An Environmental History of the Bering Strait
by Bathsheba Demuth
Pub Date 20 Aug 2019
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A groundbreaking exploration of the relationship between humans and the natural world where two great economic ideologies converge.
Along the Bering Strait, through the territories of the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia, Bathsheba Demuth explores an ecosystem that has long sustained human beings. Yet when Americans and Europeans arrived with self-serving ideas of human progress, the Chukchi and Seward Peninsulas and surrounding waters became the site of an historical experiment. Here, the great modern ideologies of production and consumption, capitalism and communism, were subject to the pressures of arctic scarcity.
Whales and walruses, caribou and fox, gold and oil: through these resources Demuth draws a vivid portrait of the sweeping effects of turning ecological wealth into economic growth and state power over the past century and a half. More urgent in a warming climate, and as we seek new economic ideas for a postindustrial age, Floating Coast delivers necessary warnings and poses provocative questions about human desires and needs in relation to environmental sustainability.
About the Author: Bathsheba Demuth is an environmental historian at Brown University, specializing in the United States and Russia, and in the history of energy and animals. She has lived in and studied Arctic communities across Eurasia and North America.
“A poetic meditation on the devastations of modernity in the sea, on terra firma and, eventually, below ground. Whale hunters and reindeer herders, greedy capitalists and utopian planers, hopeful prospectors and raw material hungry government bureaucrats appear on the stage in this analytically powerful book, a monument to a people and their land just as much as an allegory of the world we have created.” - Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton: A Global History
“Brilliant, compelling, and beautifully executed. Demuth writes with the poetry and wisdom of the land and the sea, drawing the human-wrought past of a faraway place close to the lives and future of us all.” - Jack E. Davis, author of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea
“Bathsheba Demuth’s history flows as richly and fluidly as Arctic waters. Floating Coast narrates the transmutation of nearly every object and idea into something else. As she tracks the dynamics of the modernist, ecological make-over of the Bering Strait, Demuth is inventing a new form of historical narrative.” - Kate Brown, Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology