In an interview in 2010, environmental historian J Donald Hughes said that “If the past is not usable, then history is an enterprise in vain.” 1
Hughes started out in biology and followed a trajectory which is exemplary of interdisciplinary studies.2 When thinking about the umbrella concept so often used in academia, there is a kinship between fields, an inclusivity encompassing friendly agreements between defined sciences. But one is always at the top of the umbrella, covering the others. When thinking of environmental history, I like to visualize a roof, stretching as far as needed to allow shelter for any discipline that wants in, that wants to evade the drops of conforming frameworks and theories. There is no exclusion, only an opportunity to bridge the natural and cultural, to intertwine sciences while still leaving room for expertise. Can one be an expert in interdisciplinarity?
Global Environmental History is a bubble for collective understanding.
In our editorial team at Between Territory & Earth, we come from art, archaeology, international relations, and social sciences. Second year master students are writing about, among many other things, conservation in Madagascar, olive trees in Sicily, philosophical concepts of time and nature, retail supply chains, ecotourism, and yogurt bacterial cultures. Colleagues and classmates came from the USA, England, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Canada, Sweden, Peru, Germany, Syria and more. Yet we all gathered at the Department for Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University’s English Park. Well, we would have, but then the year 2020 came along and 2021 had the audacity to continue the demise of our social competence. Alas, we persist and thrive! This publication became an attempt to better connect with one another.
Thanks to the digital age we have managed to become not just socially distanced people, but friends and peers. These odd, and quite frankly scary times have shown us the importance of keeping in touch, with each other and with our field; while going separate ways in research ranging from climate change leadership to human-animal encounters, to political ecology and cultural heritage politics – naming a very select few. We have come to learn that the absence of a history means potential for the creation of its narrative.
Between Territory & Earth is just another step toward staying in communication, propagating our knowledge and thoughts, keeping on resonating with our collective environmental history no matter where we go – or what we want to accomplish. This first issue is compiled of content from Global Environmental History students and alumni at Uppsala University, including the editorial team. Our future vision for the magazine takes shape in the creation that is this publication, and we are hopeful with our next issues to grow and generate novel content.
There is an inevitable quiet moment in every meeting with a new acquaintance, every chat at a party, in every mingling scenario; when we are met with the question ”so what do you do?” and subsequent ”and what is that?” or ”so what can you work with after your studies?”. Issue 1 was designed to answer that question. Rather than try to explain in a few short words what environmental history is, we thought we would show you. We hope you enjoy our expressions of environmental history in Issue 1 and we welcome you into our collective, into our community, underneath our roof.