Reply To: Tue 17 Nov: Nature, Narrative and Environmental History

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Meghan Buurmans # Posted on January 5, 2016 at 01:16

My complementary assignment:

17th of November

This is my complementary assignment for the 17th of November, which I could unfortunately not attend due to my exchange. I say unfortunately, because it looks like a very interesting discussion that bring back a few points we have already discussed before. I will respond to the interview with Cronon and to my classmates reflections, since they raise a lot of points that immediately captured my attention too. These include the use of the narrative and the discussion of humans being part of nature instead of being above nature.

What I first want to consider before I start is that both Cronon and also Worster are both American environmental historians, which I believe is slightly different than the environmental history we practice, which is very interesting, since it gives us a different perspective to. When I followed an environmental history course In Los Angeles and also during our conversation with Worster, it seemed like US Environmental History includes more science and biology and less humanities aspects. However, it seems to me that William Cronon is actually very much thinking about environmental history as a way of thinking differently and includes more humanities aspects, which is why I believe it would have been very interesting to have met him. In the interview he mentions this multiple times, how writings can be an addition to simply looking at geology etcetera.

I found it interesting to come back to the issue of narrative in history, since that is also how some of us started this degree. In the introduction week we discussed multiple times how history is not made up of facts or an objective truth, but how many aspects can influence how we see history, aka how a story is created. This can simply be as easy as when to start or stop a story, which facts to include and which sides you look at. I believe it is important to keep repeating this and I appreciate academics focusing on this, especially since they are often taken very serious. I believe that sometimes people, especially from a science background, can have difficulties accepting history as a field, since it cannot be measured and there is often no objective answer. The importance of well known individuals in the academic community therefore addressing this is very important in my opinion.

In my classmates comments I came across the discussion of intellectual or academic knowledge versus daily or more practical knowledge. I obviously was not there for the discussion, but it seems like a very interesting point. Academic knowledge obviously has its value and should not be considered less. However, especially in environmental issues, including environmental history, there are a lot of things we can learn from people interacting daily with the environment and from people who have historically been able to have personal interaction with issues we can only study second hand.