Reflections on Sörlin & Wayne Nature's End 22 Sept

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September 28, 2014 at 11:54 #14644

Reflections on some quotes in “Making the environment historical: an introduction” in Sörlin & Warde Nature’s End: history and the environment.
…”as a Nature full of surprises who can “hit back” on ignorant humans …
To me, this sentence humanizes nature making it having a mind and intentions. The changes in nature caused by an uniformed human societal activity, is not an “evil” response to the destruction of the environment. It is an ecological/physical/physiological reaction by fauna, flora, soil etc to alterations that in many instances are too quick for an “ordinary” evolutionary response. At times, although unintentionally, the adaptations serve for the well-being of humans, but in most instance these do not. This is why I think environmental history is so important; “it is also about action and about moral predicaments and determinations to guide action” (p 2). Compare the Icelanders’ view (p 18) that “sustainability is a decision, not a destiny. Instead of viewing themselves as victims of something unaccountable, they know they have to accept that they have to take action against of the consequences human society has caused (p 17).
An interesting quote is that about nature, environment and external other (p 8). “The environment does not start where the farmland ends, …”. Of course, farmers have in all times been aware of the features explained in this paragraph; their “tools” (soil, rain, temperature, livestock etc) for producing food. Thus, I have always imagined that they need to be aware of adjacent surroundings, like the forests, watercourses, wild fauna and flora, as I believe this information also is important for planning and how to farm. That certain historians restrict their field and omit the whole environment when describing for example agricultural history and leave the surrounding environment for scientists to describe (p 8) is surprising to me.
To keep non exploited areas, or even expand, for example is parks, city forests, walking trails etc, in urban centres are important when planning infrastructure for the future. How do you draw the line between environment and nature in this case, if you on p 3 read about infrastructure supporting nature reserves “They stand at nature’s end, and they are formidable parts of the environment.” I think that it is vital to include nature within the urban environment. Why not creating small meadows where sheep are grazing, helping floral biodiversity, small groves with different species of indigenous trees that support populations of birds, insects etc. Adding the concept of sustainability, these “sanctuaries”, although “unnatural” because they are confined could represent examples for sustainable thinking of others than biologists, like all experts involved in city planning, see iHOPE.
I fully agree with the statement that “Environmental history” … role as a bridge builder between the humanities and other disciplines …(p 11). As changes in the physical environment, either farmland, urban/rural areas or oceans and the atmosphere, only can be properly examined by disciplines within the natural sciences, communication between the humanities and science is critical for generating practicable ideas and develop methods so that people can understand, be motivated and perform actions to counteract the society’s activity.
The way Icelandic people perceive their environmental situation is very rational” (17), as they are living on a very unstable part of the earth crust and used to expect eruptions etc. Thus, they have “shaped the circumstances under which that outer pressure is supposed to work on them. To me it is a smart way to deal with unavoidable environmental catastrophes. As mentioned on p 4, many 19th century historians “- did in fact include the land as a significant factor for shaping peoples and nations could be valid for the modern Iceland society.
Although, unfortunately I do not believe that the human society will managed to stop the destruction of our resources, I find it encouraging for the younger generations that “sustainability is a decision, not a destiny” (p 18). I still believe, however, that if more of us not only try to understand, but also act wisely and morally responsibly, there will be more time to reduce the damaging impact we cause.

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