Blog Archives


Sustainable Water Management (SWM) Program – Tufts University


Sustainable Water Management (SWM) Program – Tufts University


* * * * * * *

SWM-2022 – Guest Session

Tim Weiskel
1 February 2022


SWM-1-Feb-Slides-titleas well as:


See related discussion of global sea level change:



* * * *

Some Follow-up Topics & Related Resources from
Transition Studies in Response to Student
Questions & Class Discussion

See particularly:

U.N. Warns of Water Wars as 2 Billion People Lack Clean Water with Africa & Middle East Hardest Hit

Democracy Now!
Mar 27, 2023 Latest Shows
A new report by the United Nations warns that a quarter of humanity lacks access to safe drinking water, and nearly half of the global population has no access to basic sanitation. Unless action is taken, 60% of the world’s population could face water supply issues by 2050. At the U.N. Water Conference in New York last week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the report’s findings and warned of the potential link between water scarcity and war. From Abuja, Nigeria, we speak to Boluwaji Onabolu, president of the Network of Female Professionals in WASH in Nigeria, which focuses on water, sanitation, hygiene and public health. We’re also joined from Phoenix, Arizona, by Mohammed Mahmoud, the director of the Climate and Water Program at the Middle East Institute.

And related:

For the implications of the emerging water crisis for agriculture in Africa and the so called “green revolution” around the world see:

* * * *

Some further background on what brought me to focus upon human-land/water interactions over time….


Beyond my current work on long-term human survival strategies amidst our global ecological and epidemiological crises, I have followed with great interest the initiative of Balliol College in Oxford in examining “Slavery in the Age of Revolutions.”  Inspired in part by an impressive exhibit of historical material in digital form at the Oxford college where I started my graduate work more than fifty years ago, I have convened an international group called the “Africa Map Circle” to expand international scholarship in African historical cartography


The point of this new digital humanities research and teaching initiative is to help African historians and anthropologist to learn more about the ecological and social legacy in Africa of the trans-Atlantic maritime trade as well as outlining meaningful change that is now required by way of reparations for these several centuries of systemic exploitation.

 Newly available technologies for digitizing rare and delicate documents combined with “Zoom” conferencing communications now make it possible to convene international conferences between experts on multiple continents to examine the relation between European, American and African history from multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural perspectives never previously possible. 


For further consideration of these themes see (forthcoming):


The Malthus Insight and the Global Limits of “Green Revolution” Food Production

* * *


A Short Overview of Emerging Digital Technologies for Research & Teaching in African History & Cultural Studies


YouTube Version

This is a short video essay emerging from discussions as part of the the international conference convened by the Department of History  of the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, 11-12 November 2021:

ucc letter 400

Conference Program Booklet.

See related:


Prosser Gifford – A Memorial Celebration




View video record of Memorial Service, 9 October 2021

Early in his career, Prosser worked with President Brewster to create an innovative new B.A. program at Yale:


His innovative approach to all the tasks he undertook inspired many new initiatives in the evolution of global understanding.


as well as:










* * *


* * *

Prosser Gifford ended his distinguished succession of careers as the Director of Scholarly Programs and the Founding Director of The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.  Since Prosser held graduate degrees from three different universities in three different subject areas of the human sciences and since he was formerly a Professor of History at Yale, the Dean of Faculty at Amherst College and subsequently the Deputy Director of the Wilson Center at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. few individuals in government, academic or public life could have matched his global breath of knowledge, experience and statesmanship. 

It was, perhaps, for this reason that Prosser Gifford was chosen to supervise the selection process of the first ever, prestigious Kluge Prize in the humanities awarded by the Library of Congress.


* * *

The influence of Prosser upon his students and colleagues over the decades of his remarkable life is difficult to quantify in any conventional manner because it is impossible to assess the importance of generously shared insight and personal inspiration.  By their nature these elusive contributions shared between colleagues and across generations of students were most often conveyed in conversations for which there is no printed record or permanent trace.  Nevertheless, these form the kinds of priceless contributions that we all treasure beyond measure. 

