Environmental roulette: Colonial moderisation and ecological consequences
LE3 . A278 2009
Perrins, Robert John
Bachelor of Arts
History & Classics
Environmental issues are not limited to issues surrounding solely the loss of animal habitat, as humans are intimately connected with their surroundings. The importance of both environmental concerns and the risk of infectious disease in contemporary society means that the history of environmental events in the not so distant past are an important topic to investigate. Many of the ongoing environmental issues today have roots that date to the past century when new populations migrated into relatively unpopulated lands. An historical perspective is an excellent tool to use when looking at modern issues that have recent historical antecedents. As the world modernized in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many untouched regions came under the shovel, the tractor or the railroad. The newly modern and industrialised nations of Japan and the Soviet Union were desperately searching for raw materials to fuel their growing economies and the result was that regions that were in equilibrium would be disrupted. For north-eastern China, the region more commonly referred to in the west as Manchuria, settlers, mostly from south of the Great Wall, migrated into the region along newly constructed Japanese and Russian railroad lines. This massive influx of people was a catalyst for a large plague epidemic that broke out throughout Manchuria in the winter of 1910-1911. The economic pressures on Japan and the South Manchurian Railway only aided the plagues spread along the railroads. As well, the Soviet Union‟s push to conquer lands set much of Central Asia up for environmental and ecological disaster. The “Virgin Lands Scheme” and the desire to grow cotton in Central Asia was only possible through a massive diversion of water and the heavy use of pesticides. The development methods of both Japan and the Soviet Union resulted in the loss of the natural equilibrium in both Manchuria and Central Asia, affecting both regions‟ environment and peoples.
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