Reply To: Examinations of the course

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Sanna Karlsson # Posted on January 6, 2016 at 11:20

Current Debates Course

The 10 seminars I have attended:
– World Systems, History and Ecology
– Policy in the Age of the Climate Crises (Global utmaning)
– Nature, Narrative and Environmental History
– Science, Society and Power
– Will attend the seminar in the 27th of Jan 2015
Seminars with my complimentary tasks:
– Actors, Networks and Resilience in Urban Landscapes
– Governance and the Arctic
– Integrated History of People on Earth
– River History
– The Age of Ecology
Seminar I have held:
– World Systems, History and Ecology

Diary of the reflections of the seminars:

– World Systems, History and Ecology
According to Moore, speakers of the Anthropocene are usually people who speak much but act little. What I would have liked to hear was in what way Moore acted on the climate change, and not only spoke of it? It seemed he mostly focused on a new way of defining capitalism and not how this in practice can change climate change, which I consider people speaking of the Antrhopocene give suggestions to (less carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere for example). I refrained from asking him this since I did not think I could ask it in a good way just then. Why I consider this to be important, is that all of us in the class discussed the different concepts without getting to a solution. Perhaps I was to focused on how this might help in the environmental issues, like a quick answer, than really understand how Moore tried to explain the role of captalism in envrionmental problems.

– Nature, Narrative and Environmental History
I brought up one aspect of boredom which somewhat contradicts Cronon, and that is that boredom can be considered a skill. I do not mean always, toward most things, but truly it is a valuable skill nonetheless. It is through boredom that I am taught not to do certain things, while I gain more energy to pursue the passions of my heart. This is one important aspect, it is not good for us to be too divided, but instead single-minded on the work we have before us. However, as we discussed, there will always be obstacles of boredom on the way of getting to our goals and this is where boredom is to be overcome as mentioned earlier. But over all, I believe in today´s society when we are expected to be updated all the time, to follow along in everything, to get bored with things like Facebook can be beneficial for thus can we use our time on more important things. To shut things out can be a skill that we do not want to live without.

– Governance and the Arctic
What societies do in a resilience framework is that they can for example share available food and also that they know alternative ways of getting the food and water that they need. To build in resilience in political decisions concerning food security is one of the authors´ suggestion. I truly think that resilience in this context is of high importance. I find it hard in what other way the Arctic can reach food security effectively. But it all requires that the facts of resilience concerning food- and water security become a reality. I believe the difficult part will be to actually implement the knowledge of resilience fully, since it needs to influence politics to a high degree and perhaps not all in power will agree on the solutions and thereby not all of the changes will come to pass. However to contiually strive thereafter is of course what is needed in order to see a further implementation of the resilience.

– Integrated History of People on Earth
Centennial-scale dynamics has to do with our relationship to nature and how we have impacted nature tracing 1000 years back. My thesis is mostly centered around present time, at the most tracing back to the use of chemistry for good and bad back in the 1400s. This is merely in my background section though. When it comes to chemistry and its effect on nature, I am not sure of how much we know 1000 years back. What we do know is that it was not until the recent app. hundred years that artificial chemicals have been synthezised, which the world has never seen before. Since it is foreign to nature, there is no doubt that it will have somewhat negative effects on it, because it is not made for it basically. The only thing I believe we can learn 1000 years back is that some harmful elements may have killed people (e.g. arsenic), wildlife and also brought its harm to nature. However, this is not in my thesis. If it was going to be in the Dahlman workshop, this would be a good aspect to investigate further.

– River History
One of my fellow students wrote the following about the articles:
”I must admit that I found the reading of the articles almost unbearably boring. My impression was that the authors just stacked up historical facts without putting them in a context or creating a comprehensible narrative. Should not all this information be connected to some socioeconomic factors, ecological consequences or a zoomed out perspective on Austrias role in global trade – in order to justify itself as History?”
I agree that stacking up information bit by bit can be perceived as boring and may not serve its purpose since the relevance of the context is left out. Since I did not attend the seminar, I am not sure if Winiwarter answered why the context is left out. I come from a background of natural sciences, but has now in my Master come into being an environmental historian. I am new to the concept of an actual ”historian” and how history should be written. What I can recall from a course in what history is in the beginning of the programme, is that one has to truly specify what the study concerns and what it does not look into. To be specific is the key I believe. In this, there is always a context. Not a pile of facts. For what does a pile of facts really mean? Can it lead forward a correct understanding of a situation, and what to do about it? History, what I understand, is always placed in a context. What, when, who, where things happened. And as my fellow student put it: what consequences were made. I think it would be interesting to ask Winiwarter myself what has come out of the articles. Maybe it has served a purpose despite, I should not say that it may have not.

– The Age of Ecology
As I dwell on environmentalism, I realize I can not solve the world problem concerning it. I can only live one day at a time, doing what I´m doing. The question I have is, how well can I act locally? There are ways in which we can affect climate change etcetera, for example by buying organic foods. Another is to separate at source when it comes to household waste. One of my favorite topics is on toxicology. Here we can learn as individuals to buy containers for food made of glass instead of plastics, use coconut oil on our bodies instead of lotions made of chemicals. We could also try to engage politically and try to affect desicions to a more environmentally friendly direction. However. If we then live on as most people and fly to Thailand for vacation, have we not possibly undone all the ”good” choices for the environment by flying the airplane?
So, somehow I believe that trying to live environmentally friendly, is very hard. We can as individuals only add small bits to the picture. I find it very complicated. I more believe in top down politics concerning this, where bigger decisions are made in global institutions and organizations, so that the decisions can benefit on larger scales and help more people to make good choices. For example, that fuel for the airplane was cleaner somehow.

