Reply To: Final assignment

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fszys1990@gmail.com # Posted on January 20, 2015 at 15:41

Attended seminar:

1) Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism
2) Mon 17 Feb: World Systems, History and Ecology
3) Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange
4) Mon 17 March: Greece and Revisionist Environmental History
5) Mon 31 March: Science History, Ecology and the Idea of Nature
6) Mon 14 Apr: The Perception of the Environment
7) Mon 26 May: Ancient Futures
8) September 8th: History, Conservation and politics, the example of Australia
9) September 22: Sverker Sörlin’s History is a Nightmare
10) October 6: Science and Poetry

Submitted complimentary tasks:

1) Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism
2) Mon 17 Feb: World Systems, History and Ecology
3) Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange
4) Mon 17 March: Greece and Revisionist Environmental History
5) Mon 31 March: Science History, Ecology and the Idea of Nature
6) Mon 14 Apr: The Perception of the Environment
7) Mon 26 May: Ancient Futures
8) September 8th: History, Conservation and politics, the example of Australia
9) September 22: Sverker Sörlin’s History is a Nightmare
10) October 6: Science and Potery

Led seminar:
1) Mon 17 March: Greece and Revisionist Environmental History

Introduction
It’s very rewarding and exciting when I started to write this final reflection. Rewarding is because I have learned a lot from this course and it’s the time that I can summarize what I have gained from it; and exciting, how can I help not when I going to harvest with my own hands, nay, with my mind and words? Current debate, if concerned about the time, it is not current debate but one year’s debate since it did not operate currently, but lasts one year long wherein we have studied and debated about; and on the other side if concerned with the contents which we have debated about, it’s not current debate, but a debate covering issues which are more everlasting and eternal: time, space, human society, environment, environmental history, scale and more.

Let fantasy, if we replace current debate with words like this: one year about everlasting issues in current academia debate, some of us will definitely get crazy and laugh. And let crazy go, but let laugh suspend. Imagine, the course’s name, even shallow, it has so rich meanings, and how about other things which are already deep enough that have contained tremendous connotation? Like time, space, human society, environment, environmental history, scale and more.

And now, it’s time to review these ideas again. The foremost idea is environmental history. What is environmental history and how can we do environmental history research? I had experienced changes in my mind about the idea of environmental history even if I may not fully recognize. I will not answer it directly but let my dairy about each seminar reveals my consideration.

Diaries
In Gunnel’s lecture, I was interested in three general topics, one is the formation of identity, one is the idea of space and one for the perception of nature. And I made some reflection in comparing China to India. In “world systems, history and ecology”, the idea of “Cheap food” attracts my attention. I do not believe that some agricultural revolution can bring golden time back to us, nor do I believe we, our human can leave hope on cheap food. In “Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange”, my reflection discussed about the pros and cons in adopting a world system’s approach to global environmental history. The world system theory helps us take consideration to a broader range in environmental change. We can borrow useful thoughts from the outside. But a global perspective is not an easy one, at least it may give an image of unconvincing when it tries to use theory and method in solving problems globally. Seminar with Oliver Rackham is the fourth seminar which is also the seminar that I was responsible for. I gained from this seminar how ecology situation changed in ancient and modern Greece. What’s real ecology in Greece? Oliver’s answer was different and inspiring from the stereotype that most of us had, that we may fall into a degradation pattern: today’s technique is better whereas environment is worse. Oliver’s research gives us the real situation: “a consistent change from Greece Yesterday to Greece today is the increase in wild vegetation, especially trees”. (Oliver Rackham, Ecology and pseudo-ecology, 20) that discovery made me reflect how we should take modern theory and method in ancient study. I like Oliver’s attitude, he said “I do not know” to the question “did the ancient Greeks have an attitude to ecology”. Such sincerity and humbleness is a key to real knowledge. In “Science History, Ecology and the Idea of Nature”, I selected the question “How does Merchant help us understand Global Environmental History?” I have got the trail of changes of human’s views on nature and on the relationship between human and nature. One change which I reflected is from mother to witch. I can not agree with that the witch part of nature or the turn to witch appear only after Renaissance. I think in the ancient time, the witch part of nature existed as well as after Renaissance and Merchant did not investigate it so well or may lack evidence. I also got the idea of eco-feminism from the reflection on which I commented. Eco-feminism combines individual and nature, and takes women into consideration on the role of nature played. In “The Perception of the Environment”, I reflected about indigenous people and landscape study on which I argued as landscape and indigenous people are two different things and it’s not easily combine these two into one field. The seventh seminar for me, of which I chose the question from Wenzel “Why was the Ladakh society so vulnerable by Western culture?” to answer. Localization is the therapy for Ladakh society according to Helena Norberg-Hodge’s opinion. She hoped that the local people can resist western influence and get back to their traditional life. But as noticed, the western influence is hardly resisted. Ladakh is located on the boundary which is easily influenced by its neighbors. The western technology helps to save labors and to make life convenient. Vulnerable is Ladakh, and more than Ladakh for the world we lived in is now changing to more and more relied on technology and technique. We are living a life that our old generations are not familiar with, nor we ourselves. From “History, Conservation and politics, the example of Australia”, I got a new understanding of the relation of empire and ecology. Tom Griffith tried to take empire and ecology into the narrative of Australian history in which he posed the idea of “ecological imperialism”. This scale is largely beyond nation and ecology, but combined these two factors together. The scale of biodiversity existed in ecology. The Australian history in Tom Griffith has many layers of scales and it gave readers a very different perspective form traditional nation or else ecological history.
Sverker Sörlin’s seminar, “history is a nightmare”, of which I discussed the “nightmare” and the relationship between nature and environment in Sörlin’s perspective. It’s interesting to know that Sörlin separate nature and environment according to the rule of sustainability. But I could not always agree with the “nightmare” position. I would rather argue for the meaning of history. The last seminar I attended is “Science and Poetry”. I discovered the power of nature in poems whereas found human’s power outside poems is so powerful which is usually jeopardizing nature from human’s hands.

