Michael Marder: The philosopher’s plant. An intellectual herbarium (2014)

First, I must warn anyone thinking that this report will help them gain easy access to the book. I am in fact tempted to consider this more of a report on my reading of the book than a report on the book.

The first time I saw the title of Michael Marder’s book I was immediately fascinated because it made me curious about the link between two areas that have attracted me ever since I was a student. As a student in upper secondary school, I studied botany and part of the course was devoted to the collecting of 100 plants to complete a herbarium following certain predetermined criteria, such as it having a minimum of 20 species of moss (bryophytes). I loved that work, that is, I loved to walk in the woods, meadows, and moorlands, and to search for, study, compare, and speculate about species. The process of pressing and conserving was less interesting because I always felt that the plant was left alone on the paper, deprived of its context or natural environment. As a university student I studied the history of philosophy and specialized in aesthetics. Well, I was young and knew little about how to read the many companion texts that listed philosophers and explained their world views or their ways of turning the world into a system of thought. I remember that due to the monotonous style of the textbook authors, the various philosophers and systems almost merged into one and the same. Although Marder’s text manages to engage me as a reader in many ways, it still runs the risk of turning an exciting idea into an intellectual exercise following a standardized set-up.

Although, as Marder states, plants in philosophy are “consigned to a grey area between dead stones and living animals” (p. 210), the idea of the book is beautiful: Marder has walked the woods, meadows, and moorlands of philosophy and philosophers to study the role of plants in their texts and thinking. Or, as proclaimed in the prologue, “this book lifts the curtain on the significance of plants to the making (and growth) of thought” (p. xiv). To mention one telling example of how this works, I would like to mention Marder’s reading of Hegel and of how his philosophy of dialectics may be found in a passage about grapes: “In the transition from grapes to wine, nature is dialectically transformed into culture” (p. 153).

In addition to Hegel’s grapes, the vegetal life Marder has found in the philosophers’ texts is rich and promising, comprising the plane tree (Plato), wheat (Aristotle), the “great plant” (Plotinus), pears (Augustine), celery (Avicenna), the palm tree (Maimonides), blades of grass (Leibniz), the tulip (Kant), the apple tree (Heidegger), sunflowers (Derrida), and the water lily (Irigaray). Interestingly, the last one is the only female philosopher in Marder’s herbarium. This said, she is perhaps the most precious one if I understand him correctly. It seems to me that in Irigaray’s plant thinking Marder finds that “[e]verything Western philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel have discarded and devalued about plants is lovingly retrieved, reassessed, and cultivated” (p. 219).

The structure of the book is classic: one chapter is dedicated to each philosopher (and plant), and presented in historical order according to the time of the philosopher’s work. The opening of each chapter is characterized by the intention to connect the reader of the book with the key plant, text, or botanical setting of the philosopher. In my opinion, these passages are decisive in connecting and engaging the reader with the rest of the chapter.

So, what did I find in Marder’s herbarium, which plants, thoughts, or linguistic descriptions attracted me the most? An overall observation I made was how long lived and deep rooted a rather limited mindset about plants is in our conceptions of everyday life and values. Like the powerful metaphor and observable facts about seeds, growth, and potential, or the fascinating trope about stealing (forbidden) fruit (see the chapter on Augustine’s pears). By reading Marder I think I have learned that plants often represent a challenge to a philosopher’s main system of thought and hence have either been forced to fit in (usually at a lower stage in some sort of hierarchy) or been relegated to an out-of-place or system-external position, appropriate for saying something crucial about the world that cannot be said based on the fundamental principle of thoughts – such as in the case of Kant’s tulip, which Marder summarizes in the following way:

«A beautiful flower may be too weak to take on the entire system of thought, which has slotted it within the structure of aesthetic judgement and harnessed it to the demands of      purposiveness without purpose. Of one thing we can be nonetheless sure: it does not              succumb to the sinister influence of idealization that performs a magical disappearing act, causing everything singular, imperfect, and concrete to dissolve in the mist of indifferent    abstraction.» (pp. 150-151)

