Julia E AultNov 9, 2021
Saving Nature Under Socialism
Transnational Environmentalism in East Germany, 1968-1990
Cambridge University Press 2021
When East Germany collapsed in 1989-1990, outside observers were shocked to learn the extent of environmental devastation that existed there. The communist dictatorship, however, had sought to confront environmental issues since at least the 1960s. Through an analysis of official and oppositional sources, Saving Nature Under Socialism: Transnational Environmentalism in East Germany, 1968-1990 (Cambridge UP, 2021) complicates attitudes toward the environment in East Germany by tracing both domestic and transnational engagement with nature and pollution. The communist dictatorship limited opportunities for protest, so officials and activists looked abroad to countries such as Poland and West Germany for inspiration and support. Julia Ault outlines the evolution of environmental policy and protest in East Germany and shows how East Germans responded to local degradation as well as to an international moment of environmental reckoning in the 1970s and 1980s. The example of East Germany thus challenges and broadens our understanding of the 'greening' of post-war Europe, and illuminates a larger, central European understanding of connection across the Iron Curtain.
Julie Ault is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah. She completed her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 before joining the faculty at Utah. She is currently a faculty fellow at the University of Utah’s Tanner Humanities Center with the goal of developing her second book project, tentatively entitled Solidarity & Socialist Riches: East German Diplomacy, Environment & Technology, 1949-1989. Her research interests include the environment, transnational networks, social movements, socialism, and the Cold War.
Leslie Waters is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Borders on the Move: Territorial Change and Ethnic Cleansing in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderlands, 1938-1948 (University of Rochester, 2020). Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @leslieh2Os.