IHOPE asserts that humans are a part of the Earth system and are now agents in planetary change.
IHOPE offers frameworks that can be used to integrate perspectives, theories, tools and knowledge from a variety of disciplines spanning the full spectrum of social and biophysical sciences and the humanities.
While an overarching goal is to produce a rich understanding of the dialectical relationships between environmental and human processes over the past millennia, IHOPE recognizes that a major challenge for reaching the goal is forging a ‘workable´ terminology that can be accepted by scholars of all disciplines.
A Three-Fold approach
- Historical ecology integrates the historical study of the Earth´s biophysical system with the history of human life in all its aspects. Humans experience their environment as a mutually dependent physical and cognitive reality.
This holistic perspective thus requires the integration of research from the biophysical sciences, social sciences, and the humanities; this necessitates the use of diverse data, such as documents, archeology, and environmental information about past climate and other Earth processes.
Unifying objects of study are landscapes, which may be studied at different spatial scales and across time while retaining abundant evidence of human activities.
Environmental history utilizes a dynamic view of human interaction with the environment from the deep past to the present, encompassing the entire globe. The approach recognizes that nature is more than a cultural construct, and addresses impacts of humans on this physical reality as well as the environmental consequences of socioeconomic activity resulting from increasing population, more effective technology and changing patterns of production and consumption.
Environmental history maps aspects of the transformation of basic human physical need for food, shelter, mobility, water and materials into industrial agriculture and metropolitan landscapes. Environmental history explores how we think about nature — the way our attitudes, beliefs and values influence our interaction with nature shaped, as they are, by our myths, legends, ideology, aesthetics, religion and science.
- Future Studies works with scenarios and predictions for the future. Thus knowledge about the path dependency and initial conditions of complex systems can be obtained from the study of these systems' past. Insights from historical ecology and environmental history can therefore be utilized when modeling future trajectories.
There are still significant barriers to overcome. To improve the effective construction and use of scenarios, a more realistic approach must be made to linking historical social science data to models. To broaden the realism, creativity, and legitimacy of scenarios, historic and contemporary human activities, as studied in their respective disciplines, must be built into the model. Finally, the empirical data of historical ecologists and environmental historians must be valued equally with the system mapping skills of the modeling community.