The environmental histories of the Arctic and Antarctica are characterised by contrast and contradiction. These are places that have witnessed some of the worst environmental degradation in recent history. But they are also the locations of some of the most farsighted measures of environmental protection. They are places where people have sought to conquer nature through exploration and economic development, but in many ways they remain wild and untamed. They are the coldest places on Earth, yet have come to occupy an important role in the science and politics of global warming.
Despite being located at opposite ends of the planet and being significantly different in many ways, Adrian Howkins argues that the environmental histories of the Arctic and Antarctica share much in common and have often been closely connected. The Polar Regions also argues that the Polar Regions are strongly linked to the rest of the world, both through physical processes and through intellectual and political themes. As places of inherent contradiction, the Polar Regions have much to contribute to the way we think about environmental history and the environment more generally.
Introduction: Lands of Darkness and Light
1. Myth and History: The Polar Regions up to 1800
2. Scarcity and Abundance: Marine Exploitation
3. Nature Conquered, Nature Unconquered: Polar Exploration
4. Dreams and Realities: Economic Development
5. War and Peace: The Cold War
6. Exploitation and Preservation: Environmental Conflict
Conclusion: Geographies of Despair and Hope
"The Arctic and Antarctic are truly poles apart, but they share interesting concerns, which their very contrast helps illuminate. By comparing their environmental histories, Adrian Howkins has brought them together in ways that everyone concerned with our shared Earth can appreciate. A valuable contribution to both polar studies and environmental history."
– Stephen J. Pyne, Arizona State University
"Compelling portraits of the Arctic and Antarctic, past and present. A talented story-teller, Howkins offers a fast-paced journey to the ends of the Earth."
– Ronald E. Doel, Florida State University
"The polar latitudes are among the final frontiers for environmental history. Hawkins' book, as much history of science and exploration as environmental history, takes us on a most engaging tour to both Arctic and Antarctic."
– J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University