It is both easy and tempting to pick or cut out passages from Marder’s text and press and conserve them in other contexts, or to graft them with other words to see if new meanings will unfold. In particular, I find the chapter on Derrida’s sunflower to be such a meadow of pickable paragraphs, of passages worth lifting out of context to continue to reflect upon or bear in mind. One such cutting is the following reminder, which I find applies to Derrida’s philosophical practice, to Marder’s book, and to academic works to come:

«Our virtual intellectual herbarium is itself a supplement to the real gardens, fields, and forests where plants grow. But the supplement in deconstruction always comes first, before what it supplements. It is on the basis of the prevailing idea of the plant and its significance (or insignificance) on the scale of beings that the so-called natural resources are managed and agriculture is organized on the industrial model. To change these practices we would first need to alter the supplementary notion of the plant.» (p. 198)

Finally, and perhaps only as a footnote, I would like to mention that I sometimes find it a little hard to distinguish Marder’s own thoughts and ideas about plants and philosophy from his free continuation, or rewriting, of each philosopher’s thinking. But perhaps this is how an organic plant-oriented text works; others’ texts and thoughts grow into or are sown in new texts and thoughts, and this is perhaps how it will continue to function, since “[p]hilosophy is (…) like a plant that metamorphoses as it grows” (p. 167).

10.10.2021 by Nina Goga, Professor, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen

Rob Nixon: Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (2011)

Nixon’s concept of slow violence is inspired by Johan Galtung’s idea of structural violence, a form of violence not attributable to a single individual, but rather to social inequalities of power (Galtung 1969). Slow violence likewise denotes “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all” (Nixon 2011, 2).

One of Nixon’s illustrative examples is the 1984 disaster at the Union Carbide factory in the Indian city of Bhopal. As toxic gas leaked out, thousands were killed, and the pollution will continue to affect the inhabitants for decades. How many people have ultimately been killed or injured, and how can one prove who is responsible for the death of a given individual? Answers to these questions will be delayed and contested: “Maintaining a media focus on slow violence poses acute challenges, not only because it is spectacle deficient, but also because the fallout’s impact may range from the cellular to the transnational and […] may stretch beyond the horizon of imaginable time” (p. 47). Hence, one of Nixon’s main issues is the problem of understanding and staying attentive to ecological drama, as it is often unspectacular in aesthetic terms.

Slow violence, then, disproportionately affects the poor of the global south, those lacking the means to leave areas suffering the consequences of toxic pollution. As it hardly fits into narrative templates, slow violence also eludes memory and activist consciousness. The global poor therefore seem to be “dispensable citizens,” dispossessed of natural resources by multinational corporations, and forced to suffer the direst consequences of ecological damage. Thus, Nixon’s book integrates a postcolonial social justice perspective with ecological and ecocritical thinking. As such, his analysis is one of the most influential examples of what might be called global or cosmopolitical ecocriticism (Marland 2013).

The bulk of Slow Violence consists of contextual and close readings of “writer-activists” who “share a desire to give human definition to such outsourced suffering” while demonstrating “a desire to give life and dimension to the strategies–oppositional, affirmative, and yes, often desperate and fractured–that emerge from those who bear the brunt of the planet’s ecological crises” (p. 22–23). By studying novels and essays by authors such as Indra Sinha, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Arundhati Roy, Nixon shows how texts can make slow violence perceptible, while also prolonging the attention given to events that are not typically identified as dramatic or spectacular.

Nixon’s book attempts to couple the questions and methods of literary studies with arguably the most pressing global problem of our age. Slow Violence provides a provocative framework for thinking about ecological narratability and the issue of attention in climate change activism.

 

Works Cited

Galtung, Johan. 1969. “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research.” Journal of Peace Research, 6 (3), 167–191.

Marland, Pippa. 2013. “Ecocriticism.” Literature Compass, 10/11, 846–868.

Nixon, Rob. 2011. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard University Press.

 

05.08.2019 by Per Esben Myren-Svelstad, Associate professor, NTNU in Trondheim

Our Children and Other Animals – Childhood and Pethood

Two recent texts—Our Children and Other Animals and Childhood and Pethoodoffer new insights on the question of children and animals in society, culture, and literature. As my discussion below suggests, Childhood and Pethood expands on the social theoretical foundation established in Our Children and Other Animals.

