For people and all living beings in all ages, meteorological factors have conditioned their biological success, social organization, land use, and standards of well-being. For humankind, these factors have also influenced his vision of the territory and the relationship with the divine.

Aiming to go beyond concerns with recent and forthcoming changes in climate conditions which have dominate research in environmental studies, but without excluding them, this conference adopts a long term perspective on living beings adjustment to nature. Although framed by Environmental History the conference also assumes an holistic vision, establishing a dialogue with other fields of knowledge not only within the Humanities, but also the natural sciences, as Ecology and Biogeography.

Within this interdisciplinary approach, participants will reflect upon responses to weather and climate, as well as upon their consequences over ecological, economic, social and cultural contexts.

The program is organized around four topics:

- Erosion and population: how society deals with erosion effects and responses to changed landscapes;

- Imagined landscapes: how literary weather descriptions influence perceptions of the territory and, at the same time, how those perceptions are influenced by feelings, experiences and values;

- Space and climate: how species distribution and life history evolved in relation to climate changing conditions;

- Human responses to weather - building and praying: how humans react upon natural hazards by building material shelters and calling for divine protection.

quinta-feira, 12 de Abril de 2012

just see it!

A 40 minutes video installation about environmental humanities, with James Fleming, Ursula Heise, Greg Garrard, Sarah Elkind, David Nye, Donald Worster e Hannes Bergthaller.

quinta-feira, 1 de Março de 2012

Inscreva-se já! Os primeiros 30 inscritos na Conferência poderão participar na visita guiada à Arrábida, a realizar no dia 4 de Maio, entre as 13 e as 18 horas, guiada pelo biólogo Paulo Pereira, em representação da Sociedade Portuguesa de Botânica. Paulo Pereira é licenciado em Biologia, com especialização em Botânica, Ecologia Numérica e SIG's. Trabalhou três anos na Arrábida, realizando cerca de 500 inventários e construindo um sistema de classificação de vegetação para a Serra. Fez parte da equipa que propôs a Arrábida a Património mundial. Actualmente é empresário (Ideias Sustentáveis, Lda e Macromia, Lda) desenvolvendo projectos na área ambiental, valorização do território e restauro e gestão de ecossistemas. Programa da visita 13:00 - Saída de Lisboa, FCSH 1ª paragem (Convento da Arrábida) - Mata Coberta (percurso de 1500 metros) passando pelas formações florestais de Quercus e Acer, observação dos matos mediterrânicos, observação da sucessão pós-fogo 2ª paragem - Planalto do Risco - Curta paragem para falar dos matos do planalto 3ª paragem - Escarpas de Sesimbra - Observar as espécies termófilas, com particular relevo para a endémica Euphorbia pedroi 18:00 - Regresso a Lisboa, FCSH
ESTÃO ABERTAS AS INSCRIÇÕES! Ficha de Inscrição Environmental History

