Reply To: Examinations of the course

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Miguel Núñez # Posted on January 5, 2016 at 15:06


1. Governance of the artic:
In this seminar I was interested in the origins and in the political effects around the resilience concept. The first time as I heard about this concept was as a psychological ability which all the persons have in order to restore themselves after living traumatic experiences. Such as an example, those people who have lived in places where war has happened can found new ways to survive after the warfare risks have passed.
In the interim report from 2012 about resilience in the arctic, is informed and defined the resilience from ecosystems as those capacities of the biological or environment systems that can restore old lost states of environmental functions. But, how the ecosystems can restore themselves if the risk which exists over their natural functions does not disappear? This question guided my personal reflections.
We discussed about China as claimer of the arctic for its managing, exploitation and free use. This claiming could be assessed from a global perspective, in the sense that China, with their more than one billion of inhabitants, needs for their future generations the arctic natural resources. If we think globally around the idea that the arctic is a human patrimony, one of the natural consequences is that Chinese peoples, being part of humankind, have rights over managing the Arctic. In what way and based on what circumstances China could be manage the Arctic is a big question, if we take in account the big capacity from chinese peoples to put limits on their behaviors. The restrictions over their biological functions as their reproductive capacity, and the consequent outcome in the Chinese families from today, are a clear example about the effectiveness of the Chinese peoples. What other big people has could put limits to their reproductive expansion through politic decisions? No one as the Chinese appears today as the more awareness about the impact over the environment that the human production and consumption have and, and it´s the reason for the economic punishment to those families which have more than one child or two children.
As we have seen, at least in the strongest economies of the world, the conflict between economic principles and ecological principles is clear, indeed in the managing over the Arctic. I think that it´s the point that we can assessed deeply.
2. River history
In this seminar my reflections were about the use of scientific methodologies for the reconstruction of the history. As we discussed, a very important issue in the making of written history is about the narrative styles which are used as well the methodologies to reveal new information. On one hand, we talking about the way to tell past stories in the present, and on the other hand we agreed that scientific methods as data collection, cartography, and math models are very useful in the real consistence of anyone history that we want to tell.
To do an explanation regarding to the differences between narrative and research methodologies used in academic or literary works is important for me. The narrative is composed by the style, the tone, the period and disposition in a text in order to engage with the lector and take its attention. Meanwhile the methodologies are those specific skills which allow discovering new information or understanding it in a new way. Such for example, in the case of the riverscape reconstructions through GIS technology, after the analysis of historical information, is possible understand how the river changed across time in a specific place. But after the coming of the comprehension social scientific must assume the challenge before the better way of communication. Here appears the topic around the narrative and the adequate channels to transmit scientific knowledge.

In our common discussion, I talked about the social sense that the peoples give to themselves based on their knowledge and histories, which allow them to interpret their current context to take informed decisions for their futures. In this sense, the critic reflections around the lack of ecological or social sense from scientific investigations are demands from common people, which must be benefited by the advances of the science in the world. The conflicts between the scientific knowledge, in this case the historical reconstruction of the Viennese riverscape, and the people who living as inhabitants, has been well studied by scholars and they have founded those field called “civic science”.
As I argued in the seminar, in many cases, the information designed by the scientific researcher about the changes of the river, could be useful to claim people rights to the health and the free alimentation, for example. In this way, personally in my practice as lawyer, I could give social sense to the scientific narratives about the history of one river.

