392 pages, 16 b/w illustrations, 4 b/w maps, tables
For centuries, bird guano has played a pivotal role in the agricultural and economic development of Latin America, East Asia and Oceania. As their populations ballooned during the Industrial Revolution, North American and European powers came to depend on this unique resource as well, helping them meet their ever-increasing farming needs. Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World explores how the production and commodification of guano has shaped the modern Pacific Basin and the world's relationship to the region. Marrying traditional methods of historical analysis with a broad interdisciplinary approach, Gregory T. Cushman casts this once little-known commodity as an engine of Western industrialization, offering new insight into uniquely modern developments such as environmental consciousness and conservation movements; the ascendance of science, technology and expertise; international relations; and world war.
"This thoroughly researched book is unique and ambitious in its temporal scope and interpretation. The little-known story of guano – the fertilizer based on seabirds' excrement that has marked much of Peruvian history – and the fascinating seabirds that produced it, acquire new meanings, new actors, and a global dimension; illuminating the intersection of nature, politics, and science from a contemporary perspective."
- Marcos Cueto, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos
"Cushman's Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World tells the fascinating story of guano and the making of the modern world in a narrative that weaves together the geography and biology of the Pacific; political, economic, and agricultural history; and ecology, moving skilfully from the international politics of development and the technocratic ideal to the people who helped change our ideas and our understanding. A model of environmental history, it makes connections on every level and offers unexpected insights that will enrich any reader's understanding."
- Thomas R. Dunlap, Texas A&M University
"Cushman demonstrates that guano, through its multitude of interconnections with nitrogen, phosphate, explosives, agriculture, and politics, provides an unexpected prism through which to view and understand human history, especially in the last two hundred years."
- Don Garden, University of Melbourne
"Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World is a bold and original contribution to global environmental history. Cushman shows compellingly how an unlikely commodity – guano – helped create the modern Pacific world and usher in the Anthropocene. This is global history from the ground up, moving from the lives of specific individuals up to the sweeping panorama of global environmental change and the Pacific world. Cushman shows the vital role of this 'peripheral' world of these Pacific guano islands in shaping global landscapes, global economies, and even global ecological thought. The story of guano in the modern era is, as [he] capably shows, ultimately the story of how modern societies have pursued the elusive goals of ecological and economic sustainability."
- Stuart McCook, University of Guelph, Canada
List of illustrations
Abbreviations and acronyms
2. The guano age
3. Neo-ecological imperialism
4. Where is Banaba?
5. Conservation and the technocratic ideal
6. The most valuable birds in the world
7. When the Japanese came to dinner
8. The road to survival
9. Guano and the Blue Revolution
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Gregory T. Cushman is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Kansas, where he teaches courses on international environmental history. He works closely with environmental scientists in interdisciplinary research and teaching and has published a number of articles on climate history and the history of climate science. He was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2007.