Start › Forums › Courses › Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History › September 8th: History, Conservation and politics, the example of Australia
|September 10, 2014 at 10:52 #14246|
Reply to Morag by Nisa
Ha Morag I will begin where you ended: with the hope that later on in life everything will be illuminated. I share your hopes but from what I’ve learned for now is that we the postmodern people are doomed to chase illumination and at the same time negate that there is illumination. Well, it is what it is. I for one, would welcome a bit of enlightenment credo in academia, if nothing else, I believe the rate of disillusioned cynical people would plummet 😀 … But to get back on track. It seems the discussion with Libby has helped us all in some way with our thesis work; finally! You have a very interesting topic for a thesis! And you are completely right, The Wolf is not just an animal, it’s one of the most powerful archetypes and symbols in all Western cultures. I love wolves of course (I’ll tell you a secret: it’s actually my spirit animal, so there you have it, confirmed, wolves mean a lot to many people) and symbols get filled with all kinds of meanings. And the wolf hunt issue in Sweden often masquerades as you well know, underlying national tensions. Which brings us to the question of nation as a scale; as historians we are aware how important history is for legitimizing nations and ethnogenesis; whose history do we environmental historians write? We can make cozy detours and claim that we are analyzing governance and governments not nation-states and nature as an agent but at some point we will clash with the nation as a scale, probably without even knowing it. And that’s the tricky part. Ok but don’t worry, we will manage since the future is bright and our theses will be great.
|September 10, 2014 at 10:57 #14247|
Nik thank you for your comments on my reflection! And also thank you for reminding me that I’ve failed to mention the worst imperialist of all: capital and how capital loooooves hard sciences and us humanists are an obsolete species, like a dead-end in some evolution branch. I guess I didn’t want to make my day anymore fecal when I was writing the assignment 😀
|September 10, 2014 at 14:36 #14259|
Reply to Ellen:
I think that Libby Robin gave you a very good advice by pointing to the relatedness of the world and thus your micro case and the world around it. Moreover, I believe that is one of the remarkable features that environmental history holds as a discipline: to show the persistence and change of connections between regions, humans, plants and other entities. As the human mind is too limited to grasp the whole system of relations, environmental history can at least offer glimpses into it, litte models which enable people to understand their world better and act in a more sustainable manner towards it.
Indeed it is important not to let the present interfere too much with your analysis of the past. That is one of the most difficult roles of a historian as we learnt last semester: by “reenacting” the thoughts of someone in the past like Collingwood argued one could understand and repeat events which are long gone. But that does not mean that you can not draw a line between the climate crisis of the 18th with the one in the 21st century. In your last chapter you could offer your readers the differences and similarities in responding to a radically changing climate. It would be interesting to see if people were more away and flexible during these times than we are today in our modern, techno-fixed societies.
|September 10, 2014 at 14:45 #14260|
Nik, it must have been exiting for you listening to Libby Robin when her ideas are so applicable on an area you “know” trough your work. It was interesting to read about your view on Baringo, Kenya and the erosion management through the centuries. What you are describing from the early 20th century seems like a common mistake of the modernity (and I won´t go in to the relation between modernity and colonialism): to identify a wrong, apply one grand theory and then prescribe a single cure (solution) for every symptom. It is powerful but usually not working in a much more complex world built on multi causality. A seemingly good aim or intention is sometimes as much a danger as an evident bad one, cause of the lack of attention to defaults in the knowledge about how things “used” to be as well as cause and effects. Doing something “good” like protect “nature” and biodiversity “can’t be bad” and then it is easy to forget to ask your selves critical questions about it. Like Libby Robin talked about, to know “the context of the knowledge”. It seems like the government in Baringo had and have a utopia of the mind, about how the landscape should be and how it was in the past, which is not based on research knowledge. What are the reasons the government and the NGO: S put through today to continue on the same path as before when resent research has shown an alternative picture of the past? I guess allot comes down to power relationships in the end? Why do you think native Kenyan researches in a lower rate publish in those highly regarded journals? Does the research focus differ in any way?
I think eco and organic food producers have hit the market from below from the beginning and thus in a sense is a grass root movement for human and animal health and for the benefit of the environment. I think it has been a struggle for small companies and farmers competing on an unfair market with the greater forces. If it is true what you are describing about the organic food market in Slovenia (which I know nothing about) then it is a pity that people can´t afford the organic food but also that it is a political question with much prohibition in it.
|September 10, 2014 at 14:59 #14261|
Forgot to copy the third paragraph so here it is 🙂
I was thinking a bit what center and peripherie could be in your case. If you are studying people in a small village in Dalarna, then there is probably an uneven exchange (*Hornborg*) with the nearest town and another one between Dalarna as a region and Stockholm as the economic and political center of Sweden. If you want to write a thesis about the history of Middle Sweden this might be a very important perspective to take as there was (and probably still is) a greater flow of goods, money, people and work hours flowing from these early peripheries to the centres. But as you are writing a history of the various responses of individuals in one region to a changing climate, you might be able to not to get too invested in asking this question. For being a critical analyst it might more important to demonstrate that depending on the social status people could deal easer or worse with changing weather events, just what you are planning to do. In a way, you could contribute to “an early history of climate injustice” (something for a chapter title, no? 🙂 )
|September 10, 2014 at 17:25 #14262|
Reply to Morag, By Yongliang Gao
I also feel stumbled like you, not only by reading Libby and her husband’s book chapters, but since the commencement of the global environmental history program. I get a feeling that the program is not very much related to the environment but to environmental policy. The feeling becomes even stronger as time goes by. I’m surprised that you’re gonna write a thesis about the wolf, which is a pretty novel topic to me. What surprises me even more is that you plan to research the wolf in Sweden. I don’t doubt this is a fantastic topic, but I wonder can you find credit literatures to frame your theoretical structure or will it be easy for you to communicate in Swedish.
