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Aerial view of a cotton harvester in Texas

Imagine sitting at a conference in Paris. You hear a paper on unexploded ammunition from World War One, you look at your inbox and find an interview request from SRF, the national radio company of Switzerland. That was Frank Uekotter's experience on June 14. The interview took place an hour after the paper, and the broadcast was later in the day. Let nobody tell you that outreach is an inevitably protracted affair!

Needless to say, the topic itself is no laughing matter. The impact of modern warfare on the environment is serious and long-lasting - and it is toxic for environments as well as minds. Scars in the land are enduring reminders of a terrible past. A timely topic in light of the war in Ukraine - and an incredibly sad one.

My thanks go to Olivier Saint-Hilaire from EHESS Paris, whose conference paper was on the desk when I gave the interview.

Professor Uekotter is currently working on an ERC funded research project that traces the pathways towards monoculture and looks for recurring patterns and trajectories, common challenges and typical mindsets and thus aims to provide a better understanding of monocultures’ underlying rationales and dynamisms. The project approaches monocultures as ecological and socioeconomic trouble spots while also seeking to address the place of monocultures in the ongoing debates about the modern food system.

For more information, check out the project’s website:

The Making of Monoculture: A Global History - University of Birmingham