This essay is discussing narratives as a means for people to associate themselves with the intersection of people's activities with the geosphere.
As the anthropologists discovered, the human species is a storyteller by evolution.
and science shape the intersections of humans and their environments
including intersections with the “geosphere”. Some of these
intersections are more obvious, such as motorways, irrigation
systems, hydro-power plants or shore defences. Others are less
obvious, such as slope stabilisation, pumping of groundwater, sewage
water treatment or beach nourishment. And further intersections, such
as anthropogenic climate change, ocean acidification or habitat
fragmentation, only are recognized through science-based insights
Nowadays, engineering and science are part of human story-telling, although their subjects seldom are treated as part of mainstream stories; with the exception of dramatic or outstanding events that reach the headlines. Still, the exception to the exception is the daily weather forecast, which is the geoscience narrative par excellence, possibly with a history reaching back deep into prehistoric times.
Narratives, thus stories should be a means for citizens to exchange about their intersections with the “geosphere”.
Traditional and Modern Context of Story-telling
|Credits: imaggeo Saskia Keestra "Irrigation canal"|
When natural phenomena were not explicable with the use of available knowledge and technologies shared social constructions of believes prevailed. Many events, which today are understood as ordinary and understood by scientific approaches, in the past had been considered extraordinary and narrated as such. Faith and referring to the marvellous were used to explain phenomena, to rule the exploitation of limited and common resources, finally to preserve the ecosystem/environment in which the community was settled. Some traditional rural, alpine or other isolated cultures maintained these approaches into modern times.
|Credits: imaggeo Liping Pang "Deer Park, |
Queenstown, New Zealand"
Science and technology, industrialisation and global urbanisation require a different kind of earth-centric story-telling as traditional earth-centric stories. Now, at the fringe of the Anthropocene, people can base their earth-centricity on substantial knowledge base, mature scientific insight combined with lessons inherited from the past. Likewise modern “earth-centricity” can be built, within a historical context and a robust ethic vision, on humanities and the insight in the decisions and choices of the past that led to the modern world and people's power to intersect with the “geosphere”.
|Credits: imaggeo Antonio Jordanm "Fieldtrip"|
Applying these insights regarding traditional and modern story-telling, narratives seems particular needed for urban people, thus for more than half of the global population. Urban people rarely can notice how the “geosphere” intersects with their daily dealings. The built-up urban environment hides phenomena - putting weather and disasters a bit aside - that inform how much the local “geosphere” had been engineered to make that environment matching people's needs and preferences.
Narratives are a form of communication, by that expertise in sciences and humanities can meet insights in practices and values of practitioners of common trades or laypersons. Art, history and quotidian environment provide many opportunities for earth-sciences story-telling; they range from geomorphology to art including reference to the ‘sacrum’ - short list of examples:
- The ordinary: The motorway stretching east from Brussels cuts through a strip of heather-covered sandy hills. These aeolian depositions originated from dry-laying basin of the North Sea during ice-age.
- The pleasant: The Lago Banyoles in Spain has no outlet and is fed by bottom-springs of slaty water. This geologically young lake may end as salt lake hosting flamingos feeding on brine shrimp.
- On art: Nature and scenery are two subjects presented by artists since ancient times. Paintings capturing landscapes of past times narrate about transformations. Paintings or mosaics show the extent of natural events, like eruptions or floods, modified landscapes.
- On history: Human activities has marked landscapes with mining-sites, irrigation channels, abandoned networks of local trains and names that narrates of the waters or settlements on sandy soils.
- More on history: At the time of the eruption of the Vesuvius, artists painted in many of the richest patrician houses reproductions of the volcano before the tragic event. These paintings have been discovered by archaeologists during excavations, and they helped to reconstruct the shape of the volcano, the neighbouring landscape along the coast between Ercolano and Pompei, and the engineering works of the Romans such as aqueducts and roads.
- On the 'sacrum'; Crater Lake is situated in a caldera in south-central Oregon. It has neither inflow nor outlet, and is known for water clarity and thus its deep blue colour (reflecting the sky and backscattering blue light from the water). The lake is deep, it was formed around 7.700 years ago by collapse of a volcano. To settle water balance of the lake evaporation is compensated by rain and snowfall, and thus the renewal of the lakes water-body is slow taking 250 years. It is a unique lake that previously was a sacred site for the native Klamath tribe. Their legends tell of battling gods, of sky and underworld. The volcano was destroyed in the battle, creating Crater Lake. Still nowadays, the Klamath people regard Crater Lake as a spiritual site.
|Credit: imaggeo Ragnar Sigurdson|
"Cooking Bread with Geothermal Heat"
Above this, people like stories. Media flood public with stories, bringing events and people into context, and make value-loaded judgements on behaviour of people and appreciation of events. Narratives – story-telling or narration as synonyms - acknowledge that people develop insights mainly by sharing stories. Communication leads people to shape their abstract mental concepts, to compare them with observations, to confront them with critical thoughts or creative ideas, to assess the cultural and social background, to make value statements and to express ethical views finally. Story-telling is a skilful human practice to describe perception of values in different contexts, to spread or to challenge their application. People are enforcing common views including values by sharing stories in their groups of peers.
|Cedits: imaggeo Danielle Penna Alpin reservoirt|
People's narratives about their intersections with the geosphere have evolved throughout history. Erstwhile widespread narratives about supernatural agents ruling this intersection, which were known many people, have been replaced by scientific descriptions, which are known by some people; and sharing of earth-centric narratives among people ceased. However, as illustrated by the examples presented above, many opportunities exist nowadays for narratives on intersections of people's activities and the geosphere. These narratives have a rich content with many features but science-elements only. Thus modern earth-centric narratives can be told about people and their intersections with the geosphere. These narratives can be positive in content, may overcome doomsday-cry, and do not need faith in the supernatural for being means to enforce constructive behaviour favourable for sustained existence.
|Credit: imaggeo Geology for Global Development |
|Credits: imaggeo Cyri Mayaud "Planina polje flooded"|