In Our Children and Other Animals, Cole and Stewart argue that children and animals occupy a shared position of oppression in human societies. Children and animals are widely treated as similar to but not quite human—a norm that is reinforced by cultural and legal practices throughout the world. Cole and Stewart show how human children gradually learn to instrumentalize the animal other as they grow up: indeed, subjugating the animal other, the authors suggest, is the key mechanism by which not-quite-human children become fully human and adult. Cole and Stewart examine how powerful institutions, including education and the media, introduce and reinforce the child’s process of learning to objectify animals. Movies, video games, and schools present animals as cute but ultimately disposable: animals’ value lies in their usefulness (in narrative, in meat, etc.), not in their subjectivity. Cole and Stewart conclude their book by showing how recent vegan children’s books offer a counter narrative to the dominant practices of animal subjugation in human societies and in human cultural production, thus providing an alternative model for human-animal relations for both children and adults.

Childhood and Pethood is (to my knowledge) the first collection of scholarly essays that theorizes the relationship between children and animals in culture and literature. The book opens with two brief and thought provoking prefaces, one by Monica Flegel, the other by Kenneth Kidd. Flegel suggests that childhood and pethood acquired a similar status in the 19th century, as children and animals came to be seen as “sentimental investments.” Though Flegel’s position aligns with that of Cole and Stewart in that she acknowledges children and animals share a subjugated social position, she pushes this line of thinking by asking whether “dependency” (a state that describes both children and pets) must necessarily “[entail] a lesser status” (xvii). Kidd points out that while childhood studies and related fields have promoted children’s agency, they have largely done so in a tradition of humanism—and “human exceptionalism”—to the detriment of nonhuman animals. In their introduction to the text, Anna Feuerstein and Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo suggest the shared status of children and pets can be a source of creative and political potential: “The ways in which children and pets interact with each other provide productive avenues for exploring not only interspecies kinship relations but also how disenfranchised subjects can negotiate their marginalization, create new affective economies, and engage in unexpected forms of growth” (2).

Childhood and Pethood is divided into three sections. The first section, “Family, Language, and Nationhood,” contains five essays that examine children and pets in context of national borders, language, and identity and includes the essay, “Adoption, Custody, and Protection: The Childhood of Pets as a Critique of Legal Classification,” in which the author, James Gillett, suggests pets occupy a position between the animal and the child. The second section, “Literature for Children and Adults,” contains six essays. Zoe Jaques’s essay, “Pullman, Pets, and Posthuman Animals: The Dæmon-child of His Dark Materials” shows how Philip Pullman’s popular series illustrates the violence of the process by which children are socialized to objectify animals. Kelly Hübben’s essay shows how three popular Little Golden Books train child readers both to be socialized (by adults) and to socialize the animal other. In her essay “Oh God, Give Me Horses!”, Amalya Layla Ashman argues that “pony fiction” books allow their protagonists (and their female readers) to temporarily escape the pressures of “boys and fashion” via a relationship with the horse. The book’s final section, “Music and Visual Culture,” offers four essays that explore how race, species, and childhood are variously implicated in music, painting, and other forms of art. These essays point to how blackness, animality, and childhood are valued in so far as they remain cute and tame; where they show signs of aggression and wildness, they become a threat to white, adult “civilization.”

 

16.11.2018 by Ida Moen Johnson, PhD candidate in the Dept. of Scandinavian at UC Berkeleyby

 

Booklist

Matthew Cole, and Kate Stewart. Our Children and Other Animals: The Cultural Construction of Human-Animal Relations in Childhood. Taylor and Francis, 2014.

Anna Feuerstein, and Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo. Childhood and Pethood in Literature and Culture: New Perspectives in Childhood Studies and Animal Studies. Taylor and Francis, 2017.