quinta-feira, 26 de Janeiro de 2012

Abstracts IV - Human response to weather: building and praying

The shield protectors for rain, cold, heat and dry: shelters for people, cattle and food in 19th century
Cristina Joanaz de Melo, IHC-FCSH, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Drought as floods disables animals and human survival. The burning sun elevates shadow and covering to precious resources. Hailstorms and the roar of thunders suggestively make one desire for protection. Thus, extreme weather conditions call for sheltering.  Hardly fitting in our pattern of annual seasons, weather is unpredictable.
So far, literature attributes shepherds sheltering in the lowlands as in the uplands to the tradition of transhumance from winter to summer pastures.  However in Serra do Gerês in the north of Portugal, many of this shelters have  only  500m of difference in altitude.
However in nowadays, in the Portuguese province of Beira Baixa, in the area of the International Tagus, Vilha Velha do Ródão we can find a track  of shelters made of stones, similar to igloos made with rocks, in  .  They are known in the region as “shepherds shelters”. Both in the valleys, as at  650meters of altitude, and higher up towards the direction of Guarda, between 1000meters and 1500 meters of altitude. Those igloos and other constructions made of  stones, timber or mud,  inside of which  fire can be lighted on in areas  had been built in areas always with fewer vegetation and more windy.
Considering that life conditions would be easier in lower altitudes, one might wonder, why have these shelters been built so high? The intriguing question was about knowing what had motivated constructions in the high as well as their ulterior abandonment. In summer that location would not bring much shadow or water for the flocks, and over winter, weather conditions would be too sharp. Therefore, those structures might have been built under specific conditions, namely in the period of rain fall increase in the 19th century.
Throughout the 1800s, there was a profound increase of rain values for all over Europe. In Portugal as in France or Switzerland the decade of 1850s was known by the occurrence of the biggest torrential floods of the century. Thus, it might have happened some correspondence between the time of sheltering constructions higher in the slopes, rainfall increase and the need to avoid the altitude in the mountains, were steams were becoming dragging waters.
In order to overcome weather conditions and not being able to run their flocks in the occupied lowlands, shepherds had to develop some kind of strategy to survive in the highlands. Going up was the alternative. That would require probably more sophisticated logistics both for protection as for pastures survival.
In this paper it will be observed how the communities of the mountains took advantage of very hard natural conditions, to live in. In order to develop this theme it will be observed how the populations of  the mountains -  Serra da Estrela, Marão e Gerês reacted to weather behaviour and developed their own strategies for protection using  “wasted resources” like rocks, mud, dells,  peat or still timber.
In order to analyze this case study several kind of sources, historical, ethnographical and archaeological it will be crossed.  The first ones will comprise geographical data describing the landscape, scientific reports and parliamentary debates produced in the 19th century. Secondly, it will be consulted secondary bibliography on archaeological and ethnographic aspects to contextualize the trails and material proofs of the igloos made of rocks and perhaps of timber.

Houses of God: supernatural protection against natural threats in the south of Portugal in the Middle and Modern Ages
Pedro Picoito, Instituto Superior de Investigação e Ciência

In the western, pre-contemporary period was  characterized by the influence of religion  as well as  of the dependence of nature behaviour in the collective live. In order to tame the strength of the elements the supernatural  was constantly evoked. In such a dimension that many contemporary historiographically paradigms relate the technical and scientific progress to the decline of religious practices and believes such as the Max Weber Work the “Disenchantment of the World”
The appeal to the supernatural against the inclemency of the weather, epidemics or the risks that put in danger agriculture, fishing, travelling or other daily life issues, ahs been drawn in the Christian tradition to specializes saints as: saint Barbara (lightning and fire)); Saint Nicolas (sailing and maritime trips); saint Christopher St. Nicholas (seafaring), St. Christopher (land travel), San Isidro (crops), St. Peter (fishing), St. Anthony (livestock), St. Margaret (births), San Sebastian (plague ), Lazarus (leprosy), San Roque (skin diseases), San Blas (diseases of the throat), Santa Luzia (eye diseases), Santa Apollonia (toothache), etc.. These devotions are widespread throughout Christendom, but there are also particularly venerated intercessors regional or local level who can play the role usually assigned to the saints experts. This is the case in Portugal, the popular St. Anthony, whose cult sometimes replaces that of St. Peter among the fishermen, or Our Lady, universal intercessor in different situation.
Thus, the invocation of God, Santa Maria and other patron saints against natural hazards is clothed in medieval and Modern Europe of three frequent public forms. Firstly, the dedication of churches or chapels, which means that a historical survey of the temples of the onomastic one region may indicate the most feared natural phenomena by its inhabitants in the past. Secondly was the cyclical cult of a saint through pilgrimages or processions, usually annual, that when (s) (s) to the party (s) in the calendar to move the faithful to make a shrine to pray, make offerings, to meet votes or simply participate in camp or at the fair. Thirdly, the rites of a request for extraordinary aid a saint, image or relics, known in the Mediterranean area by rogation, a special kind of procession or pilgrimage designed to placate unexpected natural disasters such as droughts, floods, epidemics, earthquakes, etc.
Thus, this presentation proposes to study these three forms of invocation of the saints against the threats of the environment in the regional Mediterranean Portugal, as defined by the geographer Orlando Ribeiro, and throughout the medieval and modern. Unable to thoroughly analyze a geographical area and chronological period so extensive, try several comparative case studies of some sites for which there is already a significant number of sources and studies, to obtain a global perspective as possible on the issue question. 

