Teaching Environmental Humanities

Workshop Report, 22–23 November 2019, Rachel Carson Center, Munich

How should we teach a discipline that is still evolving? This question brought together more than 20 practitioners and scholars from five continents, all involved in teaching within the broad field of environmental humanities (EH). Convened by Christof Mauch and Anna Antonova, the workshop created a space of mutual learning and the sharing of thoughts and experiences. It also marked the beginning of the Volkswagen Foundation’s support for the RCC under their University of the Future scheme.

*Featured image: Anna Antonova. Some of the participants strolling through the park.

By Kerstin Kessler

Friday

In the morning, Gesa Lüdecke presented the RCC’s Environmental Studies Certificate Program and we watched an online contribution from the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities. This provided a good start for our discussions on the importance of interdisciplinarity and finding ways for the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to work together. In the round of introductions after the presentation, participants highlighted some shared experiences and challenges. Many worried about the importance and visibility of EH, or were more immediately concerned about literally staying “dry” in a changing climate. At the same time, one inspiring overlapping element was participants’ shared enthusiasm for and engagement with their students. After listening to participants describe their inter- and transdisciplinary, international, flexible, and creative programs—whether existing or planned—our guest for the first session, Jane Carruthers remarked: “This is a major moment in scholarship.”

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The Ottoman Imperial Brewery and its Legacy: Multiculturalism, Hedonism, Conservationism

The Taproom is a monthly series that explores the rich history of all things beer. It is curated by Pavla Šimková.

*Featured image: A beer-garden visit, ca. 1950s (source: Tarih Vakfı, reprodced here with kind permission)

By Malte Fuhrmann

Turkey is home to some of the most impressive ancient and medieval archaeological remains of the Mediterranean, but its government does not have a good reputation for its conservation policy. The flooding of Allianoi, a recently discovered sanatorium from the Roman period near Bergama (Pergamon) in 2011, and the ongoing flooding of Hasankeyf, an ancient settlement and medieval capital on the Tigris, both for dam projects, have provoked protests but, unfortunately, no general outrage. Many minor alterations, such as the “creative” restoration of ancient churches now used as mosques (to make their Christian origins less visible), go unnoticed except by experts and locals. However, a completely different issue recently brought many architects, journalists, and revellers up in arms: the first industrial brewery on Turkish soil is in danger of partial demolition. All oppositional newspapers and news portals featured this story prominently when it became public in early September 2019. As during many similar conflicts, residents of Turkey frame this as a clash between two different ways of life; an ascetic worldview enforcing prayer and abstinence onto the general populace, and a hedonistic one supporting openness and other impious forms of frivolity. The former brewery has become yet another battlefield for this conflict. Read More

European Infrastructures and Transnational Protest Movements

Workshop Report (12–13 December 2019, Kerschensteiner Kolleg of the Deutsches Museum, Munich)

This workshop was organized by RCC’s doctoral candidate Kira J. Schmidt and codirector Helmuth Trischler at the Kerschensteiner Kolleg of the Deutsches Museum as part of the project “Issues with Europe: A Network analysis of the German-speaking Alpine Conservation Movement (1975-2005).” This project, jointly funded by the Austrian Research Foundation (FWF), the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), and the German Research Foundation (DFG), is a collaboration between the University of Innsbruck (Patrick Kupper), the University of Basel (Martin Lengwiler), and the Rachel Carson Center (Helmuth Trischler). Issues with Europe examines the complex negotiation processes over European alpine transit policy between the 1970s and 2000s, with a comparative focus on Austria and Switzerland.

By Martin Meiske

After a warm welcome by Helmuth Trischler (Munich) and Martin Lengwiler (Basel), who outlined the Issues with Europe project and central themes of the workshop, the meeting started with a first keynote lecture by Christian Henrich-Franke (Siegen). In his talk, he reflected on different types and functions of expertise, as well as various forms of expert networks. Henrich-Franke’s analysis of standardization, institutionalization, and internationalization processes accompanying European infrastructure planning from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries, paved the ground for understanding the roots and structures of the decision frameworks in which negotiation processes took place in the workshops most central  period of interest: the time from the “ecological revolution” around 1970 until the present day. Read More

