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

Friluftsliv – En dannelsesreise by Nils Faarlund

FriluftslivNils Faarlund is a central figure in the Norwegian outdoor recreation tradition – friluftsliv. Since the middle of the seventies, he has greatly influenced friluftsliv as a pedagogic practice and the development of friluftsliv philosophy. Faarlund’s philosophy was in keeping with the ecocritical ideologies that shaped much of the 60s and 70s in Norway. Faarlunds life-long mission has been to win supporters for pristine nature. Arne Næss is another noted Norwegian thinker and promoter of the simple friluftsliv that influenced Faarlund. The ecocentric values Faarlund attributes to friluftsliv are central to NaChiLitCul’s study of children’s culture and nature.

In this book, Faarlund shares his experiences working with friluftsliv and he argues his points using practical examples. He comments on the commercialization of friluftsliv and hopes to inspire readers to find their own path in nature. He criticizes much of the modern focus on equipment and fashion in friluftsliv and advocates that one live more simply in tune with nature. He elaborates on what friluftsliv is for him and argues for a return to this deeper connection with nature.

Faarlund argues that friluftsliv is a way for culture and nature to meet: “Nature is culture’s home, Friluftsliv is a way home” (Chap. 4). He talks about meeting nature and to be met by nature. This is a view that Faarlund contrasts to the modern society’s overuse of nature as a resource. As a society we are moving away from the simple life in tune with nature. Our dependence on digital gadgets and petroleum-based clothing is a way of distancing ourselves from nature. In Faarlund’s writing, nature is something that we meet as an old friend. His attitude to nature in his text shows this through wordings such as Nature awareness (naturkjennskap), nature meetings (naturmøter) and free nature (fri natur).

In the chapter about the clothing and equipment needed in friluftsliv, he advocates the simple and natural options. Wool and cotton rather than synthetics, and alcohol-burning stoves rather than petrol and gas. In this, he expresses an ecocentric, culture-critical view of friluftsliv. This view is explicitly expressed in Chapter 14, where Faarlund provides a list of what to pack for outdoor activities in summer and winter. While the chapter is little more than a list of the clothing and equipment needed, the title A nature friendly packing list illustrates how his philosophy of friluftsliv is highlighted in the text. Even in this listed form, he manages to promote natural materials and traditional solutions over synthetics and what he considers commercialised.

In this book, Faarlund’s aim is to give some insight into the skills and knowledge needed in friluftsliv. The mantra of travel according to ability (ferdsel etter evne) is at the foundation of the instrumental part of the book. But at the same time, Faarlund’s ecocentric values and philosophy are evident both explicitly and implicitly. As a reader and lover of friluftsliv, I find myself questioning my ecological footprint in my meetings with nature. Are we, as modern friluftsliv people, doing more harm than good, even while engaging in friluftsliv?

Tom Lund, 19.03.2018

Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept

The term Anthropocene is the epoch in which human impact on earth is irreversible. The concept of the Anthropocene was originally a geological reference however, the notion has broadened also to encompass the humanities and social sciences since the perspective of the Anthropocene affects human response to environmental issues on many levels. These perspectives are addressed in Timothy Clark’s Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. Clark undertakes the task of exploring the Anthropocene from different view points over nine chapters, taking literary texts as examples to emphasise and highlight disparate aspects of the Anthropocene. Clark offers new experiences with which we understand the world around us through the historical angle when considering the challenges in the Anthropocene, which go beyond the scale and time with which we usually operate in. He also offers how close readings of texts may be a new mode of critical practices as reading of texts may take a different turn while reading in an Anthropocene perspective.

The first chapter “The Anthropocene – Questions of definition” offers a history of the term, though he focuses mainly on the cultural, ethical, aesthetic, philosophical and political aspects of environmental issues in the Anthropocene. Clark claims that the Anthropocene “blurs and even scrambles some crucial categories by which people have made sense of the world and their lives. It puts in crisis the lines between culture and nature, fact and value, and between the human and the geological or meteorological” (p. 9).

Clark investigates environmental ethics and points out the disjunction of our ‘normal’ scales of space and time, between the “planetary environmental realities and those things that seem immediately to matter to human engagement from one day to another” (p. 30). The matter of scale is at core in Clark’s reading and permeates the book.

In the subsequent chapters Clark addresses such issues as new perspectives on readings of poetry, novels and short stories. In chapter six he discusses a post-colonial experience in Australia by in a close reading of Henry Lawson’s ‘Telling Mrs Baker’ (1901) exemplifying the limitations of postcolonial criticism in light of the Anthropocene. This reading as the other readings of literary texts in Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept serve as good examples of issues prevalent in the Anthropocene. The book includes analyses of literary works, including texts by Paule Marshall, Gary Snyder, Ben Okri, Henry Lawson, Lorrie Moore and Raymond Carver.

In the final chapter “The tragedy that climate change is not ‘interesting’” Clark problematizes the challenge of arguing the large-scale scope beyond people’s everyday lives. Clark also discusses how readings of literary texts challenges, “what may and may not be environmentally significant” in re-readings of texts.

Despite the fact that Clark’s book does not deal with children’s texts the notion of the Anthropocene is clearly relevant and of concern within the scope of readings or perhaps re-readings of children’s texts.


