Comparing Apples, Oranges, and Cotton: Environmental Histories of the Plantation
Location: Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich
Conference Report - English (pdf, 184 KB)
In the modern era, plantations have emerged as a cornerstone of the global food production network. Starting with the sugar cane fields of the Caribbean, they provide people all over the world with a broad range of commodities. The environmental implications are in many cases serious: plantations exhaust and erode soils; the presence of many identical plants in the same spot spawns pests, weeds, and fungi. Furthermore the transnational character of commodity markets connotes that a distant, unknown competitor may ruin the profitability of the enterprise at any moment. Given these multiple risks, it should come as no surprise that, from an environmental perspective, plantations are inherently unstable systems of agricultural production. Somewhat paradoxically, they are also one of the most persistent systems of agricultural production.
The conference approaches the topic broadly, defining the plantation as a large, profit-driven plant production complex that focuses primarily on one commodity and produces for a distant market. Such an understanding includes classic plantations like bananas, oranges, coffee, sugar cane, and cotton, but also pine and mangrove monocultures in forestry.
This event is free and open to the public. However, registration is required, as space is limited. Please register via email: E-Mail