Abstracts III - Space and climate: adaptations of animals and humans

Climate change and responses of biological diversity: using amphibians as a model system

James Harris
CIBIO/UP, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos da Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, Rua Padre Armando Quintas, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal

Since the origin of life on earth, organisms have adapted to a constantly changing environment. Long before humans developed the idea that they are modifying climate due to their activities on the planet, climate change was the rule and not the exception. In particular, the Quaternary, a period that started about two million years ago, was characterized by regular and profound climatic changes due to the occurrence of glaciations which shaped patterns of biological diversity on Earth. For example, as recently as 20,000 years ago, the last glacial maximum resulted in the near absence of life in what we know today as Central and Northern Europe, whereas many organisms survived in the so-called southern refugia (the peninsulas of Iberia, Italy and the Balkans). Amphibians and reptiles are extremely suitable species to study the impact of climate change on biological diversity, both past and present, partly because they have a low dispersal rate, making them useful for tracking records of past and on-going climate modifications. In this presentation we describe our current knowledge on how past climate change shaped the distribution and genetic diversity of amphibian and reptile species with a special emphasis on the Iberian Peninsula. We show that Iberia is a unique place to study this topic because it is both a hotspot and a melting pot of genetic diversity. It is a hotspot because during extreme cold periods many species survived in the Peninsula and went extinct elsewhere. It is a melting pot because extreme oscillations resulted in fragmented populations that diverged and later contacted again. Today, central and southeastern Iberia are submitted to extreme arid conditions and offer a stressful environment to amphibians that should be monitored in order to investigate the impact of current climate and environmental change on biological diversity. This talk will be illustrated with our own on-going research work on Iberian herpetofauna.

Prehistoric and medieval mobile pastoral strategies: an archaeozoological perspective

Marta Moreno-García, Centro de Ciências Humanas y Sociales, Madrid
Carlos M. Pimenta, Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico, Lisboa

Seasonal pastoral systems as transhumance have traditionally been interpreted as the ‘natural’ husbandry strategy to be followed in the Mediterranean world. Underlying this situation was the assumption that topographical relief and season were, if not totally determinant, primary factors in the emergence and development of mobile pastoral strategies. However with the increase in palaeoenvironmental studies, particularly pollen and charcoal analyses, this statement has become questionable. Since mountains in the Mediterranean are too low to grow alpine meadows, open summer grazing areas would not be a ‘natural’ feature of this landscape. Upland pastures can be considered mainly the product of human interference, either by fire and axe or through grazing (Mellars, 1976; Forbes & Koster,1976). Before extensive clearance took place, accessibility to and herding in woodland pastures during the summers may be assumed to have been difficult and given the fact that there existed wooded zones in the lowlands, may be unnecessary. Thus, it appears that the role played by environmental conditions in the emergence of seasonal mobile pastoral systems in this geographical area could have been more secondary than initially thought.

Studies among traditional Mediterranean pastoral communities (i.e.: Lewthwaite, 1983; Barker & Grant, 1991) have shown that periodical movements of livestock offer the possibility of maintaining larger populations during those seasons when local grazing resources are scarce. Consequently, physical conditions of a geographical area regarding grazing availability must be considered together with the scale at which livestock might have been kept. Both variables are linked. Equally valuable and closely related to them is the question of the extension of the territory exploited. Intra- or extra-regional movements could distinguish transhumance from other mobile pastoral systems. Finally, it cannot be forgotten that all these issues are associated with the level of productivity pursued by the shepherds.

