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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rob Williams

OCTOBER 2019 UPDATES: EL PREDICAMENTO: Off Grid in Chile's Patagonia National Park

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

I traveled off the grid in Chile's newly created 10 million acre Parque Nacional Patagonia during March 2019, scouting service trips for Trek Relief, and seeking wisdom from the land and the locals re: our unique current historical moment - what Chileans call "El Predicamento"  - in one of the most beautiful regions of our planet. Spending several days trekking through remote Chilean landscapes gives one time to reflect, especially in the brand-new Patagonia National Park system, a private-public partnership that has begun "re-wilding" hundreds of thousands of acres of former grazing lands, ripping up fences, removing thousands of head of sheep and cattle, and setting in motion the process of restoring this landscape to a more "wild" state. Here's a summary of thoughts and reflections on environmental history, journalism, and "being an environmentalist," along with some images from our Patagonian scouting trip, including the powerful multi-panel PNP visitor's center / museum exhibit entitled "El Predicamento."

Special thanks to two dear friends - Trek Relief's Sarah Nguyen and Champlain College environmental policy student Gabriel Ingman - for their companionship, wisdom, humor, good cooking, and navigating.

“Environmental History is the interdisciplinary study of change over time within evolving human/nature relationships. When done well, environmental history is 1) intensely interdisciplinary, and 2) relentlessly relevant.” – Dr. Rob Williams

As an environmental historian, I speak for the environmental historical record, trying to be objective and nonpolitical.

As an environmental journalist, I try to be as intensely interdisciplinary, relentlessly relevant and as analytically accessible as possible, translating environmental history into meaningful news stories.

As an environmentalist, “I speak for the trees,” subjectively and politically, like the Lorax.

Epistemology: “the study of the nature and origins of knowledge.”

Operative question: “How do I/we know what I/we know?”

FIVE ways of knowing: 1) Tradition; 2) Authority; 3) Intuition; 4) Direct Experience; 5) Scientific Method (hypothesis, test, revision)

7 S.E.P.R.I.T.E. Windows Into Environmental History and "Mother Culture"

1. "Sapiens rule the world because only they can weave an intersubjective web of meaning: a web of laws, forces, entities and places that exist purely in the collective imagination."

2. "This is how history unfolds. People weave a web of meaning, believe in it with all their heart, but sooner or later the web unravels, and when we look back we cannot understand how anybody could have taken it seriously."

3. "To think historically means to ascribe real power to the contents of our our imaginary stories."

- historian Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus, 2017

Remember: ISHMAEL says a MYTH is "an explaining story," and CULTURE is "a scenario interrelating humans, the world, and the gods."

Social Structures (“socius” = “companion”):

Considers age, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. (sociology, anthropology, psychology, race/class/gender studies)

Economics (“oikos” = “management of the house”):

Considers constructs of time, work, play, division of labor, currency, and "natural resources."

(economics, finance, accounting, monetary theory, ecological economics)

Politics (“polis” = “city/citizen”):

Consider systems of decision-making and governance.

(history, political science, diplomacy, military studies)

Religion (“religare” = “to bind together.”)

Considers beliefs, rituals, practices, the SUPERnatural.

(religion/religious studies, philosophy, theology, neurobiology)

Ideology (“ideos” = “idea.”)

Considers the big ideas or "isms" (nationalism, capitalism).

(global systems studies, political science, philosophy, history)

Technology (“tekne” = “craft/skill.”)

Consider tools, machines and inventions.

(architecture, design, engineering, systems thinking)

Environments (“environs” = “surroundings.”)

Consider the relationships among natural, human-built and media environments. (neuroscience, evolutionary biology, ecology, environmental sciences, natural sciences, communications studies)

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