Climate History Network

A network of interdisciplinary scholars studying past climate change

New Article: “Past connections and present similarities in slave ownership and fossil fuel usage” by Jean-François Mouhot

Climatic Change
Volume 105, Numbers 1-2, 329-355, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-010-9982-7

In this article, network member Mouhot compares the economic and social roles of slavery and fossil fuels throughout history, and argues that “in differing ways, suffering resulting (directly) from slavery and (indirectly) from the excessive burning of fossil fuels are now morally comparable. When we emit carbon dioxide at a rate that exceeds what the ecosystem can absorb, when we deplete non-renewable resources, we indirectly cause suffering to other human beings. Similarly, cheap oil facilitates imports of goods from countries with little social protection and hence help externalise oppression. The conclusion draws on the lessons which may be learned by Climate Change campaigners from the campaigns to abolish slavery: environmental apathy can be opposed effectively if we learn from what worked in the fight against this inhuman institution” (from the abstract).

A shorter version appears in the History News Network at:

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About Sam White

Assistant Professor of History at the Ohio State University

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This entry was posted on April 25, 2011 by in Publications.