Resources for Future features new and exciting work at the intersection of history and the climate and biodiversity crisis.
This curated shortlist offers starting points to center conversations on, and help reshape our understanding of, nature, environmental challenges, and the climate crisis at large. The H4F team selects content, periodically swaps sources, and rotates categories on this shortlist. Sources with unavoidable restrictions to access (e.g. paywalls) will be accompanied by relevant and more accessible alternatives.
Although we organize the sources on this list with specific topics in mind, these sources often incorporate all of these themes and subjects beyond them.
Interested in learning more? You can look through some of our go-to places for finding historical research and other interesting work here. You can also find previously selected resources and categories on our Archives list.
*Non-rotating (but still updated!) categories
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What does climate justice look like? Where does climate justice intersect and overlap with other struggles for justice? What are the historical roots of climate risk and vulnerability?
What are the connections between racism, capitalism, and the environment? In an article for the Oñati Socio-Legal Series on Climate Justice in the Anthropocene, Dr. Carmen G. Gonzalez views climate change and climate change-induced displacement through the framework of racial capitalism. For more on racial capitalism and climate change, check out Gonzalez’s work in the Journal of Law and Political Economy or the LPE blog
In an opinion piece for the environmental social initiative Do the Green Thing, journalist and activist Minnie Rahman wrote about how it’s important to remember that the effects of the climate crisis do not, and will not, fall equally on everyone. In their exhibition by the same name, Do the Green Thing explored this inequality further by showcasing the work of 24 Black artists and artists of color linking the climate crisis and racism through art and design.
In “Critical Climate Justice” for Geographical Journal, Dr. Farhana Sultana takes a broad international perspective about how climate change intersects with gender, and argues for a feminist perspective on climate change. For more on critical climate justice and why it matters, you can watch Sultana’s talk at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
In this panel discussion organized by The New York Times Climate Hub, a group of leading thinkers of color explore how “Climate Justice Means Racial Justice,” and the need to be explicit about how any environmental action is inextricable from social justice. Veronica Chambers, Rt. Hon. David Lammy, Varshini Prakash, Nicholas St. Fleur, and Gloria Walton discuss how climate change has been thought of separately from social justice issues for too long, and that it’s time to provide climate resilience for low-income communities of color around the world who disproportionately feel the effects of the climate emergency.
What would climate policy look like if Indigenous knowledge was a key component of climate change adaptation strategies? In this webinar organized by the Nonprofit Quarterly, Indigenous environmental leaders A-dae Romero Briones, Kendra Kloster, and Trisha Kehaulani Watson-Sproat shared their visions for the transition to a regenerative economy that centers care, reciprocity, and climate justice for all.
On this episode of the podcast Climate Crisis: Time for a New Society, ecofeminist scholar and PhD researcher Julie Gorecki joined five youth climate activists at the meeting of the Fifth International Ecosocialist Encounters to talk about why ecofeminism—as both theory and activist movement—is necessary in the fight for climate justice. Together they reflect on a range of topics covered during the integrated offline session and webinar on “Ecofeminism as working class politics,” such as organizational tactics like care-strikes, the importance of ecofeminism to the youth climate movement, and approaches to ecofeminist internationalism.
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What are the historical and ongoing relationships between colonialism, climate change, and the biodiversity crisis? What are connections between colonialism, resource extraction, and renewable energy?
In “How Plastic is a Function of Colonialism” on Teen Vogue, Dr. Max Liboiron explains how the global plastic pollution crisis is directly tied to colonialism. Make sure to also check out Liboiron’s other work, such as “Plastics in the Gut” in Orion Magazine, or the book Pollution is Colonialism.
In Reconsidering Reparations, Dr. Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò argues about how “climate justice and reparations are the same project,” given the shared historical roots of the climate crisis and racial injustice in the processes of colonialism and trans-Atlantic slavery, as well as the scale and scope of each project and the intense interdependence of their success or failure. For more, check out this recent episode of the For The Wild podcast with Táíwò, or this conversation on climate colonialism and reparations with environmental activist Tamara Toles O’Laughlin for Adi Magazine.
In “Climate Change is Colonialism” for NiCHE, Dr. Lori Lee Oates discusses some of the many political and economic patterns enshrined through European colonialism that have not only led to the climate emergency but also continue to impact our ability to address it. Oates concludes that a just transition cannot repeat these colonial patterns—including the continued “economic dominance of imperial industrial powers that created the climate crisis.”
In “Again at the Altar,” published in Earth Island Journal and as a chapter in NDN Collective’s Required Reading: Climate Justice, Adaptation and Investing in Indigenous Power, Dr. Rishi Sugla describes how some prominent renewable energy solutions, while framed as fending off the existential threat of climate change, merely perpetuate a colonial system of extraction hinged on displacement and destruction. Instead, Sugla argues, “Decarbonization can and should mean decolonization, a fight for the sovereignty, autonomy, and dignity of all Indigenous peoples.”