In Prosser’s case, his former colleagues have sought to embody some of the generosity of spirit and innovative approaches to teaching and learning that characterized Prosser’s life-long contribution wherever he worked.  Some have worked with technologies that Prosser could not have known about in the years of his own teaching because they had not yet been invented.   Drawing upon the collections of the Library of Congress, for example (where Prosser played an important and innovative role in the final years before his retirement) scholars of African history have now devised techniques that were inspired by Prosser’s earlier scholarship and teaching but can only now be more fully developed with newly available digitization technologies. 

Senior Rhodes Scholar Inspires a New Approach to the

Study of Africa Through Historical Cartography


Although these techniques are just beginning to evolve, with the example of Prosser Gifford’s life-long work it is possible to imagine how their efforts promise in the coming years to expand the scale and scope of scholarship in African studies and the global humanities around the world.


* * *

Excerpt from:

Library of Congress GAZETTE, A weekly publication for staff 
Volume 31, No. 29 July 31, 2020 , p. 6


Prosser Gifford, founding director of the Library’s Office of Scholarly Programs and of the John W. Kluge Center, died peacefully at his home in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on July 5. He was 91.

Gifford was born in New York City and earned degrees from Yale University (1951), Merton College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar (1953) and Harvard Law School (1956) as well as a Ph.D. in history from Yale University (1964).

He was the first dean of the faculty at Amherst College from 1967 to 1979, where he helped spearhead the opening of admissions to women. He then joined former Oxford colleague James H. Billington as his deputy director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Together, they gathered hundreds of outstanding scholars from around the world to collaborate on research, writing and discussions of cultural, national and world issues.

He served at the Wilson Center from 1980 to 1988.  In 1990, Billington, by then the Librarian of Congress, brought Gifford to the Library, where he served as the founding director of the Office of Scholarly Programs. Gifford worked with divisions across the Library to help develop a wide range of intellectual programs, such as conferences, publications and exhibitions, for which he often helped raise the funds.

When Billington secured the Kluge benefaction as part of the celebration of the Library’s 200th anniversary, Gifford delayed his retirement to oversee the launching of the Kluge Center in 2000.  Working closely with the Librarian, he directed the design and construction of the facility, conceptualized and initiated the programs for early career fellows and senior scholars, and brought the first scholars to the center, including Jaroslav Pelikan and John Hope Franklin — both of whom were later named Kluge Prize recipients.

He designed and directed the prize, from conceptualization through the solicitation of nominations from across the world, the multilevel selection process and the award celebration.  Gifford also created the Kissinger Program that brought some of the best minds in foreign policy to the Library, initiated the program that brings young scholars from British universities to the Library for research and conceived the Library of Congress staff fellowship.

In short, the foundational programs of today’s Kluge Center are the result of Gifford’s vision and indefatigable work. He retired from the Library in 2005. Gifford shared Billington’s love of poetry.  The Poetry and Literature Center became part of the Office of Scholarly Programs and then the John W. Kluge Center during Gifford’s tenure. The center flourished under his direction, and Gifford helped the Librarian select the poet laureate of the United States, facilitated the laureate’s programs and secured additional poetry programs, including the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry.

 Gifford was an excellent colleague and a gentle and generous spirit, and those who knew him will always smile at the memory of his distinctive laugh, which frequently rang through the Library buildings, announcing his presence.

