Exploring environmental connections

I recently stumbled across the proceedings for the 1993 Conference on Expressions of Caring in Nursing: Exploring Our Environmental Connections (ed. Eleanor Schuster & Carolyn Brown, NY: National League for Nursing Press, 1994). I thumbed through several of the articles for two primary purposes. First, I am enjoying becoming more connected to health sciences literature. It helps me better understand the materials I work with as well as connect to the people I meet. Second, I was curious to see the connections depicted that draw the field of nursing closer to environmental studies. As you may recall, I previously mentioned my own interest in examining archives as a single field among many interested in the long-term use and access to rare and unique resources as is the case in environmental protection.

The preface to the first chapter states

The phrase domain of nursing knowledge calls forth old images of ownership, territoriality, and control. We use the word domain in the sense of laying claim to an area of knowledge development for nursing. (p. 1)

The semantics of ownership and control are present in environmental literature. The shift in language from land management to land stewardship parallels the shift in nursing knowledge from a domain of knowledge ownership to a domain of knowledge growth.

As for archives, a recent article by Joel Wurl (Archival Issues 29, 2005) echoes this shift in language and, thus, perception. Wurl writes

In the custodial approach to archives, property is relinquished… material is now owned by the repository. A stewardship ethos… is characterized by partnership and continuity of association… jointly held and invested in by the archive and the community of origin. (p. 72)

In each of the three fields, nursing, environmental protection, and archives, a clear break with past paradigms of ownership and control are made and replaced with growth and partnerships.

When discussing incorporating an environmental awareness into nursing, Dorothy Kleffel recommended

(a) making the community and the broader environment our nursing client, (b) redirecting our nursing activities to the macro-level environment, and (c) moving the profession from oppression to empowerment. (p. 11)

I find all three suggestions applicable to archives as well. If we document human activities and the broader environment then archivists follow the suggestion of Candace Loewen (Archivaria 33, 1991-92) to be “survival-oriented,” meaning we document “records of value to humans and to the planet as a whole.” Second, archivists are becoming more aware of provenance and appraisal issues at the macro level and are engaging records at their creation, not just at their deposit. A macro level approach is also becoming a part of our processing and description activities. Finally, the third point is again evident in Wurl’s discussion of stewardship of a community’s resources rather than control.

So what is the ultimate connection between nursing, environmental protection, and archives? All are primarily interested in the long-term survival and improvement of the communities they serve. And by doing so, cross over to the other fields with a measure of support as well.