This edition of Art & Thought / Fikrun wa Fann examines the interface between culture and the environment. The received wisdom was that people and their culture were shaped by climate and the environment, a theory propounded by Ancient and medieval philosophers, historians and geographers in both the West and the Islamic world. Nowadays, however, it seems that the reverse is true. Climate and the environment are being influenced by mankind and by our culture. This is why some are suggesting that we are currently living in the ‘Anthropocene’, the age of the human, since humans have become the biggest and most influential factor in the changes taking place on our planet. In this edition of Art & Thought / Fikrun wa Fann Alem Grabovac reports for us from a conference that initiated a wide-ranging discussion about the idea of the Anthropocene.
Of course, Man has always influenced Nature by attempting to cultivate it. One impressive example of this is Islamic garden architecture. It is generally the case that traditional cultures tend to be closer to Nature and treat it with greater care. This is also true of Islam, as Monika Zbidi demonstrates in her exciting opening article. We need a new jihad, she says – an eco-jihad! Her report highlights the fact that every culture – including, of course, Islam – has specific traditions and techniques of its own that we should rediscover and apply to protecting the environment.
However, plans for environmental protection often fail for the simple reason that they can be expensive. The environment often suffers most – at least in modern societies – where people are poorest, as the reportage and interview by Taqi Akhlaqi make clear with reference to Afghanistan. Personal environmental behaviour, education, and the economic situation are closely intertwined.
The rich West, of course, also has its share of environmental problems. One reason for this is the ideology of economic growth. Many Western researchers, both natural and cultural scientists, are calling for a profound change in mentality that would result in people being just as happy – or happier – with less material wealth. Claus Leggewie, Susanne Stemmer and Thomas Macho devote themselves to this proposal, providing impressive descriptions of precisely why and how our attitudes need to change. Artists around the world are also responding to the situation, and we see examples of their work in the RiverScapes exhibition, a joint initiative by a number of Goethe-Instituts in South-East Asia.
Other contributions focus on the crisis in Syria, and the ambiguous response from Europe and the United States; and we ask why Islamic poetry is always thought of in the West, particularly in Germany, as ‘flowery’, a description sometimes intended as a compliment, but often also as criticism. Reviews of recent publications round off this edition. Incidentally: if you would like to read an even more environmentally-friendly version of the journal, you can go to www.goethe.de/fikrun where you will find it available for download as an e-book for smartphones and tablets.
We trust you will find these articles in this edition of Art&Thought both interesting and thought-provoking.
Editor-in-Chief, Fikrun wa Fann/Art&Thought
In January 2014 we will be celebrating the publication of the 100th edition of Fikrun wa Fann. The theme will be 1914 – a year that changed Europe, the Orient, and the world forever.