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April 20, 2009
Source: Piedmont 2003

Ravina, Mark
History Department

2003

Project Summary

The Piedmont Project substantially changed the way I treat the environment in undergraduate teaching. I applied to the Piedmont project because I wanted to rethink my survey courses, especially History 371 – Ancient and Medieval Japan. The project has given me the tools and vocabulary with which to do so.

I have rewritten parts of the class to emphasize the different ways in which civilizations have placed stress on the natural environment. In this way I hope to show students how new technologies commonly have complex effects. I had long taught students that the spread of wet-rice agriculture in Japan meant that farmers could produce more food per acre, but could also be more easily taxed. But the introduction of wet-rice agriculture also introduced a set of environmental problems, including diminished soil fertility and increased susceptibility to drought. Japanese farmers adapted but using fertilizers, but this introduced new problems. In this reshaped class I have tried not to present technology or economic growth as “bad,” but rather to make students aware that all growth stresses the environment. I am especially interested in showing a relatively successful case of environmental remediation: the building boom of the 1600s led to deforestation, which was successfully contained in the 1700s through stricter lumbering regulations. Most critically, I want students to think of the environment not as a “modern” problem, but as a basic issue in human history.

Course Syllabus attached.




Download: Ravina_2003.pdf (149.3 KB)


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