My conclusion on the course
There are many issues in today´s society. If one goes as close as to watching the news, terrible things happen every single day. Of course, even hardships at work, in relationships or at home can also affect any individual. These are sad things however, which have occured at all times. Affecting all society throughout time. If one instead looks at the current climate change and its issues, this has not occured to the vast extent than has it today. This is my reflection on the Current Debates course.

First of all, I found the course interesting. It highlighted different aspects of the climate debate today and somewhat what we can do about it. There are issues we can address today, and some which may be out of our reach to actually change for the better in the long term. My overall impression of the course is to try change our use of resources of different kinds, money and nature, in order to leave a better world to our descendence. The increasing problem started in the 1800 which the Industrial Revolution, unto the Silent Spring in the 1960s. The Revolution had to do with coal and the usage of coal, which has increased the climate change a lot. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, wrote on the contemporary usage of pesticides and other toxins which were very damaging and sometimes deadly to nature and wild life. Joahcim Radkau, describes the origins of environmentalism and also mentions Carson.

Today, the situtation is more severe, although we have banned some pesticides etcetera used in the 1960s. Coal is still being used as enery resource in electricity world wide. We have also increased environmental toxins of different kinds, by producing large amounts of them used in plastics, fabrics, electronics and much more. We are depleting the ozone layer, causing imbalances of the temperature – such as warmer over all temperature – and increasing desease among animals and damaging vegetation due to toxins. Some experts consider us to think long term, in contrast to today´s thinking of short term thinking among most people. It is my conclusion that most of the author´s we came in contact with during this course thought this way. Not only did they think long term, but also that we actually can do something about this crisis.

We have caused it, and therefore there are habits we can change. We can change our view on nature and to use it with care. To be subordinate nature and let it teach us how much we are depended upon it. If we find alternative energy sources, this would also be a step in the right direction. Yet, I did not read on how to combat the use of toxic sustances globally. Maybe it was merely not covered in the course, or not on the seminars I attended. I have however read other literature on the subject, and they suggest limitations and prohibition foremost should be be done on a more global level, such as the EU. Also, they give suggestion on what one can do on a personal level, as to how to avoid toxicity at home.

About thinking long term, and how to change the climate change. I once watched a documentary on television about six people who were pioneers in the environmental movement around the 1970s. They truly thought for change and that the government so to speak would wake up and take action. We could make a complete reverse, if only we acted now, was their message. They documentary said that only a few people thought such long term as these six people. They thought up unto six generations forward. I believe this is true, and I do admire them for taking action, since much of today´s environmental revolution is originated in their work. But, I do wonder if are all meant to think six generations forward.

To be honest, should we all think long term, and how easy is that? Consider a family of seven. The parents work fulltime to make food on the table, and rest of the time is used for the children, spending time with family, going for walks, and once in a while making a longer trip to relatives 5 hours away. The hours basically goes away quickly every week. They do not have time to be involved in anything political, nor money to buy organic. To say the least, they really do not care to be environmentally friendly, for there is too much hassel to even start going about it. And how much difference would it make? If their children is happy is all that matters to them, and if they could not see a direct connection to their action environmentally wise and the mental or physical state of their children, could they care less? Even if they wanted to care or do care is it to difficult to adjust to environmental friendly choices.

Here I believe companies and the society comes into play. If there are laws on the political level, people do not have to choose so much and make inconveinient changes in their lives, but can simply choose environmental friendly choices simply because there are almost no other choices to make, let us say in a store. The company has already made the changes for them. Of course, changes can be difficult for companies to make as well, but are they pushed from politicans, are they more motivated to make that change. Thus, for the mom and dad with five children, the best move they can make environmentally is to vote for politians who will put the right questions forward in this discussion.

To be frank, however, I doubt we can actually combat climate change. We can do all that we can yes, and it will make a difference, but I still believe it will not suffice. We have put ourselves in a horrendous mess. I think we do not know how bad we have actually treated the Earth. We have introduced foreign substances (synthezised) which we do not know the long term effect of. I believe one of the greatest dilemmas is to get everyone to cooperate. (Even if we could, would we be able to undo the damage we have done?)

Why do I believe the greatest dilemma to combat climate change is to get everyone to cooperate? To me it seems like the environmentalists think that only if the message get out to everyone, do everyone or most people want to join and combat climate change. For the good-hearted ones, I believe they will, and therefore I am all for the environmental movement, for we do have a responsibility to steward nature and wild life. But I also believe that there will be many people, no matter how much they know, will not care at all. And others, who will outright work against it.

Why people who do not care at all and the ones who will work against it will do it for mostly two reasons in my opinion: selfishness and money. It is craving things for oneself, not caring about the consequences of others. I believe that no matter how much one tries to convince them, they will not change, period. So, I consider the environmental movement should grow and do even more good works, while I believe they should also understand their limits: they will possibly not change the whole world, and people will also work against them. But yet I would say, do not give up in changing the world for the better! For you never know who else will join the movement and how much change can be done.