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Verena Winiwarter

Verena Winiwarter

Title: Energy transitions of the past: is there something to learn from History?


Environmental historians have long studied the interactions between societies and their environment. How societies procure their energy is one of the most important factors in how they can intervene into the environment and which side-effects might occur. Energy transitions have shaped history on the grand scale, from hunter-gatherers to solar-based agricultural societies to the fossil-fuel based coal and later the petroleum society of the present. What did energy transitions entail?

How did they happen? What changed in society due to the change of the energetic basis? Based on the vast existing literature on these issues, the presentation aims to offer a birds-eye view over millennia and the globe to pinpoint potential learnings from past energy transitions.

Prof. Verena Winiwarter was trained as a chemical engineer and worked in environmental chemistry labs before pursuing an academic degree in history and communication sciences. She was Austria’s first full professor of environmental history and has taught interdisciplinary audiences for over 25 years. She is a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vice-Chairperson of the Commission on the De-Fossilisation of the European Energy System there and has been elected to Academia Europea in 2020.