Reply To: Mon 17 March: Greece and Revisionist Environmental History

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History Mon 17 March: Greece and Revisionist Environmental History Reply To: Mon 17 March: Greece and Revisionist Environmental History

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Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche # Posted on March 18, 2014 at 18:50

Question: How would you argue that pseudo-ecology is a problem in understanding ancient history besides Greece?
Sorry for late post, had some computing problems.
I am glad we had the chance to interact with Oliver Rackham yesterday because I think we have mostly explored environmental history from the social sciences’ perspective these last few months and have not studied much of the natural sciences unfortunately. However, the natural sciences are crucial for understanding our surrounding species, the way plants and animals evolve in ecosystems, namely what we call “ecology”. It seems that if we do not have scientific data about the world then it becomes pointless to write history. We need information from the past if we are to understand the way the world evolved to become the place we now live in. Particularly in regard to global current issues such as the massive spreading of plant diseases, scientific data about the past is necessary.
Rackham mentioned different methods in order to study a landscape, some are scientific methods such as pollen analysis and artifacts’ analysis, but other methods are more questionable because of their lack of accuracy. For example, the study of written sources is extremely questionable, since we do not know how much we can trust the person who wrote and sometimes it is hard to know what the author was really writing about. Using the Bible as a source for historical ecology seems to me very problematic, the Bible’s authorship remains a mystery for most people, and creates a gap between believers and non-believers: some believe it was given by God, others think it was written by men, indeed this a great issue regarding the accuracy of the source.
Pseudo-ecology is a great issue for understanding ancient history because we are constantly overflowed with information about the past, some is true but some is not. It is very hard to make a distinction between what we can trust or not. It would be helpful to understand ancient history better so that we could understand more of our present, but unfortunately some mysteries remain mysteries. Facts are scrambled among a sea of factoids and many conclusions have been drawn from assumptions.
The field of environmental history is a young one and would require much more research in order to understand it better. I think we should be very cautious about what we say when it comes to ancient history. Many people today in the trend of a “paleo-lifestyle” make assumptions about the ancient past. It should be recommended to be more cautious about ancient history data.