Having been born into a world in which people knew about anthropogenic global warming, I grew up in the “global environment.” Although the category “global environment” seems normal, if not natural, Perrin Selcer
shows just how recent its origins actually are. In his innovative new book, The Postwar Origins of the Global Environment: How the United Nations Built Spaceship Earth
(Columbia University Press, 2018), Selcer investigates how cosmopolitan scientists in the post-WWII era attempted and failed to build a social-democratic world community, but, in the process, constructed the category of the “global environment.” Also in that process, they cobbled together a transnational community of experts and a global knowledge infrastructure in specialized UN bodies, such as Unesco and the Food and Agriculture Organization, that helped make the global environment knowable. The book will interest a broad range of scholars, including historians of global institutions, environmental studies scholars, historians of science, and anyone that wants to historicize the categories that are closest to us.
Dexter Fergie is a first-year PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th-century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @DexterFergie.