Know your history: Colonialism’s environmental legacy

Earth Oriented

The irreversible social inequalities brought about by colonialism are well known, but the ecological impacts of colonialist ventures are often overlooked. Besides the exploitation of natural resources, the expansion of the British Empire purposefully introduced exotic species to colonised environments, with harmful environmental consequences.

British settlers felt that indigenous African and Australian fauna and flora were not up to scratch when compared to European wildlife. Similar to ‘civilising’ attempts on local populations by introducing Western customs and practices, animals were introduced to ‘civilise’ landscapes into resembling the English countryside.


Common starling

The European starling was introduced in the late 19th century by Cecil John Rhodes, the 6th prime minister of the Cape colony.  Rhodes introduced several species of birds and mammals to South Africa, hoping to transform the Cape environment into a peaceful English landscape. As ridiculous as the politician’s attempts sound, Rhodes’ forced addition of the…

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12 Responses to Know your history: Colonialism’s environmental legacy

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