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Local and Global Environmental Histories of Production and Trade

Fri, April 1, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Westin Seattle Hotel, Cascade 1C

Session Submission Type: Panel


Over the course of the nineteenth century, the world’s economies became increasingly integrated. Global networks of trade and finance connected distant corners of the planet just as thoroughly as local networks of exchange connected adjacent communities. In many cases, the processes of globalization and industrialization created a logic in which it made more sense to source raw materials for production from distant landscapes than it did to source them from the local environment. The economic growth of places in Europe and North America were therefore intimately tied to the exploitation of an extraordinary number of resources from almost every corner of the world. As Kenneth Pomeranz has pointed out, the development of industrial capital relied on the extraction of resource wealth from ghost acres.
And yet the sites of resource extraction on the one hand, and manufacturing on the other, took place in specific places with distinct consequences for local ecologies and societies. As the scale of industrial capital expanded, so too did the footprint of global integrated commodity flows. Expansive and intensive resource extraction exhausted the natural capital of the global periphery, while the massive scale of industrial production created enormous quantities of point source pollution in the centre.
This panel seeks to draw attention to the process of global economic integration during the nineteenth century, and to situate that development within its ecological consequences for both the sites of resource extraction and industrial production.

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