From No-Man's Land to a Congested Paradise: An Environmental History of Mauritius

Toth FL (1993). From No-Man's Land to a Congested Paradise: An Environmental History of Mauritius. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-93-027

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Abstract

This Working Paper constitutes Chapter 5 of the book manuscript, "Understanding Population-Development-Environment Interactions: A Case Study on Mauritius". The Mauritius case study was carried out by IIASA in scientific collaboration with the University of Mauritius and funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

This paper identifies long-term social, economic, and political processes that shaped natural resources and various ecological systems of Mauritius. The environmental history of the island demonstrates how various human activities transferred the landscape, fauna, and flora over the centuries. The balance of direct, local causes behind these interventions as opposed to remote and often indirect driving forces kept changing over time, but the analysis shows overall dominance of the second group. Even in the position of full political sovereignty, remote economic, political, and increasingly, environmental processes and forces tend to shape local structures. This is the main reason behind my confidence that the island's environmental history has useful lessons for the future in Mauritius and perhaps many other small islands.

The analysis shows that during the 400 years history of Mauritius, various forms of natural resource exploitation and environmental transformation were to a large extent results of fluctuating opportunities in international trade, changes in economic policies of the colonial power and other important trading partners, various forms of technological change, institutional transformation, and political changes. The dynamic combination of these factors conditioned the aspirations and behaviors of various economic and social actors in Mauritius over the centuries which, in turn, profoundly transformed all components of the natural environment in Mauritius. It is possible to tell the environmental history of Mauritius and the story of the Dodo without considering the external factors, but it is impossible to understand them. It is hoped that this paper provides some of the missing explanations.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:02
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2016 08:26
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/3786

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