The aim of this paper is to discuss the possibilities offered by the analysis and study of domestic faunal remains from archaeological sites to explore some of the issues just mentioned. Two case studies are presented. Firstly, the faunal sample recovered from the cave of Els Trocs dated to the Neolithic and located in the Spanish Pyrenees. Secondly, the faunal assemblage from Albarracín Castle (Teruel) dated to the medieval period. The estimation of kill-off patterns noting the absence or presence of particular age groups and the recognition of lambing and killing seasons are data analysed which may help to recognise the pastoral systems followed by these two upland human communities.


Barker, G. & Grant, A. (eds.) (1991). Ancient and modern pastoralism in Central Italy: an interdisciplinary study in the Cicolano Mountains. Papers of the British School at Rome 59, 15-88.

Forbes, H.A. & Koster, H.A. (1976). Fire, axe, and plow: human influence on local plant communities in the Southern Argolid. In (M. Dimen & E. Friedl, eds.) Regional variation in modern Greece and Cyprus: toward a perspective on the ethnography of Greece. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 268, 109-126.

Lewthwaite, J. (1983). The art of coarse herding: archaeological insights from recent pastoral practices on west Mediterranean islands. In (J. Clutton-Brock & C. Grigson, eds.) Animals and Archaeology 3. Early herders and their flocks. Oxford: BAR International Series 202, pp. 25-37.

Mellars, P. (1976). Fire ecology, animal populations and man: a study of some ecological relationships in prehistory. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 42, 15-45.

Abstracts II - Imagined landscapes

A Fear of Nature - Images & Perceptions of Heath, Moor, Bog & Fen in England

Ian D. Rotherham, Sheffield Hallam University

Macbeth - Scene 1. -  A desert Heath
When shall we three meet again
In thunder lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won,
That will be ere the set of sun,
Where the place?
Upon the heath ………………. Fair is foul and foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air
William Shakespeare 1600’s

Today, fashions, art, science, transport and communications all play significant roles in the emerging sense of place and culture that now translate into the tourist landscape. These places are fearful as waste and wilderness. Yet being far from the madding crowd these wild areas draw the visitor to escape from the modern world to rejoin nature and the cultural past. The reality may owe as much to fiction and careful packaging as it does to nature and history. Hollywood and the Victorian writers for example, draw visitors to the ancient heathland and Royal Forest of Sherwood as much as by any real understanding of the nature and history of the area. The accounts of travellers and commentators in Great Britain from the medieval to modern times help set the scene for contemporary images and associations. Recent research on the North Yorkshire Moors and Dales for the Yorkshire Tourist Board showed how visitors were still adversely affected by images of the ‘Moors Murders’ (from the 1960s and a totally different geographical location),  and even of the 1980s classic film ‘American Werewolf in London’ , the opening scenes of which are set in a bleak North Yorkshire moorland. However, visitors are also drawn to a place by fear and association. So the late Victorian ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, created both fear of the place but also an irresistible attraction for future visitors to experience the bleak and horrific scene of the book, Dartmoor.
Sherlock Holmes states that ‘………….. there rose out to the vast gloom of the moor that strange cry which I had already heard upon the borders of the great Grimpen Mire. It came with the wind through the silence of the night, a long, deep mutter, then a rising howl, and then a sad moan in which it died away.’
In his diary Watson describes the ‘……. Bleak, cold, and shelterless moor’, and states that ‘No one could find his way into the Grimpen Mire tonight.’ Then he describes their way through the bog: ‘……... green-scummed pits and foul quagmires which barred the way to the stranger. Rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay and heavy miasmatic vapour into our faces, whilst a false step plunged us more than once into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet. Its tenacious grip plucked at our heels as we walked, and when we sank into it, it was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths, so grim and purposeful was the clutch in which it held us.’
Another Conan Doyle hero Brigadier Gerard describes the landscape as: ‘It is a bleak place this Dartmoor, wild and rocky - a country of wind and mist. I felt as I walked that it is no wonder Englishmen should suffer from the spleen.’
Today, the scene is the Dartmoor National Park with around ten million tourism visitors a year. 