Plant Theory: Biopower and Vegetable Life (2016) by Jeffrey T. Nealon

Initially, Nealon sets out to untangle animal studies’ relation to Foucault’s term biopower (which is associated with the concerns and practices of human life). Foucault dates the turn towards an emphasis on biopower to the beginning of the nineteenth century (7). Nealon’s initial  hypothesis is that animals have become such ethically compelling figures recently because they are perceived as the excluded “others” within Foucault’s discourse on biopower (x).

Nealon must reject his initial hypothesis following his study of Foucault, who offers a different explanation for the intensified interest in animals in the biopolitical era: namely that animals, and their hidden lives and desires, are actually the privileged figures for understanding human life within the regime of biopower (x). This is because life in the biopolitical era is understood as animal-like: “evolving, appetite-driven, secret, discontinuous, mendacious (…) always on the prowl” (8), so that animals function not as our excluded “other” but as “very intense markers for our hidden, better, or former – perhaps more authentic – selves” (10). Rather, Foucault argues that what is left behind in this transition to the biopolitical era is the primary focus on plant life (x) in the historical movement from surface to depth that signals the decline of natural history (classification through organization by common visible traits) and the birth of biology (the science of life). As a science, biology seeks instead to discover the hidden animating principles of organisms (6). Thus, Foucault’s work shows that animality is “fully incorporated into biopower as the template for life itself” (7).

Consequently, Nealon turns to an examination of “the strange and consistent elision of plants within the voluminous work on life within contemporary theory and philosophy”, analysing, in particular, the work of Heidegger, Agamben and Derrida, all of whom re-read Aristotle (11). Contrasting the past few decades’ research into “plant intelligence” with Plato’s and Aristotle’s accounts of plants, which have survived uncontested within the Western philosophical tradition up until today, Nealon concludes that their picture of plant life is outmoded since:

plants do in fact communicate with other plants; they evidence both defensive and aggressive behaviour; they feign certain states to fool predators or attract pollinators; and of course plants do move, only at a much slower time scale than most animals; there is even research to suggest that plants feel pain, or at least respond decisively to extreme danger. (30)

Nealon further demonstrates how biopolitical theory has consistently sidestepped the issue of plant life (and how the issue is even met with hostility) and argues that the biopolitical present needs a concept of life as “the ecological territory that cuts across all strata of life” (107), a view inspired by Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic thinking. He further calls for a recognition that “everything that lives is provided with a vital principle” (like the Aristotelian notion of plant psukhe) so that “the great dividing line passes between the reign of the living and the non-living much more so than between plants, animals and man” (107). Thus, Nealon stresses that we all share the same territory for living; one that is in dire need of protection.

Lykke Guanio-Uluru, 08.10.2018.

Antrozoologi. Samspillet mellom dyr og menneske (2018)

The book Antrozoologi. Samspillet mellom dyr og menneske (2018, Anthrozoology. The interplay between animal and human) was edited by Bente Berget, Elsebeth Krøger, and Anne Brita Thorød, all affiliated with the University of Agder, Norway. It takes a twofold approach to this topic: on the one hand, it aims to introduce the cross-disciplinary field of anthrozoology to interested readers, and on the other hand, to provide readers with reports on practical experiences with various forms of interplay between animal and human. These encounters may be therapeutic or activity oriented, and may be related to particular animals (horse and dog) or to a specific setting that includes animals and nature, such as a farm. The contributors to the volume are educated within, and have experience in, a variety of research fields, including ethology, philosophy, nursery education, pedagogy, agronomy, social science, psychology, public-health science, and linguistics.

In their introductory chapter, the editors define anthrozoology as a cross-disciplinary field that combines knowledge gained in the fields of ethology, medicine, psychology, veterinary medicine and zoology; and that studies all aspects of the interplay between animal and human (p. 15). According to the editors, anthrozoology has proved highly valuable to so-called animal-assisted interventions, defined as active, time-limited actions, where various forms of interaction with animals are used as a supplement to ordinary actions (p. 15).

