Monday, December 17, 2007

Apartheid and Environmental History

The Environmental History podcast continues directing its attention to South Africa. In the latest episode Jan Oosthoek speaks with Phia Steyn about the effects of apartheid on environmental issues in South-Africa, also in the post-apartheid era.

There are still lingering problems around infrastructure, that is sewage systems and waste management, but there are also specific issues some remaining today. Apartheid caused South Africa's isolation and allowed a lot of leeway for the industry that brought in some money to continue its production even if it were hurting the environment. In addition, the apartheid regime engaged in the wars in Namibia and Angola, causing the pollution that comes with modern warfare.

From the pre-apartheid era, we see how the racist world view, that later would feed apartheid, already in the 19th century gave rise to environmental problems. During the great rinderpest, it was unthinkable the disease could spread by way of whites' activities. Almost naturally the blacks were accused and faced restrictions.

Eventually Oosthoek asks whether the environment, or more specifically environmental issues influnence history. According to Steyn it is more complicated than that. There is some effect, but in conjunction with other factors.

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