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Fear of the 'Steppes': Soil Protection and Landscape Planning in Germany 1930-1960 between Politics and Science

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This article deals with political dimensions and the popularisation of scientific problems. The interwar and early post-World War Two years were marked by worldwide state interventions to combat soil erosion, combining social relief with environmental improvement. These activities were supported by arguments grounded on the different ideological frameworks of the individual states. In the case of Nazi Germany and the two post-war German societies 'steppe' and 'steppification' (Versteppung) played a provocative role as terms of political demagogy, denouncing the downgrading of agricultural ecosystems while simultaneously being a subject of soil science and botanical research. The article analyses this ambiguity within the context of the newly evolving occupational field of landscape planning. It will also show that despite the ideological differences between states like the US and the USSR, international professional exchanges on questions such as soil erosion and land degradation had a strong impact on the predecessors in the 1930s of post-World War Two environmental planning in Germany.
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Keywords: Alwin Seifert; Desertification; Germany; National Socialism; landscape advocates; landscape diagnosis; landscape planning; soil erosion; steppification; windbreak planting

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2015-10-01

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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