While the collective approach seems to be based on a common set of philosophical insights (mainly Sartre and Bubar), where the implication of being seen by an animal plays a key role, the volume seems to lack an overall awareness of how the language about animals works. There are many phrases used where human’s use of animals and the advantages of this are mentioned and not problematized. In addition, the interplay to be described generally focuses on what is in it for humans; for example, children become more confident readers when they have the opportunity to read to a buddy dog (helpmate dog), drug addicts or people with mental-health challenges may find emotional support when caring for horses. The studies and examples provide little information or knowledge about how the ‘users’ gain interspecies awareness, since they focus either on knowledge about the ecosystemic interdependency between animals and humans, or on knowledge about animals ways of communication.

The chapter on animal behaviour, animal welfare and therapy animals is one of the most academically useful chapters providing the readers with important information about the needs and limits of various animals. However, although the chapter focuses on animals, the information about them are set within the framework of the training of animals – training by humans with the aim of helping or supporting humans.

While I see no problem with preparing for encounters between for instance dogs and children, or with children reading to dogs, I have some problems with training dogs to behave like readers. The author claims that the dogs pretend to read (p. 148). In my opinion, we know nothing about dogs and reading, so we cannot assume that they are pretending. Training dogs to behave like readers destroys the balance within the interplay.

Another doubt about the book is the tendency to claim highly problematic ‘truths’, such as the one that children and young adult have always enjoyed being with animals (p. 19). Such uncritical dependence on cultural clichés does nothing positive for the fragile relationship between various forms of life.

Nina Goga, 12.09.2018

Å forstå dyr. Filosofi for hunde- og katteelskere (2018)

Would you understand your dog if it could talk? Does your cat understand you? These are the opening questions in the Norwegian book Å forstå dyr. Filosofi for hunde- og katteelskere by the Norwegian philosopher Lars Fr. Svendsen. Svendsen is professor of philosophy, well known for his books, translated into 29 languages: Ondskapens filosofi [A philosophy of evil], Ensomhetens filosofi [A philosophy of loneliness] and Kjedsomhetens filosofi [A philosophy of boredom]. The books are written for a wide audience. The title Å forstå dyr indicates that this book is no exception; it is governed by a love of animals – his own dog and cats.

According to Svendsen, the book is primarily not about animals, but about humans, and of the opportunities humans have to understand animals (s. 8). The book takes the hermeneutic perspective, despite the fact that this tradition has undefined animals. Svendsen quotes Kant, Heidegger, Gadamer, Kafka and Wittgenstein, among others, and in a solid philosophical tradition he includes chapters on language, consciousness, reading thoughts, intelligence, the conception of time, loneliness, sorrow and morals. In addition, Svendsen argues from a scientific point of view, and from what he calls an amateur point of view, including in the latter his own personal experience living with his two cats and the dog Luna. Thus, he shifts between the professional way of arguing, and the position of somebody living with pets.

Animal studies is an important topic in environmental studies, and Svendsen’s book addresses the curiosity raised about animal life in a broader environmental perspective. Svendsen takes the reader through discussions informed by philosophers and scientific knowledge: Do animals have language? It depends what you mean by language: “[D]e fleste forskere mener at aper ikke har språk, i det minste ikke hva lingvister vanligvis kaller språk». [Most researchers believe that monkeys do not have language, at least not what linguists usually call languages] (21). “Kan dyr føle ensomhet? Det avhenger av hvordan man definerer ensomhet». [Can animals feel loneliness? It depends on how you define loneliness] (146). The argumentation is ruled by categories and definitions, and the text establishes truths by categorizing, defining and discussing the category to which something belongs. Svendsen states that the amateur uses anthropomorphisms in his attempt to understand animals; for instance, he would say that his dog is “thinking of something”, that it is “jealous”, “sad” or “lonely”.  However, many philosophers and scientists systematically try to avoid using such expressions (40), as the biologist tries to explain the animal rather than understand the animal.

