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Article

Soviet official critiques of the resource scarcity prediction by Limits to Growth report: the case of Evgenii Fedorov’s ecological crisis rhetoric

European Review of History: Revue europeenne d’histoire. 2020. Vol. 27. No. 3. P. 321-341.

This paper focuses on official Soviet attitudes towards ‘ecological crisis’ and the rhetoric developed to address it. It analyses in particular the discussions in the Soviet Union that followed the publication of the Club of Rome report Limits to Growth (1972). It contributes to the better understanding of the debate around resource scarcity in a framework of so-called ‘ecological crisis’ as it was conceptualized in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. It is based on the analysis of writings by the Soviet geophysicist Evgenii Fedorov (1910–81) who was among the few Soviet members of the Club of Rome and thus had direct access to contemporary Western scholarship. The paper explores how such rhetoric accepted and reconceptualized the notion of crisis for use in both domestic and international environmental politics and the associated advancement of technology as the most effective remedy against resource scarcity. Fedorov largely built his ideas on Soviet Marxism and Vladimir Vernadsky’s concepts, which preceded the current notion of the Anthropocene. In addition, his experience in nuclear projects and weather modification research –– both more or less successful technocratic projects – gave him some kind of assurance of the power of technology. The paper also provides some comparison of the views of the problem from the other side of the Iron Curtain through a discussion of the thoughts of the leftwing American environmentalist Barry Commoner (1917–2012), which had been popularized for the Soviet public by Fedorov.