Why Study History?

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We live in a society which has--for all intents and purposes--dispensed with learning about its past.Magna Mater

The importance of history in any education.

‘History,’ a harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.”

Phillip Roth
PHILIP ROTH E-MAILS ON TRUMP, The New Yorker, January 30, 2017, on-line.

bookWhat may we learn from history ?

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

George Santayana
The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905, page. 284.


 “Everything is a blank. We have no history.”

Gore Vidal




Today we live in anomalous times as the accumulation of information grows exponentially and the pace of change quickens, history becomes even more important. What must be learned today is how to distinguish among distracting disinformation and jumbled information the pertinent knowledge not merely for our collective survival, but for us all to thrive with wisdom. That is because it is so easy to forget the precedents that have lead us to where we are today amidst the explosion of data.

History is neither anecdotal case studies, nor is it thematic background to a current idea. History instead is the comparison of conflicting rates of adjustment and change wherein human populations and resources are brought to bear on momentous matters such as the ending of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the expansion and contraction of the Mongol Empire or the exhaustion of the Midwestern soil during the Dust Bowl. Gore Vidal suggests that we live in the United States of Amnesia because we have ceased to embed information about our past into our daily knowlege of current events.

MagellanHistorical analysis is a comparative and comprehensive part of a diachronic understanding of the way events take place everyday.

  • Comparative in that history contrasts the long term with shorter term flow of events to distinguish the underlying from the immediate factors at play in important occurrences.
  • Comprehensive in that history describes the contingent ties among population, ethnicity, economics, social, and political conditions over time in specific places.


The Greeks believed the discipline was a story inspired by the muse Clio, while the Chinese knew that history was a critical dynastic charting out  of the will of heaven  in human affairs. So we today must teach historical methods to nourish the threads that bind our traditions.

Environmental history lays a basic foundation for understanding the antecedents, the origins and the development of our ongoing environmental crisis.

What is environmental history?

Ernst Mayr, Alexander Agassiz Chair at Harvard's Natural History Museum, has argued that the great contribution of the biological sciences to knowledge is that they add an historical dimension to physical and chemical processes (natural philosophy). This suggests that biological evidence, stemming from Darwin's theory of evolution by means of natural selection, introduces an historical component to physical science. The historical quality of biological science identifies correctly where the past confines the choices of the present due to chance events or stochastic patterns of development.

Without an historical grounding in natural history, geography and environmental policies, people are hampered in solving social and ecological problems because their solutions lack depth and connectivity  to the precedents that shape current events.

The tragic events of the past years and September 11, 2001, reveal even more starkly the importance of teaching history today, or else we will ignore the lessons of our ancestors who faced equally imperative decisions.

Without history we are like a person with amnesia, worse a person doomed to short term memory loss at a time when all our identity–and maybe even survival–is riding on retaining our capacity for long term memory.

Joseph Siry, Tuesday, October 2, 2001


The Geographt lesson

Vermeer, the artist, gave us a new way of seeing the order of the world.


Hot new sites:

History of Technology

Tools of Toil

Brain areas and their origins and genetic activation sites,

Charles Darwin here and Darwin on line,


The interactive maps of the North America,

The Maven's words of the Day!

You Tube


New Material -- 2004-2014

Old index in media res

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my book: overview, guide

All students go here.

A basic survival kit for my courses
A State of the Union analysis of differences. (worldviews)
ABCs of Diversity
Adaptive Management
Additional new web sites at this URL.
Advanced vocabulary for technology and science
Advocacy the true costs and benefits of pollution-remission.
Alphabetical listing of pages on this site.
An island planning map
Archie Carr, A Florida Naturalist
Argument, One Long, Ernst Mayr
Assimilative capacity, as opposed to carrying capacity
Attending class -- its value to you

Back Bay, Boston
Biodynamic aspects of ecology.
Biological diversity explained in detail.
biological game of life is a very different view of nature. Because the biotic game is how and where existing life affects the future conditions of living communities.
Biology: changes in worldview concerning life sciences.
Biology, what is it?
Biophysical reality described
Body, or corpus of knowledge, description
Boston's Back Bay
Bronowski, Jacob; Science and Human Values, notes
Buffers, what are vegetational screens?
Bush Administration, Robert F. Kennedy's critique of

