When we consider our monumental environmental challenges—climate change, air and water pollution, environmental toxins, etc.—it seems that we must be the first civilization to face environmental degradation serious enough to threaten our very way of life. According to author Clive Ponting, we aren’t the first, and history does have something to teach us. Steve Cotham, Manager of the Knox County Public Library's McClung Historical Collection, considers Ponting’s book A new green history of the world : the environment and the collapse of great civilizations, in this recording.
Using the Roman empire as its central example, this classic work reveals how overexpansion and the exhaustion of available natural resources have played key roles in the collapse of all great cultures in human history. With an argument of urgent relevance to our modern society, Ponting offers a provocative and illuminating view of human history and its relationship to the environment.
Cotham has worked in the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knox County Public Library System since 1980 and has been manager since 1986. He is the author of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and holds three academic degrees from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, including advanced degrees in history and library science. (Recorded November 16, 2011)