Climate Change Leadership – MOOC


Humanity and nature: the long history of the world

What does history have to do with climate change leadership? Well everything, if you ask archaeologist and environmental historian Anneli Ekblom. In this video, Ekblom discusses why we need to reframe history in order to create opportunities for change – and how the Maya civilization may in fact be a positive example rather than a case of a civilization that collapsed.

Ekblom observes that the evolutionary history which we are all accustomed to may in fact inhibit our agency:

We have all been trained in believing in evolution and we apply that on history. That’s a very poor model of understanding our society because it makes the present come out as if it was inevitable, like the logical outcome of the past. With such a view on history and such a view on our society of today we can’t change anything because we lose the power and imagination of making change happen.

Instead, Ekblom argues that we need to understand how societies have been able to change their relationship to nature:

Of course the industrial revolution was a major event in history because it changed our relationship to nature and it also started global warming. But to me what is interesting is looking back to history in specific cases of how people have managed to change a difficult situation.

She concludes:

And if you look back in time, you can see that those things happened really, really fast; if they did in the past they can do so today.


© Anneli Ekblom, CEMUS and Uppsala University