Berlin Brandenburg Colloquium on Environmental History Summer 2021 (online)

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April 19, 2021 to June 23, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Public Policy, Public History, Modern European History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Environmental History / Studies


Berlin Brandenburg Colloquium on Environmental History Summer 2021 (online)

The Berlin Brandenburg Colloquium on Environmental History offers an open, local as well as international forum for the discussion of environmental history research in the German capital region. Three of the five sessions are part of a mini-series on usable pasts in the history of technology and environmental history, involving the opportunity for interactive discussion and engagement. Two sessions are devoted to the history of nuclear issues - Uranium mining and conflicts a local nuclear plant sites.

The colloquium will be fully online. Please e-mail us to and we will send you the login data.


Monday, 19.04.2021
Usable Pasts. Part I
Per Högselius (Stockholm, Sweden)
Why historians of technology and environment can and must engage in the public debate (in English)

MONDAY 4-6 p.m. – Contribution to the ASEH Environmental History Week


Wednesday, 19.05.2021
Usable Pasts. Part II  Uses of History - A dialogue between the environmental policy research and practice (in German)
Vom Nutzen der Vergangenheit. Ein Dialog zwischen Umweltpolitik-Forschung und -Praxis
Karena Kalmbach (Berlin)
Zwischen Politikberatung und Main-Stream Geschichtswissenschaft: Wohin will die Umwelt- und Technikgeschichte?
Klaus Müschen (Berlin) Anekdoten, Geschichten, Gedächtnis – Wie können wir für die 2. Halbzeit der Energiewende lernen?

Wednesday, 26.05.2021
Usable Pasts. Part III (in English)
Roundtable: What can environmental history and the history of technology contribute to today’s challenges – and how?

Christoph Bernhardt (Erkner), Julia Obertreis (Erlangen), Heike Weber (Berlin), Timothy Moss (Berlin)

Wednesday, 09.06.2021
Sabine Loewe-Hannatzsch (Freiberg) (in German)
Neue Perspektiven auf den Umgang mit Umweltproblemen im Uranerzbergbau der DDR, 1949-1991 / New perspectives on dealing with nuclear problems of GDR Uranium Mining (1949-91)

Wednesday, 23.06.2021
Christian Götter (München) (in German)
Kernenergie im Zentrum gesellschaftlicher Konflikte. Öffentliche Debatten in der BRD und Großbritannien im Vergleich (1956-1989) / Nuclear energy at the heart of societal conflicts? Public debates in West Germany and the UK

Ort: ONLINE. Please send us an email to obtain Zoom login information.

Time 6-8 p.m. CET (Berlin / Brussels / Paris)
Contact us:

 Astrid M. Kirchhof
Jan-Henrik Meyer


Usable Pasts - Insights from environmental history and the history of technology for today's challenges

This mini-series of online events, entitled “Usable Pasts – Insights from environmental history and the history of technology for today’s challenges”, explores the potential – and pitfalls – of enrolling these fields of scholarship to inform, challenge and inspire responses to the climate and environmental crises of our day. It is motivated by the conviction that historians have an important contribution to make to this societal challenge and that their voices need to be better articulated for them to be heard and considered. The organisers invite historians, non-historians and practitioners to exchange ideas and experiences around the practice of using historical knowledge to address modern-day issues. The overarching purpose of the mini-series is to specify what and how historians of technology and the environment can contribute to current debates on the environmental and climate crises and their resolution. The following questions are designed to guide the presentations and inspire the discussions:
- What selective or simplistic histories of the environment permeate the thinking of policy-makers, business leaders and opinion-setters and how can they be challenged by historians?
- What helpful analogies to past crises exist and what false analogies should be subjected to criticism?
- In what ways do ‘presentist’ framings of the climate/environment crisis limit our ability to understand its characteristics and potential responses?
- What legacies from the past – institutional, cultural, political, socio-economic, material – constrain action or restrict options for addressing the climate/environment crises?
- What lost or discarded alternatives from the past could enrich our response to climate and environmental change?
- What risks do historians need to be aware of when engaging with contemporary debates on environmental or climate policy and practice?
Historical scholarship cannot be expected to provide ready-made solutions to the climate crisis and, indeed, is not equipped to do so. However, it can help practitioners rethink the present, encouraging them to appreciate the temporal context of their aspirations, reflect upon the implications of their actions and reframe their discourses. Taking first steps along this path is the ambition of this mini-series.
Organised in cooperation with Christoph Bernhardt, Julia Obertreis, Heike Weber and Timothy Moss.

Contact Info:

Astrid M. Kirchhof, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,

Jan-Henrik Meyer, Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History ZZF Potsdam,

Contact Email: