The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Second Edition

Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

This thoroughly revised Handbook provides an assessment of the scope and content of environmental sociology, and sets out the intellectual and practical challenges posed by the urgent need for policy and action to address accelerating environmental change.
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Chapter 17: Globalisation, Convergence and the Euro-Atlantic Development Model

Wolfgang Sachs


17 Globalization, convergence and the Euro-Atlantic development model Wolfgang Sachs Introduction The rise of Europe to world dominance in the nineteenth century has excited the curiosity of historians for a long time. Why was Europe able to leap ahead of the rest of the world? A variety of answers has been offered by several generations of researchers. Europe was variously thought to have benefited from its rational spirit, its liberal institutions or its temperate climate. A few years ago, however, Kenneth Pomeranz of the University of California at Los Angeles advanced an ‘environmental’ hypothesis (Pomeranz, 2000). Putting the question more specifically, he wondered how England had succeeded in moving ahead of China, notwithstanding the fact that China had been on a level of development comparable to England as recently as around 1750. Moreover, at the end of the eighteenth century both the Yangtze Delta and England were constrained in their economic development by the scarcity of land available to grow food, supply fuel and provide materials. Only England succeeded in overcoming this limit, however, which it achieved by tapping into two new stocks of resources. First, it gained access to biotic resources from overseas, importing tobacco, sugar, cotton and grain from colonies in North America and the Caribbean. And above all, it managed to exploit the ‘subterranean forest’ by learning how to utilize coal for industrial processes. Only as foreign land replaced domestic land and coal substituted for wood were the natural resource constraints left behind, enabling the British economy...

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