* * *

See related:


Some Contributions of Prosser Gifford – Director of Scholarly Programs – Library of Congress |  Recorded on C-Span Videos



Some Troubling Chapters in The Political Ecology & History of West African Agriculture


ZOOM Webinar session registration


Segments of Walter Rodney Lecture (with supporting links)


Part 1   Part 2   Part 3  Part 4 

Part 5    Part 6   Part 7

(Scan in QR code for access to all parts:)

QR-Rodney-Lecture-ntThe slave trade era in West African history was only made possible through a massive exportation of agricultural production — both actual and “embedded” — in the form of foodstuffs that made it possible to capture or acquire slaves in the first place, and then hold them in captivity and feed them as coerced labor for the construction of forts, ports and the infrastructure for the trade.  Finally, of course, large-scale food production was required to supply the food for the tens of millions of slaves to survive the Atlantic passage were required on a significant scale.  These “prior plantations” in Africa, in effect, proved to be crucial for the emergence of the plantations economies in Brazil, the Caribbean and the Americas. 

The history of these prior plantations has yet to be properly understood or studied in detail.  This provides numerous challenges for Africanist scholars, including archaeologists, ethno-botanists, ecologists and agricultural historians. 

Mapping the Slave Trade: 1556-1823 – A Digital Humanities Project

Detailed histories of the introduction and adaptation of “new world” crops could be undertaken in reference to specific locations of the prior plantations involved in the trans-Atlantic trade.

Old Maps & New Narratives: Digitizing Historical Maps to Analyze New Dimensions of the Atlantic Trade

The Prior Plantations, Legitimate Trade, Cash-Crop Exports & Farmland Grabs: Some Troubling Chapters in The Political Ecology &
History of West African Agriculture

Some related past Boston University discussions:

See related background material:


As well as:

See related:


Lecture follow-up, further related References and Links



Comparative Colonial Cartography: Presentation & Representation on the Frontiers of Empire


Some Elements in an Historical Archaeology of The Atlantic Trade System:What Will Count as Evidence? Part 1 | EV & N 369 | CCTV

YouTube Version

The Atlantic trade system that evolved over the last five hundred + years since 1492 needs to to be reconstructed from multiple resources including documents, ethno-botanical research, soil science, field excavations, cartographic history, historical epidemiology, the historic ecology of biological invasions, etc. 

Fortunately, new techniques of digitization and video communication make it possible now for the first time to convene international colloquia of specialists from all different countries, research disciplines and realms of expertise to share in cooperative research and teaching on a new scale in the global humanities.  Through “virtual” study and learning groups like “The Africa Map Circle” Africanists from many traditions can meet to share, examine and discuss rate and previously inaccessible resources on a scale never before possible.




Ignorance, Arrogance, Overshoot & Collapse: The Destructive Power of Enduing Myths In Collapsing Civilizations | EV & N 360 | CCTV

Industrial societies — based on legacy myths of boundless growth born of their colonial past — are destroying the essential support systems for many complex life-forms and most civilizations on Earth. The ignorance and arrogance of their myths of expansion and conquest are now inscribed in the fundamental belief systems of their leaders and embedded in their narratives of national self-understanding.

Alternative narratives that challenge the fanciful “white-settler” narratives that now dominate the outlook of American political leaders have been branded as “propaganda,” and an effort is being launched from the White House through a Presidential Executive Order to promote the teaching of a “patriotic history” to counter-act the pervasive understanding of American history across the world.

The task will not be easy. Much of the world understands that America was founded on the principle of genocide of the indigenous populations, built through hundreds of years of slave labor and sustained in more recent decades through imperialist warfare waged across the globe for the control of raw materials and markets. President Trump apparently intends to to promote a more “patriotic education” as he seeks to counter this “warped” understanding of the American story.

Those seeing to link to news about President Trump’s new Executive Order on YouTube are sometimes greeted with intervening advertisement for what is being called a “Patriot Protector Facial Cover” [made in America] for either men or women.


It is not clear whether or not this ad is in jest or for real. Nor is it clear from what the mask is designed to “protect” its wearer — or, alternatively, how it might serve to protect anyone in the proximity of the wearer.

Other topics of related interest include:

On the more fundamental problems of American cultural self-understanding see:


Online Research & Teaching with Africa Maps: Tips, Techniques, Examples & Resources | EV & N 364 | CCTV

YouTube Version

PDF of Slides to accompany video discussion.