I like the metaphor that you treat the agencies and global responsibilities as faceless actors. I think most people in this world have realized the environmental situations we are facing today, very little effort is employed to deal with them though. As an GEH student, I feel frustrating because even if I strive to make a tiny contribution to build a better world day after day, the world just doesn’t go to the way as I hope. One of the big hurdles seems to be political power, I wonder if it’s our responsibility as environmental historians to prioritize environmental policy whatever research we are doing.
|September 13, 2014 at 02:44 #14316|
It is unfortunate that some technical issues have prevented me from fully hearing the seminar’s content, as Libby Robin seems to be such a fascinating scholar. However, by reading the literature and my colleagues’ reflections I gain a lot of perspectives helping me in the process of my own thesis writing. My thesis is about the permaculture movement and its philosophical roots, and I am especially interested in researching about the idea of ‘natural agriculture’. Some communities have claimed to return to a natural form of agriculture with a low impact on the ecosystems, mainly for spiritual or philosophical reasons. However, is it really possible to practice agriculture without impacting the Earth and its ecosystems? Many studies have shown that even hunters-gatherers societies had an impact on their environment.
|December 20, 2014 at 12:14 #15827|
Summary of the reflections and replies of the students from the seminar and the lecture “The ecology of imperialism” by Libby Robin on 8 September 2014
|January 8, 2015 at 13:00 #15928|
Reflection to Libby Robin’s seminar, Markus Nyström
During the seminar, Robin urged us to contextualize our thesis, to make it matter in the bigger scope of things going on in the world. I could not agree more as to how important this is. I started my academic studies with literature, mainly because I love reading. But one of the main reasons why I am not taking my masters degree in literature is that I do not think that that subject will allow me to write/do research into issues of a larger importance, a larger context. Literature studies – at least in the flavor that I encountered at Uppsala university – is often too narrow. Environmental history, on the other hand, is a new and thus more open (inter)discipline where issues of environment and sustainability is basically unavoidable in thesis work. I chose to focus my thesis on mining, not because of the topic’s academic interest really, but because I believe a thesis into this topic can make the world a little better – however naïve that sounds. In the best of worlds, and if I am successful with my thesis, it will actually do some good exactly because I contextualize my object as part of a global development.
Another interesting point of discussion on the seminar was that Robin emphasized that new historical findings can change or disturb our preconcieved ideas of a linear development throughout history. The lesson being that we should keep an open mind and not be afraid to push for new interpretations. I could not help but to think of the example of the archeological findings in Voullerim, Jokkmokk. Here, 5000 year old remains were found of a settled community. Bones of salmon and moose were found. Because the “official” (colonial) story of the sámi people had been that real sámi were nomadic reindeer herders, the interpretation was that these findings were of “swedes”. This was not sámi archeology, but swedish. The museum of the area picture blond salmon fishermen with long hair, rather like ideas of vikings as blond, longhaired warriors. This finding, in other words, led to the question of “who was first” – sámi or swedes – even though “sweden” would not exist for another 4000 years or so, and even though the idea of sámi as only reindeer herdin nomads was a forced political construction by the state.
I believe the point that Robin tried to make really boils down to academic stringency. To be prepared to be honest and reevaluate ones preconstructed ideas, as well as being critical of paradigms and “truths”, is important for the academic.
|January 8, 2015 at 13:39 #15929|
Comment on Michael Deflorian’s reflection
It is interesting to compare different languages. Michael’s point that the word “frontier” does not exist in German applies to Swedish as well. Swedish also have “gräns” or “gränsland” as the closest translation, or possibly “front”, even though “front” is a more military word than the more civil “frontier”. I think of Star Trek with its slogan “Space – the final frontier”. Frontier is not a war-word here, it is about exploration and expansion of knowledge and values, and settlement.
I too, like Michael, wonder if there can be a frontier apart from the colonial expansion use of the word, and I, too, believe not. However, in contrast to Michael, I do believe there are frontiers in today’s world. The word “frontier”, most certainly in most vivid use in the american context, really seem to entail expansion, of one kind or another. It implies dominance and linear development. There is often talk about, for instance, the “technological frontier” or the “science frontier”, which implies expansion within these areas. They are not geographical but knowledge-based frontiers. In a Baconesque interpretation, they are frontiers of our (humanity’s) subjugation of nature under our will, which resemble the idea of the American Western frontier narrative where “wilderness” was subjugated to “civilisation”. Throw in a little of Alf Hornborg’s machine fetishism analysis into the mix, and one could make the argument that this “thought structure” of colonial frontiers are actually resulting in a material, geographical neocolonialism within today’s capitalist system.
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