Princeton - Max-Planck Advisory Panel on Environmental History & Policy (EnvHist4P)

EnvHist4P is a global network of interdisciplinary scientists working in the field of the relationship between past societies and their environmental history. 

We are concerned in particular with past societal responses and adaptations to environmental stress, especially climatic change and epidemics. We cast our net widely, but our focus is on the Late Holocene, that is the last 3,000 years, the most recent period of human history, during which the first complex modern civilisations and economic systems emerged, leading into socio-economic globalisation, the Industrial Revolution and the onset of the Anthropocene. 

Environmental history provides key policy-relevant science expertise on international, national and local-level challenges. At the local scale, involving environmental historians and archaeologists with in-depth knowledge of how the current environmental problems of a given ecosystem, city or region originated, helps to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and contributes to identifying more sustainable solutions. In addition, anchoring local sustainability and adaptation strategies in the past experience of people living in a given area raises acceptance levels of proposed policies and builds stronger motivation for getting involved in making change happen.

On the national and international level, environmental history helps identify most successful and relevant response and adaptation strategies. Generations of environmental historians, archaeologists and natural scientists have analysed societies of all cultures for their successes or failures in coping with climate crises, epidemics and other environmental stressors. Thanks to the humanities and social science background of our discipline, we are able to go in-depth into how specific solutions worked for particular cultures and societies, while the same solutions did not work for others. Based on our knowledge of reactions to climate, epidemics and environmental changes in the past, we contribute to predicting the range of possible reactions of present-day societies to the new pandemics and the incoming climate shocks. Altogether, we help evaluate the longer-term effects of current policies, for both the natural environment and the society. We identify factors and policies that build resilience now and in the future.