- School of History and Sociology
Germán Vergara (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) specializes in Latin American and environmental history. Working within a global perspective, his research and teaching explore the role of the environment, animals, energy regimes, intellectual traditions, and industrial capitalism in Latin American history.
His book manuscript, Fueling Mexico: Energy, Environment, and the Transition to a Fossil-Fueled Society, 1850-1950, examines how and why modern Mexico transitioned from an agrarian society powered by animal muscle, water, and wood to a fossil-fueled industrial society. Within a century, Mexico went from an energy regime based on dispersed solar energy accumulated in plants and human and animal muscle to one based on the concentrated ancient sunlight trapped in fossil fuels. The study traces the ways in which scientists, industrialists, state officials, and ecology shaped this process and suggests that fossil fuels were adopted in response to the limits of wood-and-water based industrialization, the predominant manufacturing model of the late nineteenth century. Such limits took the form of large-scale deforestation, insufficient energy supplies, and increased social conflict over forests and water. For Mexican elites, fossil fuels seemed like the best—if not the only—option the country had for industrializing, prospering, and securing its national sovereignty over the long term. The book argues that the shift to a carbon-based society has been the main agent of environmental, economic, and social change in Mexico for over a century. The project is the first study to look at the historical roots of today's global fossil-fuel energy regime from a Latin American perspective.
Germán's first book project examines the transition to fossil fueled-industrialization, one of the key drivers of environmental change in modern Latin America; his second book project will focus on the region's biodiversity crisis, one of its cognate developments. The study offers an environmental history of species extinctions in Latin America since 1800. Recent estimates suggest that 41 percent of described amphibians, 26 percent of mammals, and 13 percent of birds currently face the threat of extinction worldwide. As one of the global centers of biodiversity, Latin America is at the heart of the current extinction crisis. The project will focus on the intersection between fossil-fueled industrialization—a process that gave humans an unprecedented capacity to change the environment—environmental politics, animal-human relations, and species loss throughout nineteenth and twentieth-century Latin America.
Germán has published on energy history and has forthcoming articles on the environmental history of industrialization and animal history in Mexico and Latin America with Mexican Studies and the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latin American History. His article "How Coal Kept My Valley Green: Forest Conservation, State Intervention, and the Transition to Fossil Fuels in Mexico" was recently published in Environmental History.
After earning his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, Germán spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow in environmental history at Brown University. He has received fellowships from The University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS), the Charles A. Hale Fellowship for Mexican History from the Latin American Studies Association, and the USMEX Fellowship Program at the University of California, San Diego.
- Ph.D. in History, University of California, Berkeley
- M.A. in History, University of California, Berkeley
- B.A. in Anthropology, National School of Anthropology and History (Mexico)
- Agriculture, Health, and the Environment
- Energy, Climate and Environmental Policy
- Global Cities and Urban Society
- History of Technology/Engineering and Society
- Modern Global History/Science, Technology, and Nationalism
- Latin America and Caribbean
- North America
- HTS-2051: Colonial Latin America
- HTS-2823: Special Topics
- HTS-3065: Hist Global Societies
- HTS-3081: Tech and Environment
- HTS-6116: Environmental History
- Animals in Latin American History
In: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History [Peer Reviewed]
- How Coal Kept My Valley Green: Forest Conservation, State Intervention, and the Transition to Fossil Fuels in Mexico
In: Environmental History [Peer Reviewed]