Hege Emma Rimmereide, 02.03.2018

En menneskeskapt virkelighet: Klimaendring, sosiale forestillinger og pedagogisk filosofi (2017) [Anthropogenic reality: Climate change, social notions and philosophy of education]

Why is so little done when we have so much reliable natural science knowledge about how the Earth’s climate is being changed by human activity? Why don’t we do enough when we know the consequences of not doing enough? This paradox is the starting point for the Norwegian book En menneskeskapt virkelighet by Ingerid S. Straume. Straume holds a PhD in the philosophy of education. She teaches educational theory and academic writing, and works as a subject specialist at the Library of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Oslo, Norway.

In her book, Straume points out how the attention to climate change has greatly increased in recent years, both within and outside of academia. Nevertheless, political negotiations have so far not led to sufficient adaptations; global warming and emissions continue to increase.

Straume discusses climate issues from different approaches: political, cultural, moral and educational. She presents the historical development of the field, from classic nature conservation through environmental protection to today’s debates on ecocrises and climate change. She also examines current terminology – the words form the premise for the thinking. «Climate change» is a relatively neutral term that implies a need for research and understanding. «Climate problems» implies political responsibility and involves something that you want to counteract or, if this is not possible, to adapt to. «Climate crisis» signifies a state that must definitely be prevented. In public debates we frequently find the word «solution», which gives the impression that the situation can be prevented. But, Straume says, there is no reason to believe that the problems can be eliminated; climate changes have long been a fact.

The author wishes to create a basis for new insights, including ideas that are «just partially thought out», and invites all professions and disciplines, especially educators of all levels, to reflect on their own roles. She says that climate change represents an educational challenge and believes it is a task for kindergartens, schools and parents to raise children to contribute to social change. Ecopedagogy argues against a Western anthropocentric worldview, and it has a sociopolitical agenda, linked to various movements of justice, like justice of climate, Straume claims. Therefore she believes that the education system is central to what is called «transformative learning». The transformative dimension of learning directs the attention to the context of the learning processes in which the learners themselves are involved. In this way it may lead them to transform reference frames that are taken for granted, like conventional thinking and opinions, in order to prepare them for changes. By this means the learners may generate attitudes that are more justified to guide action, Straume says.

Straume’s book deals with questions about environmental education, eco-education and climate change as a problem for raising children, which is most relevant for NaChiLitCul research. The Norwegian school curricula are now to be revised, and in March 2017 a consultation paper for the new general part was presented in which «sustainable development» is one of three new interdisciplinary themes. Straume emphasizes that knowledge of sustainable development implies a comprehension of basic dilemmas, an understanding that should be the platform for us to act constructively and consciously in creating a better world. She points out that ecopedagogy concerns all school subjects; the theme will have consequences for the school’curricula and textbooks, and should be integrated into teacher education and research. From the point of view of the NaChiLitCul project, analyses of children’s literature and culture will represent important contributions in this context.


Ture Schwebs, 01.02.2018

Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (2016)

In this well researched, detailed and thought provoking book, Ursula Heise argues that “biodiversity, endangered species, and extinction are primarily cultural issues, questions of what we value and what stories we tell, and only secondarily issues of science” (p. 5) – a point of view underlining the importance of the work done by NaChiLitCul.

In the first chapter Heise convincingly demonstrates how the majority of fictional and nonfictional texts portraying endangered species rely on the common genre templates of elegy and tragedy. A single exception is Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine’s Last Chance to See (1990) that employs the comic mode, asking: how on earth did a certain species manage to last for this long?

Turning to global biodiversity databases, Heise argues that they rely on the framework of the epic and the encyclopaedia – the epic element is the portrayal of a global struggle in which the future of life and the planet itself are at stake. She also shows how artists and writers often resort to lists or catalogues to convey mass extinction. Analysing the metadata and classification schemata of Red Lists of endangered species, Heise demonstrates that they have a taxonomic bias that privileges certain species while excluding others, and that they contain elements of an elegiac narrative depicting nature’s decline. (Noting, for instance, that the more endangered a species is, the more valuable it becomes). Discussing the most influential current Red List, that of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), she argues that a “narrative of risk and of value attribution” (p. 72) is hardwired into the list categories of Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered, since it defines endangerment and extinction positively while species that thrive are tagged by negation or approximation, rather than labelled for instance “safe” or “thriving”.

In chapter three Heise analyses and compares the biodiversity laws of America, Germany, the EU and Bolivia, demonstrating that they are quite different since they derive from divergent regional histories. While the American law targets species extinction, the German law is geared towards conserving Landschaft or landscapes, which includes landscapes used and altered by humans. The biodiversity law of the European Union is framed in a less culture specific scientific rhetoric, aiming at protecting natural habitats, while the Bolivian national law establishes “Mother Earth” as a legal subject with a right to “diversity of life” (p. 116). Heise concludes: “Conservation laws, like other narratives about endangered species, are part of the stories cultural communities tell about themselves, their past and their futures. Knowing what the numbers mean, and for whom, requires a knowledge of these stories” (p.126).

This emphasis on cultural diversity is a recurrent theme in the rest of the book, as she examines the often conflicting positions of environmentalists (who focus on species) and animal rights advocates (who tend to focus on individuals) that represent differing views on the relationship between humans and animals. She also discusses multicultural aspects of conservation efforts: how may a conflict between Western initiatives for species conservation and traditional ways of native land use, be reconciled? Through the concept of multispecies justice, which is highly relevant to NaChiLitCul’s focus on interspecies awareness, Heise seeks accountability in regard to social, political and multicultural aspects of species conservation.


Lykke Guanio-Uluru, 15.12.2017