Of special interest to the NaChiLitCul research group is the way the book demonstrates how an anthropocentric perspective is embedded in the subject of philosophy itself. Svendsen is fully aware that the categories are human ruled; they are anthropocentric. Both the ways of raising questions, and the order in which the chapters are composed, reflect this anthropomorphism. The book starts by raising the question of what is language and consciousness, thereby demonstrating that animals are inferior to even small humans: “En menneskelig toåring klarer […] å bruke substantive, verb, preposisjoner og så videre på en grammatikalsk korrekt måte”. [A human two-year-old is […] able to use nouns, verbs, prepositions, and so on in a grammatically correct way] (19); and that «Ingen andre dyr har de språklige evnene som vi har”. [No other animals have the ability to use language that we have] (23). The hierarchy of species is part of the language itself: humans, monkeys, wolves, dogs, cats, insects and octopuses. Trees and plants are even lower in the hierarchy: “Enkelte vil hevde at trær og planter kommuniserer eller de til og med har spark, men da bruker de ordene i en så utvidet betydning at det ikke er noen grunn til å tilskrive trær og planter bevissthet av den grunn”. [Some would argue that trees and plants are able to communicate or even that they have language, but then they use the words in such an extended sense that there is no reason to assign trees and plants consciousness for that reason] (59).

There are no neutral standards. Svendsen writes about animals being interpreters, animals being subjects. At the end of the book, there is a chapter about friendship, in which Svendsen refers to the famous lecture by Jacques Derrida: When animals look back. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the female philosophers Donna J. Haraway and Cynthia Willett are not on the reference list. Their When species meet (2008) and Interspecies ethics (2014) would have challenged the composition of the book, starting with their claim that animals and plants and humans do co-exist in a common environment.

One of the premises of NaChiLitCul is that consciousness is built on the way words and texts define our view of the world. That is also relevant to remember when we read animal-loving male philosophy.

 

Aslaug Nyrnes, 10.07.2018

Learning Outside the Classroom – Theory and Guidelines for Practice (2012)

The book Learning Outside the Classroom – Theory and Guidelines for Practice (2012), by Simon Beames, Peter Higgins and Robbie Nicol, provides a solid framework of principles that educators, lawmakers, and others around the world can use as they develop their outdoors-related learning programs. The authors come from University of Edinburgh, Scotland, a university that has well-known study-programs in Outdoor and Environmental Education on all levels. The book includes practical suggestions and approaches that can serve to increase the readers’ ability to connect the natural world and the outdoors to the learning and educational progress of young people.

Learning outside the classroom takes place in many arenas, but this book covers the school ground and the local neighbourhood or community, arenas where students can normally access all of the learning sites on foot or by public transport. The book is not a recipe book, but a collection of principles and guidelines to be considered and used to inform an integrated, holistic approach to teaching that has relevance to the cultures and communities, as well as to the landscapes and ecosystems in which students live and go to school. The authors stress that the book is intended for practicing teachers and teachers-in-training and will be valuable for other educational professionals and instructors, as well as for those who are interested in locating their work outdoors. The authors also hope that policy writers, curriculum developers, and even politicians will take note of the content, because outdoor learning experiences can play a significant role in education for young people.

Each of the ten chapters starts with chapter aims, then some theory and a case study, and ends with some guidelines. In the introduction and overview, the authors discuss the broad conception of outdoor learning, its rationale and its many educational benefits. They give three particularly convincing reasons for classroom teachers taking their students outside during class time: the outdoors gives meaning to learning and brings the curricula alive; it helps students understand the environment and related issue of sustainable development; and it encourages physical activity. In the background section, they clarify various concepts related to the outdoors and present some historical examples of outdoor education, but only from USA, UK, Germany and the Nordic Countries. They highlight one tradition of outdoor education that is used to achieve curriculum aims, personal growth and character building, or to develop fitness for war. Another tradition is based on the educational use of the outdoors in environmental education, and is very often offered by conventional field-studies centres. The third rationale or tradition has been skill acquisition in adventurous activities; for instance learning rock climbing or canoeing, activities very often linked to physical education. The authors mention that outdoor education in many English-speaking Western cultures has, in the last 50 years or so, become increasingly focused on adventurous activities conducted in highly controlled environments. These activities often take place “far from school, have a few connections to the school curriculum, and are provided by instructors trained to facilitate these activities using specialized equipment” (p. 4). In contrast, the Nordic concept Udeskole (Danish term) involves regular use of a school’s natural surroundings and cultural settings as extensions of the classroom. The authors continue to use the term outdoor learning to cover all kinds of curricular learning that might take place outside the classroom in the local environment.

