vrijdag 7 november 2014

What's the role of geography in the debate about ecological crisis? - part 1

Since this year I follow a course “ecological philosophy and politics” given by professors, phd and doctors in philosophy, politics…  Last weekend was an introduction weekend. In 6 hours a professor gave a whole lecture about the “history of ecological crisis and ecological consciousness”. He started in the end of the 18th century, with the work and theory from Malthus. He gave a whole list of books in chronological order. Philosophers, politicians, biologists, geologists… they all wrote about the crisis. The professor made a difference in 3 different kinds of crisis:
  • nature crisis: crisis about the end of all the wild nature (the degradation of rain forests, the pollution of rivers…)
  • environmental crisis:  crisis about the destruction of the environment in which we, humans, live (the global warming
  • culture crisis: crisis about our society, people who write about this, write about the bad consequences of capitalism, consumption society…
In the 19th century most books were about the nature crisis. Thoreau, Darwin, Marsh , the foundation of first national park in the world (Yellowstone NP , the political discussions between John Muir an the preservationists and Pinchot and the conservationists in USA…
In the beginning of the 20th century we saw more critics about the culture, especially in Germany. You found back some avant garde hippie culture . Authors like Klages, Spengler… write in a very impressive dramatic retorica about how the people “poison the earth”. Unfortunately, it was also the period of the “brown” politics of the nazi’s who used a lot of  ”green” elements in their campaign.  Since 1945 we’ve the first nuclear explosions which creates a fear which people did not feel before.  This fear for the invisible, for the destructing… made people more aware what we do with our environment. After Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring” about the bad consequences of the use of pesticides in 1962 (a lot of them were banned after this book) the fear was even bigger. It was not just preserving the beauty, but also saving the earth, and more important our health.
And then the professor said: “and here we’ve a book by… it’s surprising for me to see them here… because they never did so much research about ecology, the ecological crisis… while you would think they are the perfect science to study it.  But here it is… a book published by geographers about the ecological problems.” He showed the book “Man’s Role in changing the face of earth” published in 1956. The professor  said that this book is very describing and coming with facts. He added that -in fact- the most interesting books about ecological crisis come from geographers in the last years.
So, during the break, I asked him frankly about the role of geography in this whole discours about ecological crisis. He did not know, because he did not know so much about geography, but also did not know why geographers are not so concerned about ecological crisis as other scientists, engineers… and are not so present in the whole discussion about ecological crisis -if it exists or not, and so yes, what can we do about it?
I recognised a lot of books in his whole history class, like Maltus, the rapport of the Club of Rome in 1972, Jared Diamond… which were all named in my base course of geography in my first bachelor year. We also learn -in our study- to think about all the systems and the interconnection, and avoid problems instead of fixing problems. But still … we avoid the word ecology.
So… now I ask the question to many geography students of EGEA: should geographers make opinions in the whole debate of ecological crisis and ecological consciousness?

source: http://imgur.com/pXpflqE
This picture is shared in a first reaction. 
One of the next blogs will be a compilation of the reaction of geography students in whole Europe. 
Please share your opinion in comments. 

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