Environmental History Backwards?

The standard approach of environmental history is to ask how human actions effect an environment or ecosystem. Even intellectual environmental histories are interested in how human ideas and philosophies about the natural world cause environmental changes. Reading about conservation, animals, wilderness, and parks has brought this into sharp relief. It has also made the standard approach to environmental history clear.
The discipline gives nature, the environment, ecosystem, agency in human history but limits the spaces where instances of non-human agency occurs to when human actions have unexpected consequences or nature does unexpected things. For most of human history this is an accurate representation of the relationships between humans and the environment. But then something happened. People started to notice environmental change impacted them in more profound ways than fewer deer to hunt while in the wilderness.
For me this comes to a head in the environmental movement and the more I read the more it becomes clear that to best understand the environmental movement it is essential to approach it backwards. Instead of asking how human actions change the environment, I ask how environmental change informs human actions.

About Lauren Wheeler

A reformed history phd student working as a public historian and looking for connections between museums and environmental history from the often freezing reaches of Canada (aka Edmonton).
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