Online libraries of African historical maps now make it possible to create innovative forms of multi-cultural & international online learning platforms.

This video is a short introduction to accessing and navigating African historical maps online through:

Online Research & Teaching with Africa Maps: Tips, Techniques, Examples & Resources
[PDF Support Slides]

Panel Chair: Tim Weiskel, Africa Map Circle


Gerald Rizzo, President, Afriterra, The Catrographic Free Library
William Worger, University of California, Los Angeles
Henry Lovejoy, University of Colorado Boulder
Paul Lovejoy, Department of History, York University
Andrew Apter, Department of History, UCLA

The COVID-19 lockdown has radically altered research, teaching, and learning in African studies at all levels — from K-12 classrooms through advanced post-doctoral archival research. For the foreseeable future it will no longer be possible to watch a movie together in classroom, nor can groups take field-trips to museums to view important Africa collections, nor will it be possible to assemble in auditoriums to hear from a visiting guest speaker reporting on current circumstances in Africa.

Further, while African studies has had to go “virtual” almost overnight, there are, so far, very few online “textbooks” that are accessible to assist teachers to design “virtual” classroom materials and teach under COVID-19 circumstances.

One immediate solution for this problem:

Despite the general paucity of online African studies materials there has been a remarkable development of resources for the study of historical maps and images of Africa. Over the last decade major innovations in the digitization of historical documents have now made it possible to conduct powerful, rewarding and highly innovative work online in African studies. (See:

This ASA panel will discuss case studies of newly available digitized documents and highlight innovative teaching approaches that can be used by anyone working in African studies. This session will be of interest to all those who must now design, enhance or extend online teaching of African studies in our COVID-19 circumstance. Those who attend this session will receive a helpful, “clickable” compendium (See: of accessible online resources for their immediate “virtual classroom” use.

See related:

Tim Weiskel
Dipl. Soc. Anthrop.(Oxon); DPhil (Oxon), MLS, FRGS
Coordinator, Africa Map Circle


Memory, Myth and Moral Authority: Recalling Images of the Past in Times of Crisis | EV&N – 355 | CCTV

YouTube Version

Some images of the past that live in memory can help us understand the present, but we need to learn how they were constructed.

This is video was created on 8 August 2020 for and broadcast on CCTV Channel 9 at 4:30pm on Sunday, 9 August 2020 to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bomb dropped by the American armed forces.

The program is part of an ongoing series — “EcoViews & News” (EV&N # 355) — past editions of which can be accessed by clicking here.


Learning and Teaching World History in a Time of Global Crisis | EV & N 354 | CCTV


YouTube Version

In the face of the global crises of climate change and permanent pandemic the human community needs now to forge new narratives of World History.

“We had fed the heart on fantasies;
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare.”

W. B. Yeats, Meditations in Time of Civil War

A pioneering scholar, admired professor and global educator who led the way in establishing the field of “comparative colonial studies” recently died.  It is appropriate to reflect on his enduring legacy.  This brief presentation is a compilation of thoughts and previous programs on aspects of World History that deserve attention — ever more poignantly as the entire human community now faces a “shelter-in-place” imperative imposed by a virus one billionth the size of an individual human being.   Never has the world community been in greater need of a new understanding of World History — a vision of which was championed with great kindness and generosity of heart by Prosser Gifford.  See:  “One chosen itinerary…”



Prosser Gifford, 1929 ~ 2020

See related –
Founders of the Yale 5-Yr B.A. Program + Class of Yale ’68

* * * *

Lyrics to Galaxy Song

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs.Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough
Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the ‘milky way’
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go ’round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
‘Cause it’s bugger all down here on Earth.
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Eric Idle / Trevor Jones
Galaxy Song lyrics © Kay-gee-bee Music Ltd., Python Monty Pictures Ltd., Kay-gee-bee Music Ltd