Reply To: September 22: Sverker Sörlin's History is a Nightmare

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History September 22: Sverker Sörlin's History is a Nightmare Reply To: September 22: Sverker Sörlin's History is a Nightmare

Author Replies # Posted on September 24, 2014 at 11:09

In response to Fu Yaqi:

Wow, your post was really quite poetic. It was very enjoyable to read. I do have to raise some criticisms to some of the tenants of your arguments however.

In the first half you say that humanity should follow the example of nature in order to be sustainable. The only problem with that is that we, humans, are part of nature. We can’t follow nature as we partially comprise it. I believe that collectively, nature, or the planet, can never be unsustainable. When components of nature experience disturbances, nature may change, but it doesn’t cease to be, or even become less. That is because you can’t really measure more or less nature, everything is part of our planetary system (unless of course Earth ceases to be, but the solar system will still continue, and if the solar system ceases to be the universe will still exist and if the universe ceases to be, and there is absolutely nothing, that is really beyond the realm of an issue that humanity should concern itself with so don’t bother thinking about it).

In that sense the entirety of nature can’t be judged to be sustainable or unsustainable, only components of the system can be evaluated so. Therefore following the example of nature as a solution to unsustainability is not viable.

I agree with you that history is a nightmare is a bit of a simplification. Perhaps, a better tagline would be (I’m going there again!) “History fundamentally reflected the preoccupations, interests, and anxieties of the society in which it was written” (Sörlin 2009, p.2). So rather, history is a bunch of stories about our preoccupations. To prevent ourselves from being discussed as the nightmares of our descendants, the best thing we can do is try to create a world in which our descendants will be happy and preoccupied with pleasant issues.

Following nature is not really an option, and following the hints of history is also not really an option, because we write history. So, apologies for disagreeing with your hopeful closing statement. I did very much enjoy reading your post though.