Let’s get this out of the way right at the outset: there are very few people whose work I admire, appreciate, and enjoy more than Libby Robin’s. Her writing, talks, and insights into environmental history, the history of science, and the intersections between the two are always worth heeding. More: her work on the future and the Anthropocene are incisive and provide valuable direction for engaging with these difficult and under-considered topics. I was thrilled when she was willing to sit down for an interview, even if catching up with her globe-trotting posed some tricky time zone challenges. Our catastrophic conversation ranged across themes of the Anthropocene (there’s a terrific oral history here) and into ideas about how to tackle the history of the future.
[EDIT]: Note that this interview was conducted in October 2016. The world has changed since then. More markedly than any of us might have imagined. Too: my audio introduction to Libby Robin includes information that was current then, but not now. By way of updated introduction, Robin is an historian based at the Fenner School for the Environment and Society at the Australian National University. I first met her through her work on Expertise for the Future, an international and interdisciplinary venture that married history, technology, environment, and society to use the past to reflect upon our environmental futures. That project curated a terrific collection of primary source documents tracing The Future of Nature: Documents of Global Change (Yale University Press, 2013). The Environment: A History, co-authored with Paul Warde and Sverker Sörlin, is in preparation with Johns Hopkins University Press.
Next week: 10 October: “Günther Anders & the Catastrophic Imagination” (with Jason Dawsey)
5 September: “Dysfunctional Relationships: Love Songs for Pesticides” (with Michelle Mart)
12 September: “Catastrophic Environmentalism: Histories of the Cold War” (with Jacob Hamblin)
19 September: “Disaster Narratives: Predictions, Preparedness, & Lessons” (with Scott Knowles)
26 September: “Catastrophe in the Age of Revolutions” (with Cindy Ermus)