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California Water Case: The Klamath River
Carbon dioxide as a critical control element
Carbon, the central importance of
Caribbean a summary.
Caribbean History -- Nature, Place and Peoples (guide)
Caribbean history, definition of the region
Caribbean Environomental History, study guide
Caribbean, contemporary voices speaking about the Antilles
Carrying capacity compared to assimilative capacity
Carrying capacity
Carter, President's comments on the Nobel Peace Prize
Carter's comments compared to Governor Whitman, on the environment
Civilization and the Biosphere, Vaclav Smil's ideas
Clean-up Costs, the hidden expenses of ecological services
Climate change, a guide to pages related to global warming, the issue examined and discussed.
Columbian Exchange, themes
Comedians, The; a novel by Graham Greene set in Haiti
Compass and the Gyroscope, Kai Lee
Complexity of nature and the biosphere
Concepts explained and tied to essays
Cosmic architecture.
Creation as a story of time
Crimes Against Nature, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Criteria, defining
Critical thinking described
Crosby, Alfred, The Columbian Exchange, themes and thesis
Culture and Imperialism, Eric Said, defines culture

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Darwin the person, Charles Robert Darwin
Darwinian Evolution or as a revolution in ideas about life's origins or development
Darwinian Revolution 1859-1871
Darwinian synthesis
Define Global Warming (climate change)
Demographic index to related information on population.
Design matters of, social constraints
Design, ecological principles of

What is the purpose of a design process; what is it and how is it used?

Design, dimensions of
Design, humans and dumb designs
Design, what to look for in
Determining the verity, or veracity of knowledge.
Dialogue in technology and techniques
Dimensions, unseen
Dimensions, the fifth and fourth dimensions
Dimensions, Hyperspace
Distinguishing ideas from images.
Diversity, Edward O. Wilson on biological diversity as a measure of wealth.
Double Helix, The: James Watson's book.
Dozen levels of material existence's organization

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E. O. Wilson, The Future of Life
Ecolate living, what it means
Ecological biotic community: examined and defined
Ecological Design, elements of
Ecological integrity

Ecological problems, what are they?
Ecological Problem Solving
Ecological subjects connected at this location; three laws
Ecological Thought, development of 1850-1975
Ecological values and landscape

Ecological versus economic values
Ecology used as a model of relations among integrated parts : Carolyn Merchant's idea of ecological revolutions as they impact and are influenced by a set of biological, economic, social, political and institutional relationships.
Ecology, definition of criteria for thinking
Edge of the Sea, an essay on Rachel Carson's book
Einstein's importance
Electromagnetic Spectrum
End of Nature, Bill McKibben

Energy an ecological approach
Environmental Planning criteria
Evaluating designs; What to look for in a good design?
Evidence, most recent, on global warming
Exchange is a node for other important links on this site.
Externality defined
Externality, explaining true cost accounting

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Feedback is defined and examples of how it is used in my classes, explained.
Five Scientific Revolutions
Fla. Congressional delegation list for 2004
Florida Land types
Florida Trees listed; Florida's trees and their varieties are discussed.
Forests and the importance of forestry for the health of the world, human economies and the ecosystem is explored.
Forests in the Antilles

Free writing, what is it?
French Revolution, consequences of

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Game theory, here is the place to consider the bio-game
Gardening, steps to
Gardens, importance of

Gell-Mann, Murray, discoverer of quarks
Genetics the history of in brief
Genetics, topics on (index of)
Global ecology, lessons of
Global population data compared
Global security and ecology, Kennedy and Dodds conclusions
Global Warming defined
Government agencies that have an environmental regulatory, scientific research, or a biological monitoring role to play are listed here at Government on the web guide, GovOnLine

Grade Scale, the used to Criteria interpret grades

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Haitian Revolution, 2004; 200th retrospective
Health of places, the Caribbean (Mintz) and Mexico (Paz; colonialism)
Human Ecology
Human Genome and DNA research

Hurricanes, size of
Hydraulic society, water and its meaning for civilization.

Ideal versus real -- comparisons
Images and ideas.
Intelligence is described as a variety of educated responses to the world, people, places and things around you.
Interviewing people
Island Character, suggestions for planning a barrier island
Islands in the Stream
Islands in the Stream, course index

Kaku, Michio: author of Hyperspace
Kincaid, Jamaica author of A Small Place -- Antigua

Klamath River

Knowledge, a corpus or body of concepts

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Labyrinth of Solitude, by Octavio Paz (index)
Land and Technology, Arnold Pacey on Meaning
Land, what is it?
Landscape as altered by tools and technology.
Latin American perspective on USA & modernity, O. Paz
Life Sciences
Living Downstream, an ecologist looks at cancer
Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis

Map, for planning a barrier island development
Marshes of the Ocean Shore, digest of key ideas.
matrix is a site that explains what a table or matrix is by demonstrating the use of a categorical framework within which to express your ideas comprehensively.
McHarg, Ian, Design with Nature
McHarg, his Book on Design with Nature
Measure, the veracity of statements is tested by these criteria
Mercury and ecological accounting in natural systems
Message, staying focused on a point in advocating a position.
Methods: these are two related pages that discuss, examine in some detail and diagram the means we have from distinguishing facts from opinions. See also certainty, science, and vocabulary.
Model here is a schematic diagram of ecological relationships in any place.

