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 23, 2014 at 15:16

Reflection by Yaqi Fu, Sep 22

There are many things we discussed during our seminar about environmental history. The importance and the complexity of environmental history as Sörlin elaborated are of grandeurs. The mission of environmental history, the position of it among other discipline, and the narrative of it are also well explained by him. And we are now living in the building of environmental history.

I find Sörlin’s idea about the relation between nature and environment is interesting. First, He claimed that nature and environment is not the same. Environment can be sustainable or not, while nature is always sustainable. But if his judgment is true, which I hope so, the task of environmental work would be very easy: just follow the hint from nature, and nature will guide human the way of sustainability. Human should follow the example of nature because it’s always a good example. But in that sense, if one thing is always right, before we should admit sustainability is right, always right, and then there is no necessity to do research on the eternal right thing, what we need to do is just follow the example of such rightness. If so, what’s the meaning of environmental history, to show the people’s evilness or to follow the rightness, for environment can be both sustainable or unsustainable, in this case sustainable belonging to nature and the opposite human.

Another thing which confused me about environmental history is his slogan “history is nightmare”, what a nightmare! If an insect’s lifespan is only in the summer, when you speak of ice to it, what you get is only suspicion and scare. So do not speak to a summer’s insect ice. Similarly, when a person did not see any goodness of history, it would be better not talk history with that person, even environmental history. Of course there are wars, empires, powers, monarchies and what more in traditional history, up and down. But one thing that in history, of importance, is that from history we get the respect of our ancestors and get the goodness that we should follow. For example, when I read Virgil’s Aeneid, from the first sentence, I get more sympathy and respect to trek of Latin’s ancestors from Trojan to Roman than the angers of gods’ anger, about war. One may argue: but even if history is nightmare, no problems, because environmental history has a bright future! Alas! One thing, good or not is not depended on the contemporary judgment, but lies in the hands of heirs. What the offspring sees us is like what we see history, the pace of ancestors. Do we want to be a nightmare in the eyes of the age after? Shall we? I may think the nightmare of history is an improper proposition…

In sum, I do not think following the nature’s pace but in sacrifice of our ancestries is some thing good to environmental history, in stead, it should be: following the nature, and following the hints of history.