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Reflection, Helena Norberg-Hodge, May 26, by Kristina Berglund
Yesterday’s discussion seminar dealt with Helena Norberg-Hodge’s book “Ancient Futures”, a story about the Ladakh society; how their traditions and ways of living was thoroughly changed by Western tourism and development ideas in the late 20th century. Helena Norberg-Hodge puts forward a convincing case for learning from traditional societies like Ladakh to direct our societies towards a more socially and ecologically resilient economy, going from global to local by shortening distances and steer all aspects of our economies (e.g. food production) towards localization. I find it difficult not to agree with her critique of the ‘Western’ traditional notion of ‘development’ as a one-way, linear progress path, the prevailing economic system with its lack of consideration for social and environmental wellbeing and negative implications of globalization. However, there are also things to be skeptical about, such as her description of the traditional Ladakhi society as somewhat idealized, and her localization strategy as too simplistic. The question is whether her proposed strategies are complex enough and do not fall in to the same imposed development idea that she so heavily criticizes.
The question got in my hand to answer in this reflection was “how important is it as environmental historians to consider societies’ awareness of the environment when doing research”?
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