Learning about the tough things

One of the really cool things about studying abroad is that I get to take courses that are not offered at my home university. One of the majors I am interested in here is human geography, which is a really cool combination of sociology and environmentalism. I am currently taking a course called Environmental Heritage and Management, where we are learning about how people value the environment. It is pretty much blowing my mind.

I have begun to question the western views of the pristine environment in which humans do not exist (was this ever even a possibility within this era?). Interestingly, the aboriginals in Australia are under the belief that land not maintained by humans is not in its best state. When I say maintained, I mean living in symbiosis with the environment (for example, aiding in controlled burning), rather than the systematic exploitation we seem to be so fond of in the west.

As western influence has made its way to Australia, their views of environmentalism have changed and the traditional practice of caring for the land has been taken from the aboriginals (this is a gross generalization of a much larger story for times sake, really). Anyway, the class has given me a lot to think about environmentalism and the fact that even something that seems so organic to me is actually socially constructed as well!

Heritage is a term so laced with meaning that it’s really hard to quite place what it is, but it is landscape and tradition, story and artifact. Another hard thing to swallow is the realization that heritage is not only the good, but the recognition of the bad as well. I am currently working on a project where I have to research the life history of Jacob Nelson, who was a victim of the Kembla mining disaster that killed 92 people in 1902, one of the biggest death tolls in Australia’s history.

I was shocked to learn that Nelson was no older than 14 years old, just a boy. It is increasingly difficult to find information about him because his life had only just begun. His story is as much a part of the heritage of this country as any other, but still very difficult to process.

My head is spinning with this new information, but classes at Hanover have yet to begin. I have already learned so much, I can only imagine what the rest of my senior year will hold!

(note: I apologize for the lack of photos this week, but the lack of internet connection makes it near impossible at this moment)

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