Building on historical and Indigenous studies scholarship, researchers of a new dataset published in Science offer quantitative evidence supporting long standing claims about the environmental and economic impacts of the systematic dispossession and forced migration of Indigenous peoples in North America. Among these include the causal role of settler colonialism in the creation of Indigenous peoples’ disproportionate exposure to the risks and hazards of climate change.
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*ECOSYSTEMS / BIODIVERSITY
What can history tell us about our rapidly changing environments? How has the climate crisis shaped our relationship to the non-human?
The documentary A Plastic Ocean, directed by Craig Leeson, brings the effects of our global disposable lifestyle to light (watch the trailer here). Interested in learning more? Dr. Rebecca Altman, a writer and sociologist, explains more about the causes and consequences of plastic pollution in a TED x San Francisco talk on “The Legacy of Plastic.”
Dr. Debjani Bhattacharya’s Empire and Ecology in the Bengal Delta: The Making of Calcutta is a history of radical ecological change of what is now Kolkata, a place that was characterized by its complex connections between the environment, urban property, and legal ambiguities in relation to colonial power structures. For more, Bhattacharya also discusses these themes in this book talk from Public Seminar.
In Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait, Dr. Bathsheba Demuth explores the historical relationship between an Arctic ecosystem, state power, and competing economic ideologies, with lessons for environmental sustainability in a post-industrial age. Demuth talks more about how social, political, and environmental dimensions have clashed in the Arctic land and waters stretching from Russia to Canada in this book talk on the New Books Network.
Human infrastructures have encouraged ecological worlds beyond human control. In the digital book project Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene, you can learn to recognize and explore these more-than-human histories. For more information about this project and how it came to be, check out this interview on the New Books Network with Dr. Anna Tsing, one of its curators and editors.
Writing for Orion Magazine, environmental journalist Meera Subramanian discusses what we know (and don’t) about the “plastisphere,” or the staggering world created by the weaving of plastics into ecological and biological systems at every scale. For more on the effects of the petrochemical industry, check out the rest of the Orion Plastics Series, edited by Dr. Rebecca Altman.
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^EXPERTISE AND TRUST
What can history tell us about the role of expertise, the politics of climate science, and the nature of trust?
Climate change and land mismanagement have exacerbated Australian wildfires to devastating proportions. In an article for The Guardian, Oliver Costello, a Bundjalung man from the northern rivers of New South Wales and chief executive of Firesticks Alliance, advocates for “a cultural fire regime,” meaning a revitalization of Aboriginal fire management practices and values disrupted by colonialism. You can learn more about the history of Aboriginal fire management practices in Dr. Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth. For the disproportionate impact of Australian bushfires on Aboriginal people, check out this working paper by PhD researcher Bhiamie Williamson, Dr. Francis Markham, and Dr. Jessica K. Weir.
In “It’s Time for Environmental Studies to Own Up to Erasing Black People” for Vice, Wanjiku Gatheru writes about how many aspects of environmental scholarship are inaccessible to Black students, and the need to commit to working to end anti-Black practices in research.
Does data speak for itself? Why is it that things only seem to get worse even as our collective knowledge about climate change increases? Dr. Joshua Howe calls this the “riddle of the Keeling Curve,” referring to the iconic graph measuring rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, made famous by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. You can learn more about the riddle, and the visual culture of scientific data, in Howe’s article in the Virtual Edition on Climate History of Environmental History, or on this episode on the New Books Network.
As Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katherine K. Wilkinson explain in “Why We Need More Women Leading The Fight For The Planet” for Elle Magazine, the climate crisis is a crisis in leadership, too. For more, also check out Johnson and Wilkinson’s All We Can Save, a book with essays and poems from women at the forefront of the climate movement which show the complexity of the climate crisis in breadth, and center on the creation of collective change.
Ever wondered why the climate crisis still has not been solved? As part of a larger project on how oil and gas industries spent decades fostering doubt about the causes of climate change, Drs. Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes reviewed hundreds of forgotten fossil fuel ads demonstrating how Big Oil companies like ExxonMobil employed cutting-edge propaganda to undermine and mislead public opinion on basic climate science and its implications. Supran and Oreskes discuss a selection of those ads in this must-read gallery for The Guardian. For more on such PR efforts to spread climate disinformation, make sure to check out their article for One Earth.
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What futures should we avoid? What futures do we want? How do we get there?
In a year dominated by COVID-19, police brutality, and the climate emergency, the “humans are the virus” trope took hold (once again). In “No One Is A Virus: On American Ecofascism” for Environmental History Now, Dr. April Anson unpacks how this argument relates to a distinctively U.S. version of ecofascism rooted in violent white supremacy.
In Our History is the Future, Dr. Nick Estes emphasizes the importance of anticolonial struggle in the fight for climate justice by situating the protest encampment at Standing Rock, blocking construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, into long traditions of Indigenous resistance. You can hear Estes talk about the book in a two-part interview on Democracy Now (available here and here), and make sure to check out Estes’ call to action, “A Red Deal,” in response to the climate crisis in Jacobin too.