Other chapters in this book address subjects such as: cross-curricular learning, education for sustainable development, learning through local landscapes, harnessing student curiosity, enabling students to take responsibilities, building community partnerships, administration and risk management and supervising people outdoors. In the last chapter, the authors put this all together and present a model for developing an action plan to take learning outdoors.

The book is relevant for NaChiLitCul research group’s because of its emphasis on sustainability. The whole book, not only chapter three, Education for sustainable development, is relevant in the ongoing global discussion concerning three questions: what is Education Outside the Classroom; what are the effects of using nature or culture institutions as integrated and regular elements in the learning processes; and is it possible to build up networks of practical research cooperation and knowledge transfer. The book is relevant for Norwegian teachers who teach outside the classroom, or plan for it. It is also relevant in Norwegian Teacher Education as a starting point for discussing outdoor practices in all subjects and topics. In 2020, Norway will introduce a new national curriculum that will establish the core elements in the various subjects, encourage more holistic teaching, require more interdisciplinary activity, focus on the whole human being, continue to stress the five basic skills and integrate three interdisciplinary themes: public health and life mastery; democracy and citizenship; and sustainable development. This book, Learning Outside the Classroom – Theory and Guidelines for Practice, together with The Nature in Culture Matrix, an analytical tool developed by the NaChiLitCul group, can highlight new methodologies for conducting “sustainable development”, and help students, teachers, researchers, children and young adults to reflect on issues linked to nature and culture.

Bjørg Oddrun Hallås, 30.04.2018

Book chapter report – Natur og danning (2016)

The anthology Nature and Development (Natur og danning) (2016), edited by Bjørg Oddrun Hallås and Gunnar Karlsen, includes contributions that demonstrate how nature and the local environment can serve as important arena in planning, implementing and assessing various pedagogical practices in kinderga

rten, school and higher education. In the anthology, the concept of ‘development’ is represented in accordance to its use in the diverse subject areas included. The concept of ‘nature’ is broadly understood, including nature itself, as practices that take place in nature, and things that deal with n

 

ature. In addition, the articles consider how products of nature can influence the development process.

One of the approaches of this anthology can be illustrated with reference to the article by Holthe, Fossgard and Wergedahl entitled The school’s food landscape as an arena for development (Skolens matlandskap som arena for danning). The authors begin by defining food both as nature and culture, considering food to be a product of each person’s identity. The food landscape of a school includes the places and contexts in which children eat and come in contact with food, such as the school subject Food and health, school meals and the pre- and post-school programmes. This landscape plays a central role in pupil’s development in relation to food. In the article, development in relation to food is limited to food as nature; in other words, to health-related and environmental dimensions.

The authors consider the historical development of the subject Food and health and of school meals, and make the point that the health dimension has always been at the core. School meals have changed over time from shared meals – the Oslo breakfast and later Sigdal’s breakfast – to a model in which children bring a packed lunch. The author’s problematise this breakdown of the joint effort involving political and nutritional interests into political disagreement regarding school meals.

The quality of the teachers is decisive for the quality of the education pupils receive. A large portion of the teachers responsible for Food and health lack any formal education in the subject. While some schools have teachers who have the appropriate education, they may not teach the subject due to, for example, the total resources available for the grade.

In the author’s opinion, primary schools do not seem aware of the food landscape, and how this contributes to the establishment of good development processes in which clear links and integration are established between the subject Food and health, school meals and meals in the pre-and post-school programmes. In primary school, the links between the health dimension and nature are much more obvious than those between the environmental dimension and nature. In this article, Holthe, Fossgard and Wergedahl have contributed to an increased focus on the need to further develop schools so that food is seen from a learning and development perspective, and to focus on both the health and the environmental dimensions that characterise the food landscape pupils encounter at school. This requires the collaboration. The issue of a national school-meal programme needs to be placed on the political agenda again. In addition, teacher competence needs to be raised, both for those who are responsible for food and meal supervision in schools, and for those who teach Food and health.

Eli Kristin Aadland, 09.04.2018