Topics in North American Environmental History
Professor Laurel MacDowell
February 03, 2009
Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon towards the end of his life, discusses vanity in terms of items that bring no ultimate value, that many things on earth have a temporary value. He tells readers that “there is nothing new under the sun” as humankind has pursued individual, short-term profits and gains throughout time and will continue to do so. McNeill contradicts King Solomon in the title of this book and tells his readers that there is indeed “Something New Under The Sun.” For centuries the human race has repeated the patterns described by King Solomon, but due to technological advancements, the twentieth century brought with it unprecedented global impacts, the likes which the world had never seen before. In this prolific account of the last century McNeill explains to his readers that what is new is humanity’s ability to affect the entire world ecology over vast periods of time – our affects are no longer short-term. McNeill also takes the time to point out that modern ecological history and socioeconomic history only really make sense when examined together. J.R. McNeill, Duke graduate and professor of history at Georgetown University (John Robert McNeill, 2009), wrote this book as part of the Global Century series, which is edited by Paul Kennedy. Although the intended audience for this book is not clear the language, attention to detail, use of case studies, broad scope, and interdisciplinary nature make it an excellent source of information to students in almost any field, the general public, and politicians. This comprehensive overview of very large, complex problems provides readers with a cornucopia of background information, skillfully defined terms that serve to assist the reader in understanding the language of science, and illustrative photographs, maps...