Reply To: Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange Reply To: Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange

Author Replies # Posted on March 5, 2014 at 12:19

Reponse to Sarah’s reflection by Morag Ramsey

I definitely agree with you in many respects about the gains of studying Horborg’s work when it comes to his insights about inequalities and power relations.

However, I am not sure I agree with Hornborg’s reflection that wealthy people do not think of the inequalities and time and resource lost by others to provide them with technologies, such as a laptop. This may be naivety on my part, but in some respects I feel this idea of an unequal exchange is not an uncommon way to see the world, especially in past few decades with different negative connotations associated with ‘sweatshops’ and such. I feel it is probably not that radical to understand that certain technologies come at the expense of others, and I hope that it is a general bewilderment at how an individual can change such an entrenched and powerful system of unequal exchange, and not a total lack of humanity, that keeps consumers consuming. Although during our discussion, Hornborg did mention that he does not advocate for, or think individual guilt over one’s consumption habits is a desirable outcome of learning about this system.

It is quite possible my own paradigms and perspective of the world taints the way I think others understand it, but it just does not seem like much of a stretch to grasp that there is an unequal exchange that occurs globally. I feel when I hear this kind of argument I have a hard time understanding who is the exact ‘perpetrator’ of the general deteriorating global environmental state. Hornborg spoke of dismissing the anthropocene as lacking depth in how it perceives the ‘we’ of humanity, but I’m not sure I feel entirely convinced the other way of looking at it is more constructive by having just two dimensions. I agree that it is overly simplistic to think of humanity as one actor when it comes to the environment, but I feel that the alterative explanation is unsatisfactory in someway. Perhaps it is because the individual is dismissed as an actor to some extent, and I am overwhelmed thinking of it purely in terms of systems. I am unsure about all of this obviously! And hopefully things become clearer eventually.

I thought your inquiry into the psychological state of ‘affluent westerners’ who have access to such technologies was an interesting avenue to pursue, and I wish we had had time to discuss it more thoroughly in the seminar!