Reflections
Above all is my brief reflection about the path I have gone through from ten seminars, the path of ideas and thoughts. I have rediscovered I almost talked about every thing during this course. And some topics come more than once. First, what is environmental history? In briefly, I would define it as the study of human and nature’s relations during historical and pre-historical time. The time period is broad. The study field is also vast. But one thing I think is very important in environmental history: the relations. I would not think without the relations, only human or nature study can be environmental history. Environmental history must combine the two scales: human and nature, no matter big or small, and investigate their relations. Second, what’s the scale of environmental history? As I mentioned, nature and human are two general scales for this history. But is it too general? I would say: yes and no. Yes is because there are various small scales in environmental history, a nation, the biodiversity of it, of which the change of the biodiversity, and in the changes you can classify according to historical time: ancient, early modern, modern and more… Saying no, it’s because it should have something in general scale that can give us the macroscopic idea in the relation research. Otherwise it is only pieces of words which are either too trifle or too simple.

The field environmental history in current debate reveals its different approaches and different focus by scholars. Ecology, history, political science, sustainability, philosophy and sad theology, environment history involves different disciplines and form a broad version for disciplines. The interdisciplinary character makes environmental history a new and challenging discipline for scholars. Mastering only one discipline is by no means enough in environmental history study.

Finally, the environmental history handles a lot with China as I read and discussed during current debate. The environmental problems in China attract much attention from scholars. But problems and environmental history are not necessarily bonded. Problem solving is not the center to environmental history; it may well be the focus of the government and related organizations. China’s environmental history should be investigated more beyond the problem-solving pattern so that the real relation between human and nature in China is thus come out from the appearing problems. What’s more, theories about environmental history and theories from other disciplines, if applied to China’s environmental history, can be superficial and misleading especially in dealing with environmental thoughts. Because in China’s historical time, five elements, I Ching, Yin and Yang and more ideas related to environment are only seen in Chinese culture. Can modern theories explain the deep root or the ideas of environmental thoughts in China? I would answer “I do not know” as Oliver’s to the question: “did the ancient Greeks have an attitude to ecology”.

References
Carruthers, J, 2012, National Parks, civilisation and globalisation. In: Bernhard Gissibl, Sabine Hohler, Patrick Kupper (Eds) Civilizing Nature: National Parks in Global Historical Perspective, 256-263. Berghahn Books Ltd. (E book)
Cederlöf, G. 2013. Founding an Empire on India’s North-Eastern Frontiers 1790-1840: Climate, Commerce, Polity.Oxford University Press Griffiths, T. 1998. Ecology and Empire: Towards an Australian History of the World in Griffiths, T & Robin, L (eds) Ecology and Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies, University of Washington Press
Hornborg, A. 2012. Global Ecology and Unequal Exchange: Fetishism in a Zero-Sum World. Routledge.
Merchant, C. 1990. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution. Harper one.
Moore J.W. 2012. Cheap Food & Bad Money: Food, Frontiers, and Financialization in the Rise and Demise of Neoliberalism, Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 33(2-3).
Moore J.W. 2011. Ecology, Capital, and the Nature of Our Times: Accumulation and Crisis in the Capitalist World-Ecology, Journal of World-Systems Research 17(1), 108-147.
Moore J.W. 2010. The End of the Road? Agricultural Revolutions in the Capitalist World-Ecology, 1450-2010, Journal of Agrarian Change 10(3), 389-413.
Norberg-Hodge, Helena. 2009. Ancient futures: lessons from Ladakh for a globalizing world. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books (http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/ancientfutures.pdf)
Rackham, O. 1996. Ecology and pseudo-ecology: the example of ancient Greece. In Shipley, G. (Ed) Human Landscapes in Classical Antiquity: Environment and Culture. Routledge (E book)
Radkau, J. 2013. The Age of Ecology. Polity Press
Sörlin, S. 2009. Making the environment historical: an introduction In: Sverker, S., Warde, P (ed) Nature’s end: history and the environment, 1-22. McMillan