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Environmental History Resources


Found in: science, social studies, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Environmental History Resources (EHR) offers podcasts, video, essays, timelines, guides, bibliographies, and links to other environmental history websites. The website reflects environmental history’s interdisciplinary nature by covering landscape history, forestry and land use, pollution, and ideas and perceptions of nature. Despite its Eurocentric point-of-view, the website will make an excellent supplementary reference for grade 5-12 students and teachers in many subject areas.

A recent presentation at a National Astronomy Meeting in Wales predicted a significant drop in solar activity between 2030 and 2040. This decreased activity, or Maunder Minimum, would resemble solar conditions last seen during the Little Ice Age in Europe and North America. Some in the media equated a prediction of reduced sunspot activity with an impending Little Ice Age. Not everyone agrees. (See: No, Earth Is Not Heading Toward A ‘Mini Ice Age’)

So what was the Little Ice Age? The EHR guide to The Little Ice Age describes the period as 1300-1850, with the coldest period 1645-1715. During the coldest years, the fringes of Europe suffered the most: crops failed, prices climbed, the Baltic Sea froze, and Iceland’s population fell by half. Yet much of Europe flourished. The guide describes the causes and effects. A section on the Maunder Minimum, a period of minimum sunspots and possible reduced solar radiation, suggests that it might be a factor but not the sole cause. It suggests that the North Atlantic Oscillation, or fluctuating atmospheric pressures over Iceland and the Azores, are the leading cause. The guide lists further reading.

A related resource, Podcast 46: Explorations In Historical Climatology, is a discussion of historical climatology and how the Little Ice Age influenced cultural, military and economic histories of the Dutch Republic. The podcast lists relevant websites, further reading, and related podcasts.

Other Guides examine using documentary sources in environmental history, methods and problems in historical climatology, and reconstructing past climates.

An annotated Timeline Of Environmental History shows the interaction between human culture and nature. The timeline is in three parts: Prehistory and Antiquity, Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, and Industrial Revolution and the 20th century.

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