Reply To: September 8th: History, Conservation and politics, the example of Australia

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History September 8th: History, Conservation and politics, the example of Australia Reply To: September 8th: History, Conservation and politics, the example of Australia

Author Replies # Posted on September 8, 2014 at 18:02

Reflection by Kristina Berglund – Libby Robin seminar 8/9

The focus of the seminar was Ecology and Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies, a book that aimed at bringing together “apparent innocence and power” (ecology and empire), and to reinterpret imperial history through the lens of ecology. Although ecology and empire often is seen as contraries, one as natural and one as social, they did “forge a historical partnership of great power which changed human and natural history across the globe”, in the words of Griffiths.
The aim of exploring environmental change and colonial expansion reminded me of one of the first the discussion seminars on this course with Gunnel Cederlöf, which also discussed the importance of grounding historical analyses of e.g. empires in ecology and climate-related dimensions, and of using relevant scales for different historical phenomenon. A central point from Griffiths chapter seems to be that a regional or global scale is more suitable when writing environmental history than the national, in this case seeing Australia not solely as a nation but “as a settler society, as part of the New World frontier, or Australia as a continental cluster of bioregions”. I agree with this but also think that the nation today is a parameter not to be ignored either. I think that the usage of different scales simultaneously can be fruitful in order to understand the complexity of the phenomena is question, which is what I will try do in my thesis project.
One of the things I have learnt in this program in general and which struck me again today is that that concepts such as ‘environment’, ‘empire’ and ‘biodiversity’ is not to be taken for granted as obvious or universal. When I think of the term ‘empire’ age-old images of the Romans pops up in my head, but as Robin said, we all have our little empires and we need to ask ourselves who is the imperialist in a particular setting.
Another point I take with me from the seminar is the importance of writing history for the Australians, not viewed from the periphery, or the ‘edge’, but to take back the history written from the settler’s perspective, or at least to add another perspective to the traditional one. Australia indeed has a very intriguing history with different dimensions of colonialism and settlement and I think it is an important task to shed new light on the history of this so called ‘colonial periphery’ in order to question traditional world histories and bring back agency to those who were left without.