Environmental and Climate Change in Africa: Global Drought and Local Environmental Infrastructure

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses major approaches to the environmental history of Africa in terms of the drivers of environmental change, including both human and non-human factors. This allows for the contextualisation of what currently is considered perhaps the largest single environmental threat: global climate change. A key factor in identifying Africa as the most vulnerable continent is the perception that African societies are directly dependent upon their fickle environment. Africans are often seen as living virtually in and of nature. Societies elsewhere, by contrast, are considered to be shielded from nature’s whims by a cultural environment created through modern technology and science. The differences in the relationship of Western and African societies to nature, however, have been vastly overstated. By way of critiquing the underlying nature (Africa) versus culture (West) dichotomy, this chapter investigates African environmental infrastructures, including land management systems, elaborate systems of water harvesting and food storage, and burning regimes, which cushion the impact of weather and environmental extremes. It substantiates its arguments by means of a case study from 1920s and early 1930s north-central Namibia. A global climate event (a severe drought), the global economic crisis, and regional political and demographic developments nearly led to a killer famine. The history of this drought demonstrates how environment and climate are embedded in and fractured through social, economic, and political factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationClimate and Culture
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages25
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameClimate and Culture
ISSN (Print)2213-0519

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • Cultural Studies


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