Monday, December 3, 2007

Environmental History and South Africa

The Environmental History Podcast interviews science historian Elizabeth Green Musselman about her research in South Africa. The South African environment is exceptional to begin with from an ecological standpoint; it is significantly different and secluded from the rest of subsaharan Africa. Historically South Africa is also unique as it has been the meeting point, early on, from very different cultures. The indigenous population was varied, but also colonials arrived early on and with the a large contingent of Indian people. The result is a long standing exchange.

Awareness of the environment of each culture was different, but while they existed together they also influenced each other. Also the somewhat haughty western scientific approach of nature, learned from the others. Awareness of the effect of inhabitation to the environment also started early on. Green Musselman describes how these interactions worked and on a side note, how apartheid set the peoples apart and interrupted the exchange. From a perspective of the development of science, she finds a very interesting history and a one that offers a somewhat different picture of the history of science than we usually assume.

The podcast is very worthwhile, but the aspiring listener should be warned that the sound quality is not good. Host Jan Oosthoek speaks with Green Musselman over the phone and this results in a heavy distortion of her voice. On a side note: Elizabeth Green Musselman we know from another, her own, podcast: The Missing Link.

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