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Nature, Complexity of and the biological realm or sphere of life
Nature related ideas (index)
Nature's structural organization

Ockham's Razor, the importance of avoiding pleonasm in your writing!
On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin; notes on critical passages
One Long Argument, by Ernst Mayr, Mayr's diagram of Darwin's ideas
opposing words, antonyms -- a list of some!

pattern. This is a site that discusses the underlying and more obvious patterns to look for in the world we inhabit.
Paz, Octavio, Labyrinth of Solitude, Mexican author: Contents of book
Paz, Octavio, summary and interpretation
Paz, themes

Pictures on the site
Places, meaning of
pleonasm in writing -- Ockham's Razor and the importance of avoiding wordiness.
Population compared globally
Population momentum, discussed here in terms of what the ideas were about growth in 1966, remarks made in a Senate hearing on global population problems and some fanciful ideas on how to pay for growth.
Population Paradox: the demographic divide (NOVA)

Problem Solving
Pyramid of science as a way of knowing

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Real versus ideal in knowing reality (rationality)
Regions, the Caribbean
Research central
Research Guide to other web sites for useful information
Research sources you can rely on
Research; reliable sources on on the Internet for you to use.
Revolutions in

ecological revolutions

science, meaning and worldview

Rules of ecology; simply stated

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Sacred Nature
Scale and levels of organization in nature.
Science represented as a pyramid of certainty
Science defined as how we know things
Science Index
Science is defined and analyzed here as one of many linked pages.
Science related topic index
Science texts, writing about the contemporary worldview
Science, Revolutions in and ideas or Five Scientific Revolutions
Sea level changes and climate
Sex Chromosomes and the importance of X and XY chromosomes
site analysis of any landscape
Site selection criteria for determining optimal design
solving problems
Space and density of areas, and occupancy limitations
Stanislaus River, Fight for the
study guide -- Caribbean Environomental History,
study guide, History of Technology

Survival kit for all classes.
Symbiotic Planet, by Lynn Margulis

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Technology as politics
Technology is defined here as the application of knowledge to human affairs.
Technology is discussed and examined as the means we have to solve the apparent difference between an existing and a desired state of affairs or conditions.
Technology, laws of; by Melvin Kranzberg
Temperature is rising on the Earth's surface
Thames Barrier Project against sea flooding in London
Thames Watershed
Thamus, story of
The Double Helix, by James Watson, notes
The Genetics related information index
The Great Thirst, Norris Hundley, Jr.
Three aspects of every ecological problem
Tools are the items or utensils, devices or implements used to identify and understand the power of technology and the techniques we use.
Tools have three facets and may other names; some synonyms for tools are: apparatus, devices, gadgets, implements, instruments, machinery, materials, robots.
Twentieth Century contemporary culture.
Two million years of climate & Global Warming data

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Uncertainty in science, a valued role to play in formulating knowledge.
USA map of the country from a satellite image (mosaic) taken in 1990 from the USGS.
Value defined
Value table to compare competing uses
Values and landscape in an Ecological and an extended economic sense
values with respect to land
Verity, or veracity, Determining the reliability of information.
Vocabulary, advanced terminology defined

Water & hydraulics, their role in sustaining life & civilization.
What do we look for in design?
What is biology?
What is a commons?
What is value?
When writing, there are 4 things to always consider
Governor Whitman compared, on the environment to Carter's ideas
Words; the importance of accurate expression and the appropriate choice of terms is examined here. Eight of the most important terms for my courses are defined here, as well as on other pages.
Wordsworth, William
Worldview is discussed and analyzed at some length and a detailed discussion of ignorance and certainty as these ideas relate to knowledge, use of evidence and specific lessons is at this site.
Worldview, and as changes in the Life Sciences, (1859-1959)
Worldviews are simply described here as ways of knowing our mistakes.
Writing about Science as a means to measure your critical thinking.
Writing Criteria: listed as a form for your to review
Writing: papers
writing, the importance of avoiding wordiness--Ockham's Razor

Zeitgeist, or Spirit of the times

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Additional material


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