In “Black Feminist Ecological Thought: A Manifesto” for Atmos, Dr. Chelsea Mikael Frazier writes about the lack of representation in ecocriticism, and the need to recognize that Black, African-descended women play a vital role in understanding the structural imbalances that lead to an unfair distribution of material resources.
As a writer and co-host of the Hot Take podcast, Mary Annaïse Heglar regularly focuses on the intersections of climate and justice, and the inherent need for a more inclusive response to climate change. In “Climate Change Isn’t the First Existential Threat” for ZORA, for instance, Heglar writes how, for many people, the world has always been ending, and that the very real threats of climate change are just a new form of a familiar danger. For why the climate movement needs to talk about climate change as a Black issue, make sure to check out “We Don’t Have to Halt Climate Action To Fight Racism” for Huff Post too.
In “Don’t Blame Babies (or Their Mothers) for Climate Change” for Ms. Magazine, PopDev director Anne Hendrixson and Dr. Jade S. Sasser argued against population control as a means for combatting the climate crisis. They argued that not only are campaigns to restrict population growth ineffectual for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also harmful in that they “place the burden of the world’s environmental problems on women’s reproductive choices.” Resisting the idea that more babies lead to environmental ruin, Hendrixson and Sasser advocate instead for addressing climate change and human health together in the fight for a more just and livable future for everyone. For more on the intersection of climate justice and reproductive justice, check out their co-authored article “Confronting Populationism,” and Sasser’s book On Infertile Ground.
In an interview for Grist about his article “Time as Kinship,” Dr. Kyle Whyte—Potawatomi scholar, organizer, and member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council—discussed how to avoid renewable energy solutions becoming harmful in their own right. Drawing on the works of Indigenous scholars and writers, Whyte proposed focusing not only on looming environmental perils, but also the ways the climate crisis itself “was built off of generations of inequity.” Framed in terms of “Kinship Time,” solving the climate crisis would mean not only reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but also repairing and establishing relationships grounded in mutual responsibilities and qualities like reciprocity, consent, and trust. For more on these themes in the context of the 2021 IPCC Report, check out Whyte’s conversation with Jade Begay and Kailea Frederick of NDN Collective on this episode of the podcast In Our Power.
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*ROLE OF HISTORY
What has history to do with the climate and biodiversity crisis? How should historical practice change in light of these crises?
In 2021, a group of digital humanists from the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States came together out of a desire to put the climate crisis at the forefront of digital humanities work. In the resulting manifesto, they pledge to consider the direct environmental impacts of their work and ensure that it serves ecological and social justice. The manifesto also includes an invitation to contribute, co-sign, or suggest alternatives about responding and reimagining the global climate crisis in digital humanities spaces.
What is sustainable history? Drs. Andrea Gaynor, Carla Pascoe Leahy, Ruth Morgan, Daniel May, and Yves Rees discuss the responsibilities of historians in a climate-impacted world in this working paper. For more on the interface of history, science, and activism, see the conversation between three environmental historians—Drs. Katie Holmes, Andrea Gaynor, and Ruth Morgan—in “Doing Environmental History in Urgent Times” for History Australia.
Academic conferences are notoriously carbon-hungry affairs. When the global COVID-19 pandemic forced academic societies around the world to cancel their meetings, the British Society for the History of Science decided to organize a Global Digital History of Science Festival instead. In this multi-authored article, titled ”Innovation in a Crisis: Rethinking Conferences and Scholarship in a Pandemic and Climate Emergency,” we learn about what worked (and what didn’t) about that decision, and some of the limitations and possibilities for the future of scholarship in digital environments.
Megafires and a pandemic have many asking when things will return to “normal.” But what is normal on the driest inhabited continent on Earth? In this lecture for the Australian National University Archives, Dr. Ruth Morgan discusses how archives can help us understand how people in the past grappled with the uncertainties of unfamiliar climates.
COVID-19 and the climate crisis are global phenomena—shouldn’t our histories be too? In “Undoing the Discipline: History in the Time of Climate Crisis and COVID-19” for the Journal for the History of Environment and Society, Drs. Amanda Power, Iva Peša, and Eiko Honda draw on examples from African, Japanese, and medieval European environmental history to make a call for greater collaborative research and plural histories into the planetary past.
Rapid environmental change has accelerated the emergence of infectious diseases. Do historians have anything to say about modern epidemics? In an episode of Climate History, Dr. Emily Webster talks about the unique tools and perspectives that historians offer for thinking about massive environmental changes and public health emergencies, the importance of cross-disciplinary collaborations, and strategies to inform and elevate public discourse.
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Beyond this curated shortlist, we sometimes read or watch things together! Subscribe to our email updates to learn more!
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List compiled and curated by Elizabeth Hameeteman and Gustave Lester.