the discussion. Our presenters include two international scholars (Kirchhof from Germany and MacFarlane from Canada), as well as a graduate student (Reyes) and junior (Kirchhof and Macfarlane) and senior faculty (Dorsey). Together, the six panel members bring a diversity of experience and insights to this important topic.

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