Technology has been both cause and solution of many environmental problems. Factories have polluted airs and waters. Waste-water treatment plants were built to clean urban sewage. This seminar examines the changing relationship between technology and the environment since the nineteenth century. We will investigate how engineers, entrepreneurs, and employees have developed and used technology to prevent natural disasters, to extract natural resources, and to produce economic value. We will observe how workers, environmental activists, and officials have noticed technologies’ harmful environmental consequences and fought for new interventions to contain the damage.
Students will discuss primary and secondary sources about the relationship between technology and the environment. They will learn to analyze divergent perspectives on this relationship, to comprehend how it has changed in the course of modern history, and to write about this change. They will consider how different forms of politics, social relations, economic interests, environmental changes, and engineering have conditioned technological design and environmental consequences in modern history.