In this lecture McNeill explores the subject of his next book, the ecological implications of industrialization in the nineteenth century round the world. While not entirely neglecting local pollution effects in industrializing regions, he focuses instead on zones of raw material production including fibers such as cotton and wool; ores such as lead and copper; and lubricants such as whale oil and palm oil. These and many other ingredients of industrialization (as McNeill calls them) were produced in ever larger quantities, often oceans away from industrial zones, in order to supply industrial commodity production. He offers the concept of ‘ecological teleconnections’ to refer to the relationships by which industrial production in pockets of Britain, Europe, eastern North America, and eventually Russia and Japan resulted in environmental tumult in pockets of South America, Africa, Oceania, and elsewhere.
J.R. McNeill is currently University Professor at Georgetown University, where he has taught world history, environmental history, and international history since 1985. He previously held the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environmental and International Affairs at Georgetown. Excellent and caring teachers at Swarthmore College and Duke University helped him earn a BA and PhD in history. He has held two Fulbright awards; fellowships from Guggenheim, MacArthur, and the Woodrow Wilson Center; and visiting positions at the universities of Oslo, Canterbury, and Otago, as well as the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2010 was awarded the Toynbee Prize for “academic and public contributions to humanity.” His books explore global, Caribbean, and Mediterranean environmental history and have been translated into 13 languages. He served as president of the American Society for Environmental History (2011–13), AHA vice president for the Research Division (2012–15), and president of the AHA (2019). In 2012 he joined the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Union of the Geological Sciences, an interdisciplinary body charged with researching whether or not geologists should recognize the Anthropocene as a new epoch or era in the history of the Earth.
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