IREES colloquium: Mining History and Environmental Values on the Central African Copperbelt | Guest lecture Iva Pesa, Assistant professor Contemporary history
|When:||Th 20-08-2020 15:00 - 16:00|
Speaker| I. (Iva) Pesa, Assistant professor Contemporary history at the University of Groningen.
Title| Mining History and Environmental Values on the Central African Copperbelt.
Summary| Mining is a major contributor to climate change, but rarely has the environmental history of mining on the African continent been linked to questions of sustainability. Following the boom in global mineral prices at the turn of the twenty-first century, industrial and artisanal mining has rapidly expanded across the continent, yet mining has a long history in Africa. This presentation explores the environmental history of mining on the Central African Copperbelt, a massive copper and cobalt mining region spanning Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to ask what humanities perspectives might contribute to questions of sustainability.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century industrial mining on the Central African Copperbelt has moved millions of tonnes of earth, altered the course of rivers and profoundly affected the landscape of the region. Mining has caused serious and long-term pollution. Still, the population of the Copperbelt has rarely protested against pollution. This presentation explores the environmental values which inform copper mining, among government officials, mine engineers and the Copperbelt population. Understanding how people historically learnt to live with pollution can inform current policies which attempt to effect a more environmentally 'sustainable' form of mining. I will also explore whether my approach might be usefully applied to other contexts, such as oil extraction in the Niger Delta or gold mining in South Africa.
Biography| Iva Pesa is an Assistant Professor in Contemporary History at the University of Groningen. She specialises in African and environmental history. From 2017-2019 she was a Research Associate in Environmental History at the University of Oxford, where she conducted archival and oral history research in Zambia and Congo, on which this paper will build. Her articles have recently appeared in the journals Environment and History (on pollution and policy change) and in the Journal of Southern African Studies (on urban agriculture). From September 2020 she will be coordinating the new MA history specialisation Un/Sustainable Societies in Past, Present, and Future.