Presentation at 10th ESEH conference Tallinn

Rune Svarverud presented a paper with the title "A century of Chinese perceptions on the relationship between humans and nature" at the 10th ESEH (European Society for Environmental History" in Tallinn, Estonia, August 22 2019

Abstract of paper presentation:

Chairman Mao Zedong’s war against nature in China during the 1960s and 70s is well known to historians and its consequences well documented. (Shapiro, Judith. 2001. Mao’s War Against Nature. Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) The current environmental crisis in China, the state policy to curb and deal with pollution and environmental change, and the societal reactions to the risks of environmental degradation is currently high on the research agenda in China and beyond. (e.g. Sternfeld, Eva (ed.). 2017. Routledge’s Handbook of China’s Environmental Policy. London: Routledge) Many historians have also engaged with China’s environmental history documenting anthropogenic environmental changes in China over centuries. (e.g. Marks, Robert B. 2012. China. Its Environment and History. Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers) We know today that one essential key to solve environmental problems is the human recognition of the intrinsic value of nature. China is a major global contributor to current environmental degradation and also one of the most important keys to future solutions. We know, however, very little about how people in China over time have recognized and interpreted the role and position of humans in nature.


This paper will address that question by scrutinizing Chinese school textbooks and how they present the Chinese state promoted view on humans in nature over the last century. School textbooks have been published under state supervision ever since the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912.  These textbooks are unique sources for analyzing the changing state promoted perceptions of the relationship between humans and nature in China as part of modern education. This paper will present the main changes in these perception over the course of the period from 1912 to 2017 as part of a project on perceptions of environment and climate in China (

By Rune Svarverud
Published Aug. 23, 2019 1:11 PM - Last modified Aug. 23, 2019 1:11 PM