3. From natural to cultural landscapes
The archaeological methodologies explained in the conference gives me more scientific elements to comprehend the importance of the excavations of land, picking up fossils, analysis of charcoal and pollen, and about the designs of diagdiagrams which help to represent in long term dure, issues such as the crops. Its relationship with nomadic and sedentary practices have been underlined in many environmental histories but without the specific detail of the methodologies drawn today by Valentina Caracuta.
Another one interest point touched in the discussion was about the interdisciplinary of the archaeological scientific practice, in his partner relation with the social sciences, for example. The mention about the written documents which could be base of explication for certain events partially understood by the natural sciences and his technologies of investigation, was a kind of inspiration for carrying on my thesis work. It because, telling social stories could be a lamp for answering questions about the human motivations in the impact of his environment.
About the domestication of crops in the long term duree and the spread of anatomical modern humans out of Africa, it is wonderful know that the nathufian known about the value of crops in the process of human surviving. As we experimented in the debate, the archeological efforts to give data which sustains theories about the processes of development of the homo sapiens have his scopes and limits. There the social sciences research contributes by telling the social dynamics between human groups.
4. Mentorship in Global Environmental Study. Study case.
I think that the shared experiences which we had had in the running of the mentorship with undergraduate students, were useful for the enrichment in the scope of the global environmental history, not only by the great interest that they showed on environmental themes as well as their focus on going deeply in the history and picking up relevant data in the comprehension of the past phenomena.
Often, I was maintained myself marveled with the constancy that students manifested toward themes that I have considered as “old fashion”, for instance themes like the encounter between American and European worlds in the XV century, as well as the massive dying which occurred in Euro-Asia during XIV century well known as “black death” pandemics.
The two groups which studied diseases had two divergent focuses. One of them I think, wanted to know with details, from a narrative approach, about what happened during massive dying, and the other was so interested in reveal the mechanisms used to challenge those pandemics by sanitary measures as for example the quarantines or healthy belts.
From my own approach, I interpreted it as two necessary steps in the processes of investigation, the first one, I will say, the theory requirement, and the second, the practice. Or in other words, if you are interested in the history, first your efforts try to know what happened and after, they look for a comprehension about the mechanisms which gave impulse to the history wheel. The experience of sharing common interests around a same discipline between persons with differentiated levels of “expertise”, made in my mind a micro-revolution by knowing that the historic concern goes beyond of naïve interests. I mean that I felt myself as part of a community, at least as part of an academic community.
In this lecture and seminar, I began to use the read history in order to improve my comprehension of my present. The questions that I had had in my mind were: ¿How the economical modes of production in the capitalist system could be llinked with massive starvation and sudden changes in the ecosystems producing catastrophes such as flooding in cultivated areas and droughts? What can we learn from past environmental events in order to improve our understanding around current concerns such as the ENSO (El niño southern oscilation) and the climate change? In what way can we associate environmental phenomena such as droughts and flooding with the consumption and production habits from postindustrial societies?
I selected the next methodology to answer last questions: By the annals method we can improve our understanding about environmental history taking in consideration the human events registered in the past and analyze them from current social approaches. In this way, in the case about the history of the ENSO, we can learn about the great famines in the late nineteenth century in comparison with the industrial cultivations of sugar in the southeast Asiatic coasts, made by the British Empire. Because of today we count with better comprehension about the effects on the environment by the industrialization, we can build relevant theories based on historical facts which reveal new causes of the human famines in the late modernity.
Between 30 and 60 millions of persons passed away in the last third of the nineteenth century in the tropical areas from China, India and Brazil because of chronic diseases caused by a continued famine. Likewise, the British Empire managed in the same age the sugar cultivations in the southeast Asiatic, and the mayor part of the produced food was imported to Europe. With certain data and through testimonies from the late XIX century, Make Davis sustains the theory about the victorian holocausts, which mean that those massive starvation was cause directly by the victorian empire. Also, the illustrations and photography included in the book, from this epoch, are awesome and awful, helping to reveal and measure one of the most incomprehensible events in the late modernity. At the same time, this book divulges the traditional Chinese modes in order to avoid the famine effects on the human being, based on strict systems to control the prices of the rice and mechanisms to protect to the peasants which worked the land.
As we seen, at least in the late XIX century the starvation occurred in India had his correlate in the economic exploitation of cotton cultivations by the British Empire. Meanwhile in the same age, the effects on the crops produced by the El Niño Southern Oscilation in China were controlled by a strict economic policy. This panorama helps also to understand current effects that savage capitalism have on communities that base its mode of economy in the huntering, gathering and agriculture.
This reflection mentioned any of the methodologies used by Henrik Ernston et al (2008) in his doctoral dissertation called Actors, Networks and Resilience in Urban Landscapes, with special focus on the paper Weaving protecting stories: connective practices to articulate holistic values in Stockholm National Urban Park. The actor-network theory, the social movement theory and the social-network analyses are skills used by the author to explain a successful experience in the social shaping of ecological values which finally were recognized by the National Urban Park Law in 1995 creating the Stockholm National Park.

