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 9, 2014 at 13:17

I was intrigued by the question of whether a successful environmental history can be written using the nation as the preferred scale.

I feel that trying to understand environmental history, or issues of biodiversity must almost always involve a level of awareness of the nation-state(s). Libby makes the point that ‘responses to environmental crises are not necessarily scientific, but are just as likely to be political or provided by management or policy framework 26’. She goes on to say that achieving the goal of conservation (a healthy ecosystem) demands amongst other things ‘a good measure of political will’ 26. Libby also makes the point that research itself is often dictated by funding from national governments, and journals have nationalist biases. Certainly restricting ones scope to the nation level and not incorporating other scales of analysis is not ideal blanket advice for all research endeavors. However, it is good to be aware of the political frameworks that impact environmental history, many of which are cast at the nation-state level. In addition, the manner in which research is conducted and results disseminated also have nationalist biases and casting ones gaze on those mechanisms can be very informative. Certainly the nation can be the main scale of examination when writing an environmental history, and while situating this discourse within global and regional contexts can add to the process it isn’t necessary.
But on the topic of scales of examination, one thing I did think about while listening to Libby was the whole nature vs people dichotomy that we have been discussing throughout this course. At the end of the lecture that Libby gave this afternoon she said “sometimes the nature is different because people are in it but sometimes humanity is just nature.” I thought that was actually a really elegant way to express the dialectic phenomena that is the nature and society construct, which are two sorts of lenses for viewing issues of biodiversity conservation. I wish the Libby would have elaborated on that statement. I believe that addressing the nature/human dichotomy is critical for achieving goals of global resilience enhancment. The individuals most qualified to expound on this issue are probably not climatologists or ecologists but social scientists who Libby recognizes are needed to complement traditional scientific expertise to combat the successive waves of identified environmental crises.
To sum, just as Libby finds that ‘ecology is a necessary, but no longer sufficient expertise for biodiversity in the crisis of the sixth mass extinction’ so too should we not limit our scope of analysis to any one scale be it regional, national, global, scientific, or sociological. Of course no one person can be an expert in all of these topics so it is totally legitimate to focus on one area in a piece of work, yet relevancy is multiplied when effort is made to explore and connect the interstices.