Technological developments have had such a fundamental impact on the environment that the geologists are now contemplating the idea that the planet might have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in which humans would be the main geophysical force at play. This course critically examines this debate by offering a historical survey of the impact of human technology on the environment, from prehistory to early 21st century. Attention will also be given as to how social, political, cultural, and economic factors have influenced this history.

In this course, we examine the origins and ideals of environmentalism from its origins in the late 18th century to the present. Topics include the romantic critique of industrialization, forest management and sustainability, wilderness preservation, animal rights, radical environmentalism, and environmental justice.

Students enrolled in this course are eligible for the Dr. Rowland Marshall History of Science and Technology Prize in Ecology and Environment. An award will go to the student with the best research essay written in Engineering the Planet: the Anthropocene Era, from Prehistory to Today’s Global Crisis, Ecology and Religion, and Environmentalism: origins, ideals and critiques each year. This prize value is between $800 and $1,000.