International Society for Quantitative History

QH Webinar Series

From forest to farmland and meadow to metropolis: How did the environment shape human history, and how did humanity bring about the Anthropocene?

16:00 | Thursday, June 10, 2021

Zoom Webinar

English

Jed O. Kaplan

Jed O. Kaplan

Environmental historian and Associate Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Hong Kong

Image provided by the Speaker

Did humans affect global climate before the Industrial Era? While this question is hotly debated, the co-evolution of humans and the natural environment since the last Ice Age had an undisputed role in influencing the development and present state of landscapes, many of which are highly valued today as economic, cultural, and ecological resources. Yet we still have a very incomplete picture of human-environment interactions over the last 21,000 years, both spatially and temporally, and how those interactions shaped the world in which we live today.

In order to address this problem, over the past decade Jed O. Kaplan of HKU Department of Earth Sciences has worked on synthesizing demographic, technological, and economic development over preindustrial time, and creating a database of historical urbanization covering the last 8,000 years. These data are combined with computer simulation models to quantify the magnitude and timing of global anthropogenic land cover change in the late Pleistocene and preindustrial Holocene. His models are informed by paleoclimate scenarios from global climate models and simulate global land cover and human land use change, fire, soil erosion, and emissions of the greenhouse gases CO2 and methane (CH4). His results highlight the importance of the long histories of both climate change and human demographic, economic, and technological history on the development of continental-scale landscapes. A large source of uncertainty in the results comes from assumptions researchers make about the rates and timing of technologically driven intensification of land use, and the importance of international trade for the subsistence of past societies and human influence on the planet. Jed O. Kaplan emphasizes the need for interdisciplinary geographical research that unites the social and physical sciences, and the humanities, to build on recent theory of preindustrial economic and technological change.

In this Quantitative History Webinar, Jed O. Kaplan takes the audience on a journey through time, starting with the way our distant hominin ancestors modified their environments to increase their chances of survival, and coming to the question of whether the planet itself can now survive the multitude of demands placed on it by modern society.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Zoom Webinar

Jed O. Kaplan

English

The Quantitative History Webinar Series aims to provide researchers, teachers, and students with an online intellectual platform to keep up to date with the latest research in the field, promoting the dissemination of research findings and interdisciplinary use of quantitative methods in historical research. The Series, now in its third year, is co-organized by the International Society for Quantitative History, HKU Business School, and Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 量化歷史網上講座系列由香港大學陳志武和馬馳騁教授聯合發起,旨在介紹前沿量化歷史研究成果、促進同仁交流,推廣量化方法在歷史研究中的應用。本系列講座由國際量化歷史學會、香港大學經管學院和香港人文社會研究所全力支持和承辦。

Conveners: Professor Zhiwu Chen & Dr. Chicheng Ma (HKU Business School)

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International Society for Quantitative History

The International Society for Quantitative History (ISFQH) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and enhancing the advancement of education, in particular research and knowledge dissemination in quantitative history, in Hong Kong and other parts of the world.

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