The Helsinki University Humanities Programme, Helsinki Environmental Humanities Forum
December 3, 2019 (Tuesday), at 14.15- 15.45
Robert Groß, Innsbruck University, Austria
“The Marshall Plan. A turning point in European Environmental History?”
HELSUS Lounge, Porthania 244, Yliopistonkatu 3, 2 krs.
The European Recovery Program (ERP), also known as Marshall Plan has been studied over decades from perspectives of economic-, social- and cultural history, or as a program that emphasized the shift in U.S.-foreign policies and catalyzed the Cold War. However, scholars overlooked one aspect of the Marshall Plan so far, that is the biophysical impact the program had on the environment. In my paper I propose three different starting points for such a research. Firstly, taking stock of models provided by earth system science, we can observe that the post-WWII shift in human-nature relations that has been described as the “Great Acceleration” took off in parallel to the massive shipping of raw materials, fuel, machinery and technical expertise worth US $ 13 billion into 16 war-damaged European nations. Secondly, the outlet of the Marshall Plan forced European nations to organize themselves in novel transnational institutions e.g. OEEC and UNECE, whose aim was not only to coordinate the reconstruction of war-damaged provisioning systems but also the transformation of mobility and energy infrastructure according to the U.S. model of a “fossil democracy”. The latter translated, thirdly, into production practices by obliging receiving governments to install a system of counterpart-funds providing incentives for efficiency increases in industries that either produced exportable consumer goods, or extracted exportable resources including energy.Considering these three levels, I suggest that a socio-ecological or environmental historian reading of the Marshall Plan might provide a useful lens that enables the study of changing resource use patterns, production practices and so on, which literally ‘made’ the “Great Acceleration” in Europe after 1947.
Robert Groß, Mag. Dr. phil., is a human ecologist by training and an environmental historian by doing. Currently, he is postdoc assistant at the Department of Economic and Social History at Innsbruck University and at the Institute of Social Ecology of the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna. His current work focuses on an environmental history of the Marshall Plan in Europe. His dissertation “Die Beschleunigung der Berge. Eine Umweltgeschichte des Wintertourismus in Vorarlberg/Austria, 1920-2010” [The Acceleration of the Alps. An environmental history of winter tourism in Vorarlberg/Austria, 1920-2010] was brought out in the series “Umwelthistorische Forschungen“ by the publishing house “Böhlau Verlag” in 2019.