According with H. Ernston through linking green areas and the mobilization of social actors was built a public recognition of the social capital of the artifacts produced by activists, artists and Scientifics such as maps, paintings and reports which supported the final approbation of the above mentioned law in the Swedish Parliament. Likewise, the concepts built by the core and periphery social actors regarding to the ecological, historical and national values of the Park were legal basis for the municipal authorities in the management of this protected area.
The protective story as the author called to this social process began because in 1991 an agreement between the Swedish government and major investors was signed for the construction of infrastructure in locations of the current Park. As response, 22 environmental defenders organizations combined their efforts in The Alliance of the Eco-park to lobbied policy-makers and by this way preventing the exploitation of the place. The keen behaviors of social actors, and deciding factors to influence the values incorporated in the National Urban Park Law, included as the author points out the access to social arenas, the artifacts linked, their social networks position and capabilities of activists. (p. 109)
A reflection and questions from the Global South.
A strong democracy with participative mechanisms open to the public, the existence of a scientific an academic tradition, a culture of dialogue and no confrontation and the high respect to the liberty of association would seem as the values to support successes experiences of social movement in the governance of the social commons. This social process of constitution of a National Park in Sweden where the people’s voice and knowledge is valued rather than the economic values of competition and urban growing, it is a great example about the effectiveness of the democracy.
Despite of this successful experience, it is necessary to answer other questions. Who are the final users of the Stockholm National Park? Who of them has free access to the park in which parts of the year? Who has limited rights in the enjoying of the park because their lacks of social, economic or symbolic capital? Are the social actors that shaped the National Urban Park Swedish Law part of elite?
The recognized historian Donald Worster illustrates the damage size of the Dust Bowl, an environmental disaster occurred in southern States from U.S.A on the 1930’s. In Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas the over-cultivation of lands was the precondition to the massive soil desertification caused by storm winds. Bad economic effects for the inhabitants, farmers and regional governments were bigger than those produced by the Big Depression in 1929. This disaster caused respiration illness to a lot of people because the particles which flew through the air. The cause of these phenomena was the land overexploitation and for this, it has been identified as those problems which may be analyzed throughout the dilemma of the commons treated by Ostrom.

The dilemma identified by Ostrom, is that if access to common-pool resources is limited it excludes people from their free use, and if the access is not limited, the free enjoyment of people causes resource depletion. According to the school of collective action-which usually has studied the problem-the resolution of this dilemma is economic and has been shown by the successful experiences of the institutions that have been able to manage common-pool resources, by creating rules that have encouraged the proper use of these goods and punished their embezzlement. On the other hand, according to the entitlement scholars, the dilemma is moral and must be decided taking into account the inability of poor and vvulnerable groups to take advantage of the common-pool resources. Therefore, institutional solutions to this dilemma are sometimes contradictory to the contexts of socio-economic needs of the communities.

From a biological approach, the land have an self-system to cure himself and the only requirement to do it depend on strictly from the human will. When comes the day in that pre modern production and consumption, from indigenous and forestry societies, becomes again in the global rule, that day we will be in front of a new society way, in which the biodiversity and the respect for bioma are the environmental values.

8. Reviews in Global Environmental History

B. Seminars I have led: GOVERNANCE OF THE ARTIC

1. Nature, narrative and environmental history.
2. Integrated history of people on earth.