Wintering in the mountains: how difficulties became economical opportunities

Ana Isabel Queiroz, IELT – Instituto de Estudos de Literatura Tradicional, FCSH - UNL

This paper examines how snow and wind in the mountains of northern Portugal have been differently perceived along the 20th century. The analysis integrates literary readings on exposure to extreme weather (ca. 1940) with other sources to follow the transformation of harsh weather conditions into development opportunities for mountain tourism and wind farms.     

Abstracts I - Erosion and population

Watershed management and afforestation between the 19th and 20th century in Italy
Mauro Agnoletti, Universitá di Firenze

In the second half of the 19th century many European countries having parts of their territory included in the Alpine regions developed polices for afforestation and watershed management. The need to improve the environmental conditions of the mountain regions reducing landslides on the mountains and floods in the plains, required the development of a body of techniques adapted to steep mountain slopes, but also to deal with the socioeconomic problems of the mountain populations, not always ready to accept large afforestation programs. In the case of Italy, where mountains cover more than 35% of the territory, the social problems and the technical problems that the forest administration encountered required more than 100 years  to be solved in favor of large afforestation projects. The “migration” of more than 3.500.000 people from the hills and the plains to the mountain areas, between 1861 and 1951, almost doubled the number of people living in the mountain, making about 25% of the total Italian population. In the Apennine range the mountain population almost doubled in 50 years time.  On one hand this demographic growth brought to the need to expand cultivated land and pasture on mountain slopes, reducing the extension of forest cover. On the other, the need to protect the mountains and the valley from landslides and floods had to take into account that farmers and shepherds needed land to survive, rather than forests. Initially the attention of authorities was mostly concentrated on strategies based on the experience of French engineers, which preferred to build dams rather than afforest the land. At the turn of the century however, the bad results of that choice convinced the Italian government to undertake more afforestation. The shift from a policy based on reduced state  subsidies to a robust increase of state intervention, as well as the strong will of the fascist regime to increase afforestation and watershed management, produced the most important Italian laws  for environmental protection,  and helped to extend forest cover, of about 200.000.
 However, the real increase of forest cover as well as the success of afforestation polices, occurred only after 1960, when the industrial development of the country favored the abandon  of mountain areas, bringing back the demographic situation to the one of 1861. Recent research findings shows that the socioeconomic and geological conditions of the Italian peninsula not always suggest that forests and woodlands are the best solution to fight hydrogeological risk, but rather a careful management of the territory.

Erosion processes and past climate condition in the South Alentejo
Maria José Roxo, FCSH – Universidade Nova de Lisboa

The research on information regarding extreme weather phenomena that occurred in the past in the Southern Alentejo region, along the analysis on soil use and occupation cartography, were key elements to understand the current state of decay of the ecosystems.
The used methodology was to collect qualitative information on the weather conditions and extreme phenomena (droughts, flood, storms, snowing) in regional newspapers (Bejense, Mertolense), published since mid-19th century, and in obtaining quantitative data since the time that weather stations were installed in that region of Portugal (Beja, S. Domingos Mine). Particular emphasis was given to the information regarding the municipalities of Mertola and Serpa, as they are municipalities that show vast areas with a high degree of soil degradation and loss of biodiversity (desertification).
The climatic information associated to land use changes on different soil types and propriety dimensions, allows illations to be taken regarding the dynamics of hydric erosion process and to establish phases during which the ecosystems suffered greater pressure. This knowledge facilitates the validation of future scenarios regarding current climatic changes.