Title: Environmental Regulations: Perspectives from History

Abstract:  What is the role of environmental regulation in best supporting a just social order where all can have the adequate means to secure the necessities of life? In a moment when our planet’s ecosystems are confronting unprecedented human-driven pressures, environmental scholars hoping to contribute informed answers to this consequential question need to cast a wide net of inquiry, combining advances in research across various branches of the biological and social sciences. Using tools honed by environmental historians and political ecologists, this talk recovers little known aspects of the history of the fisheries of Iberia and North Africa between approximately 1480 and 1530, exemplifying how popular and state actors struggled continuously over how to manage and benefit from shared maritime ecologies. Then, as now, people approached the environment through a web of habits, regulations, and economic concerns subject to indeterminacy. A close look at the deeper past of environmental stewardship shows that popular custom and state-backed regulatory frameworks have long structured the dynamic between the human and other-than-human worlds, opening a critical perspective onto the environmental conundrums of today.

Speaker Bio: Gabriel de Avilez Rocha is Assistant Professor of History at Drexel University. A specialist in the social and environmental history of the early Atlantic world, his research focuses on the human and non-human spectrum of interactions, from violence to alliance, that brought into contact the diverse societies and ecosystems of Atlantic Africa, Western Europe, and the Greater Caribbean. His book manuscript, Empire from the Commons: Political Ecologies of Colonialism in the Early Atlantic, examines how popular struggles over shared property and collective resources – such as spats over fishing, hunting, and ranching – contributed to the formation of the Portuguese and Spanish Atlantic empires over the long sixteenth century. Attentive to the politics of nature in the rhythms of settler colonialism and imperial expansion, Dr. Rocha’s scholarship situates the origins of transnational environmental regulatory norms today in the conflictive socio-ecological landscape of the early Atlantic. He received his Ph.D. in History from New York University.

Watch Dr. Rocha’s talk here:


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