Date of Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration
David Del Testa
environment, memory, commemoration, memorialization, World War I, First World War, Great Wr
After examining the substantial efforts at land reclamation and environmental mitigation accompanying the State of Pennsylvania’s construction of memorials after World War I in France, I discovered a strong relationship between post-war memorialization and environmental mitigation in the areas in which the environmental consequences of WWI continue to affect humans and wildlife. My research illuminates how cultural impulses to build memorials that acknowledged the vast losses, acts of valor, and victories heavily influenced mitigation of France’s ecologically damaged Western Front. Many of France’s former battlefields, particularly in the devastated area known as the Red Zone, weren’t accessible to visitors before memorial-related mitigation efforts began in the 1920s. Even today, the Red Zone in France and Belgium, defined by millions of unfilled craters and unexploded ordnance, remains in place due to the cost and dangers involved with clean-up.
Yet, when mitigation does occur in these devastated areas, it is still done with the intention to create memorial structures or spaces. Despite this, large expanses of agricultural land were never re-ploughed, many villages were never rebuilt, the prohibition against living in the Red Zone is still in effect, and WWI’s environmental consequences still persist in harmful ways, particularly affecting agriculture and tourism, the Western Front’s most lucrative industries. I approach environmental mitigation of warzones holistically in a way that treats people, land, and places of cultural significance as interconnected and context-dependent, a perspective that is under-studied in the existing scholarship on memorials and mitigation.
My research has allowed me to analyze the crucial problem of war’s lasting effects on the environment through a novel perspective rooted in historical and cultural ecology. Concentrating on the construction of memorials as the focal points of returning damaged land to productive use has enabled me to conceptualize war’s environmental legacy through spaces of memorialization and the repair work done there.
Collins, Amy, "Destruction, Reconstruction, and Remembrance: Exploring 'Memory' and 'Environment' through Pennsylvania World War I Memorials in France" (2018). Honors Theses. 460.