2. Wed 12 Feb: Donald Worster on Environmental History

Start Forums Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History 2015 2. Wed 12 Feb: Donald Worster on Environmental History

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February 17, 2015 at 21:54 #16634

Reflection on Ghide’s reflection

🙂 Fanny

February 19, 2015 at 08:27 #16640
Josefin Heed

Comment on Ylvas reflection:

Dear Ylva!

Thank you for wise reflections and interesting observations. Your text inspired many further questions and thoughts that I am not expecting you to answer here but which I will bring with me further into this course.

What do you think about regulations agreed upon locally? Do locally manifest regulations necessarily guarantee a more sustainable land use? How does this resonate with the fact of the decreasing percentage of rural inhabitants (compared to urban)? This means that a smaller percentage of the people is there to witness the exploitation, and they often are depending on the exploitation for their sustenance. What are the democratic aspects of this?

I also ponder on what your ideas would be on an alternative to capitalist culture and how this would be connected to regulations? Will local regulations suffice when in fact the multinational global corporations find ever new ways of exploiting? Can we democratically organize people in favor of sustainable land use? How would such a mobilization take form? What would be the prerequisites?
I remember you spoke once about land taxation instead of income taxation. How would that impact the agricultural methods? Can other techniques and methods in agriculture (such as mimicry) ever compete with industrial agriculture, in a capitalist system? And how would it affect land users? Is there a risk of an even more intensified use of land, even though ownership might be more diversified?
I believe that regulations are an important aspect as well, but the question is what arguments and perspectives we need to mobilize a majority of people in favor of that. How can we constitute a deliberative discussion were these matters can be brought up on the agenda and taken into account in the public debate?

Another question would be that of making a transition for farmers and land users to a more sustainable agriculture possible. Even if we had the regulations, what would such a transition require in terms of capital, knowledge, machinery, labor and, perhaps most difficult of all, perspectives, attitudes and values?


  • This reply was modified 6 years, 9 months ago by Josefin Heed.
February 19, 2015 at 17:59 #16658
Henrik S

Comments on Josefin’s reflections on the seminar

First of all, I am sorry for the delayed response to your reflection. It is very interesting that you connect Worster’s presentation to your planned thesis. You seem to have grasped the core ideas of Worster and his views on the capitalist expansion and its violation on the environment. You also define unsustainability as a subsidised development by resources unfairly, or not renewed in the pace they should. As I understand it, defining development without subsidies in the process would be a punch to the capitalist system we have today. The main idea of capitalism is profit, growth and exploitation. You mentioned that Worster may think it could be necessary to sacrifice, or redefine (not sacrifice) I believe, our personal freedom and democracy. I am curious about what you think? Though you did mentioned scepticism about applying rules to people as only the small people would be affected by it, and I agree with you. The question is how to ‘design’ a new society.
In the end of your reflection you briefly mention how we can redefine nature as subsidies instead of capital. That is interesting. But do I understand you correct when you say that it is not the capitalistic values itself being the root of the problem but a social organization lacking limits? It is not the values but the frames and possibilities that need limits. It is an intriguing topic and I was grasped by it. I am somewhat thinking we must redefine liberty and freedom of choice; not really ‘restrict’ it but put it in context of our limits and social justice. It is also about putting man in nature, as part of nature and not as masters of the Earth. I wish to see further elaboration of your thoughts on this topic during the semester!

/Henrik S

February 27, 2015 at 09:44 #16721

Reflection on Flavia Reflection for Worster

I have got your argument was a one way which described only what he stated on the conference hall or the class. But what about the other view? I liked the point you have pinpointed but what about the blanks space he left? For example he said that agricultural system should be designed from ecologist perspective rather than economist. However he didn’t brought an idea on how both groups can work together. If only ecologist going to design the agricultural system, then how world economy will support the population?

At the same time Worster was not clear on his economical ideology. Example he mentioned in the class that he lost one job because he mentioned the Marxist idea at the very outset of his book –“The Dust Bowl”. As you already mentioned in your reflection and stating in his speech, he talked about capitalist idea can destroy the environment. He explicitly mentioned that the result of capitalist and continuous extraction and exploitation of the environment clearly manifested on the southern plains. In some sense he appeared to be the opponent of capitalist but he didn’t phrase out in clear way. I am not clear also why he mentioned Marxist ideology in his book and claiming that environmental history is not a closed field rather a change of world view towards his environment. I would like also if you could argue on this expression.

The other point that he mentioned on the seminar was the exploration of the world environment, making of new boundaries and cartographies. He said that “as people explored around the world then it made an extra fire in destroying nature”. But he didn’t mention the exploration and extra information can also help us to mitigate the current environmental crisis. I would like also if you could argued his pessimism and ideological reluctance’s.

If we can’t change our ideology towards world economy then it is uncertain in which way the environmental history will change the world view. I think the central point of the argument is how we change our view if we couldn’t change our ideology? I think changing an ideology comes before changing world view of every individual. Here it seems to me, the main task of the global environmental history should change the world view by changing an ideology. Example introducing new economic system and religious perspectives looks to me a good option to bring people altogether.


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