“Arming Mother Nature” – Jacob Hamlin at UH, October 18th

Posted by on Sep 29, 2013
“Arming Mother Nature” – Jacob Hamlin at UH, October 18th

Ethics in Science Lecture Series: “Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism”

Hamlin will speak at the University of Houston on Friday, October 18 in 232 Philip G. Hoffman Hall, 11am-1230pm.


Professor Hamblin argues that military planning for World War III essentially created “catastrophic environmentalism”: the idea that human activity might cause global natural disasters. This awareness, Hamblin shows, emerged out of dark ambitions, as governments poured funds into environmental science after World War II, searching for ways to harness natural processes in order to gain military advantage. Proposals included the use of nuclear weapons to create artificial tsunamis or melt the ice caps to drown coastal cities; setting fire to vast expanses of vegetation; and changing local climates. This work raised questions that went beyond the goal of weaponizing nature. “Perhaps one of the surprises is not how little was known about environmental change, but rather how much,” Hamblin maintains.

Bio from Oregon State University, School of History, Philosophy, and Religion:

Jacob Darwin Hamblin specializes in the international dimensions of science, technology, and the environment during the Cold War era.  

Hamblin hails from northern Virginia but earned his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also studied abroad at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, as an undergraduate. He then did graduate work at UC Santa Barbara under the direction of Lawrence Badash, earning an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in 2001. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre Alexandre Koyré in Paris in 2001-2002. Before coming to OSU, he taught at Loyola Marymount University, California State University at Long Beach, and Clemson University. His courses include topics in the history of twentieth-century science, the history of technology, and environmental history.

Hamblin’s research has explored the history of the earth and environmental sciences and the history of nuclear issues. His scholarly articles have appeared in IsisOsirisTechnology & CultureDiplomatic HistoryEnvironmental History, and several other journals. His first book, Oceanographers and the Cold War, assessed the military, political, and economic motivations behind international cooperative ventures in the marine sciences after World War II.  His second book, Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age, was the first international history of one of the least-understood environmental controversies during the Cold War era. Hamblin’s most recent book is Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism, from Oxford University Press.

Hamblin’s current project explores the promotion of nuclear-related science and technology in the countries of the so-called developing world.  The study blends the perspectives of history of science, environmental history, and the history of international relations.