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

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Mirabel Joshi # Posted on March 18, 2014 at 14:55

Reflections on the seminar with Professor Oliver Rackham 17th of March 2014.

Lately I have been in doubt on why I have chosen to apply a historical perspective on environmental issues and Rackhams argument about the difference between ecology and pseudo-ecology reminded me that it is to be able to expose what biases and anachronistic attitudes has formed the worldview which the environmental problems of today (and those to come) are germinated in. Rackhams concept of pseudo-ecology and to expose factoids came to me at exactly the right time when I was trying to find a good way of explaining how ideas and narratives of the environment in the past and the present often are to generalised and biased to be useful, maybe even destructive. Rackham would of course say that I am confusing the concepts of ecology and environment but I actually mean environment here. 

The concept of pseudo-ecology is a good tool to use when trying to explain the formation of worldviews which the different understandings/narratives of the environment are part of in general terms by using particular examples such as the Greek ecology of yesterday and in antiquity. Rackhams article is a reminder of how useful and fascinating it is when different types of sciences can ”read”  and ”decipher” the landscape and write history from this like how a botanist can expose the claim of that a landscape has been altered by burning or grazing by understanding the vegetation in an area. However this is Rackhams point, most often the history of the landscape is not sprung from ”reading” the landscape but from reading a book. It is simply not enough. 

Rackham also asks in what sense we understand written sources that mention for example the forest, in the legal sense, in the sense of deer, in the sense of trees, in a British sense, in a Greek sense etc. To ask the question of ”in what sense” when approaching historical sources is very useful and has been pointed out in various different ways throughout the masters program in particular by Benjamin Martin and Gunnel Cederlöf however it might be a point that can’t be stressed to often.