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Reflection by Yaqi Fu
What are the gains from applying a world-systems perspective on global environmental history and is
anything lost in taking this approach?
In Hornborg’s book, he adopted a world system perspective trying to analyze the reasons why
environmental problems occur and who should be responsible for these problems. From his points
of view, I find it’s not proper to barely blame the countries which now are causing and suffering
environmental pollution, but the “core” countries can not escape the condemn. It exists a kind of
unequal exchange of time and space between core and periphery countries. The raw material which
produced by periphery countries usually costs more labors, time and space than the processed
products by the core countries. This whole process is driven by the world trade and functions in the
logic of capitalism.
The world-system perspective allows us to take different parts of the world into a comprehensive
understanding of environmental change. Environmental problems usually have no clear boundaries
compared with other issues. In a global respect, an environmental crisis happened in one country,
and to find the reason, connection should be made to other parts of the world. This connection
broad our visions, urge us to reflect upon ourselves and help us construct a much better solution
to the problems with the efforts of related countries. Moreover, we are able to find and take more
factors into consideration in world-system perspective. When we face a national range, what we can
find is the essentials that this country or the people in this country present. Our focus then become
narrowed and it leads our research to a sophisticated but restricted way which encloses us from the
outside world. But if we jump out of this structure and try to adopt a world-system perspective, from
other parts of the world, we can borrow some ideas and methods that will helpful to solve problems.
These new knowledge also gives a hint of something maybe important which we ignored before.
However, bounded by a world-system in analyzing environmental history, it will make some
conclusions less convincing if not enough facts and details are appropriately present. If common
sense mistakes about a country usually happen in a world system work, the readers, if I were one
of them, would not believe anything that the author wants to demonstrate, even how beautiful
some theories are. The author should be careful, prudent and precise when trying to write a global
perspective work. I understand being an expert in a global issue is extremely hard. To become
a expert even in singular area in one country is never a easy job without years of hard working.
A world-system expert, he or she should be well learned in different aspects and have deep
understanding of national issues as these certain experts.
In conclusion, I will here use a metaphorical way to end this reflection. From what I know, the
philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine sees a body as a whole. It emphasizes not the strength
on certain parts of a body, but the whole balance among each part. when your get headache, the
problem maybe is on your feet. I hope the world system perspective can absorb something from this
philosophy and help the uneven world regain its balance.
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