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Reply to Archie’s comments (by Nick Hirschstein)
I agree almost fully with Archie’s statements on Rackham’s writing. With that in memory I think it would be useful to take something away from this that since historcal ecology is relatively new as a field, that there should be a very clear distinction between what is applicable as a source in this discipline and what it is not, and come up with original source that do fit the field. Reconsidering if writers such as Plato are reliable as source for this kind of research or create a method in which they are reliable to use as a source, maybe by some sort of quantification of literary sources. Next to that we should be able to come with enough original data these days, and not specifically rely on sources from 2000 years ago.
In the end, the point that Rackham mades about pseudo-ecology is one that bares truth to any reseracher
Rackham draws an important and clear distinction between ecology and pseudo ecology, and his fundamental argument is powerfully made.
It is vital to note that many of the literary writers who he cites are not historical ecologists and are not attempting to be. When they write about past natures they are doing so for quite different purposes and in a quite different register and mode to that which historical ecologists are attempting. Just as it is wrong to use literary sources uncritically as a tool for historical ecology, so it is perhaps beside the point to accuse literary authors of getting the historical ecology wrong. This is not to disagree with Rackham’s analysis but to suggest that it is only potent when aimed at those who profess to be writing accurate historical ecology, not to those who are writing in different literary modes. Dante would be the most obvious example here.
Rackham’s exegesis of the fact that deforestation was not widespread in Greece until the 20th century is important, and serves as a salutary tale warning against making assumptions about landscape history.
Reply To: Mon 17 March: Greece and Revisionist Environmental History
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