The History of a Sustainable Future?

A bit of background on the book series. In 2007, a group of young(ish) scholars across North America created the Sustainable Future History Project, a loosely organized cabal that provided opportunities for networking and collaborative projects. We also shared a strong sense that history’s contemporary relevance—especially with respect to environmental issues (our shared specialization)—was frequently overlooked and that history could provide important context in planning for a more sustainable future. From the Sustainable Future History Project’s website:

It’s a bit of a funny name and a peculiar concept (looking backward to look forward), but the Sustainable Future History Project is predicated on the idea that in order to fully understand the social, political, economic, and ecological extent of our contemporary environmental crisis we need to be conscious of its historical context.  Moreover, resolving our global environmental problems requires careful thought and planning; future success is dependent upon a deeper appreciation of the past.  This is the point: historicizing sustainable futures is based less on the notion that we should learn from past mistakes, but rather on the premise that solving the environmental crisis will demand the most and best information available, and history provides valuable insight into the creation and proliferation of the environmental ills we hope to curb.

Lots of interesting conversations and ideas sprang out of the groups various informal chats and meetings at conferences. The most substantial development thus far was the creation of the MIT Press book series, which was started in 2009. The real tenor of the series is to try something different. The books are short; maybe half the length of a standard academic monograph. The idea is to produce a series of short, smart, and accessible books (complete with the traditional academic apparatus: notes, bibliography, etc.) on the history of topics that have pressing environmental resonance. The point is to produce books that appeal not only to our peers, but also to undergraduate classrooms and policy makers and activists. At the time of writing, we have received considerable interest from a very interesting variety of scholars, and are looking forward to receiving the first manuscript submissions later in 2012. Stay tuned.

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