Eroded Civilizations: China, the United States and the Origins of Soil Conservation

Start date: Thursday, 19 November, 17:00
End date: Thursday, 19 November, 18:30
Venue: Lecture Theatre 1

MicahMuscolinoFrom the 1930s into the 1950s, American forester and soil erosion expert Walter C. Lowdermilk (1888-1974) stood out as the leading evangelist of the ‘gospel of soil conservation’ and the one with the broadest geographical reach. Lowdermilk established this international scientific authority on the basis of field research conducted in North China’s Shanxi province during the mid-1920s in conjunction with his student, colleague, and collaborator, Ren Chengtong (1898-1973). Ren went on to help pioneer the discipline of soil conservation in China under the Nationalist regime in the 1930s and 1940s, maintaining his prominence in this field well after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This talk examines how Lowdermilk and Ren constructed a body of knowledge about China’s natural landscape, elaborating a set of comprehensive conservationist principles that would guide human interactions with the environment in China and the wider world.

Micah Muscolino is Jessica Rawson Fellow in Modern Asian History at Merton College and Associate Professor of Chinese History, the University of Oxford. He is the author of The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938-1950 (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and Fishing Wars and Environmental Change in Late Imperial and Modern China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2009), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.