Portrait of an Insect Lover: Alexandra Magro

This piece was written by Birgit Müller, anthropologist and curator of the series “Silent Spring Continued: A World without Insects,” on the basis of an interview with Alexandra Magro, who is an evolutionary ecologist working on, among other things, the life strategies of ladybird beetles.
*Featured Image: ©Alexandra Magro

By Birgit Müller

I met Alexandra Magro this spring, at the first Grand Conference of the French Academy of Sciences entitled “Insects: Friends, Foes, and Models.” I had contributed a presentation of the blog series Silent Spring Continued at the poster session, hoping to attract insect lovers ready to tell me their stories of love and loss. The conference promised to address the key topics of insect biology—from their interaction with the environment, to their use in biomedical and ecological research—yet most papers focused exclusively on insect biology at the molecular level. Alexandra’s interests were much broader. She works at the CNRS Laboratory for Evolution and Biological Diversity in Toulouse, which is part of the LabEx (Laboratory of Excellence) TULIP network.

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Insect Portrait: Ladybird Beetles

*Image: ©Alexandra Magro

Ladybird beetles (of the family Coccinellidae) are a fascinating group of insects. Thriving in all kinds of habitats, they are extremely diverse; around 6,000 species have been described worldwide. Although they are often recognized as beneficial predatory insectivores, their food preferences are in fact very large: some species are fungus feeders, and a few are herbivores that actually damage crops. Those predating on aphids and related species often come into competition with ants, so many ladybirds avoid ant contact. However, certain species are myrmecophilous: they love ants, and some even live inside ant nests and feed on ant brood. It is the high diversity of ladybird life-strategies that makes them a fantastic research subject. In short, ladybirds are sexy! Well, not all of them, because one has just been discovered that reproduces asexually! Another interesting story in the marvelous lives of ladybird beetles.

In the next installment of “Silent Spring Continued: A World without Insects,” environmental historian and curator of the series Birgit Müller recounts an interview with Alexandra Magro, an evolutionary ecologist working on, among other things, the life strategies of ladybird beetles. Alexandra’s fascination and insights are inspiring, and call into question the role of not just science, but intuition and curiosity, in exploring human interactions and futures with invertebrates.

The Fridays for Future Movement in Spain

By Andreas Jünger

Andreas Jünger is a candidate on the RCC’s Doctoral Program Environment and Society. The featured image above was taken by Andreas at the global climate strike in Seville on 15 March 2019.

On 20 August 2018, a 15-year-old girl sat alone in front of the Swedish Parliament to hold a “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for the climate). Today this girl, Greta Thunberg, is the face of a global movement for more climate action. One of the movement’s most important demands is that the 1.5 degree target set at the World Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 be met. If we look at the map showing the weekly strikes on Fridays for Future’s website today, we can see that there are indeed protests worldwide: whether in Reykjavík/Iceland, Tirana/Albania, Luanda/Angola, Kingston/Jamaica, Colombo/Sri Lanka or Auckland/New Zealand. While in many countries, however, hardly more than a few dozen people—at most a few hundred—come together, sometimes tens of thousands of participants gather at the large demonstrations held in European metropolises.

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Storytelling and Storyboarding Science: The Global Science Film Festival

by Malin Klinski

As a student of the Rachel Carson Center’s Environmental Studies Certificate Program, I had the chance to go to Zurich from 15–18 November 2019 to attend the second Global Science Film Festival (which ran in parallel in Bern). This excursion was part of the seminar “Storytelling and Storyboarding Science” by film festival director and former Carson fellow Samer Angelone. Read More

A Whale of a Time

*Featured image: Sperm whales under attack, from Thomas Beale’s The Natural History of the Sperm Whale (1839). Photo: The New York Public Library via rawpixel, public domain.

By: Daniel Dumas

Zodiac crossings of rough seas, imperial expansion, and narratives of resistance and resilience. This is not the backdrop of an action flick coming to the silver screen, but rather a few snippets from the upcoming RCC Perspectives issue entitled “New Histories of Pacific Whaling,” which will be released this month. Over the course of this past summer, I had the opportunity to work as an editor on the Rachel Carson Center team and my major task was to assist volume editors Angela Wanhalla and Ryan Tucker Jones in getting this particular issue ready for publication. This post gives you a sneak peek of the topic while discussing the work that goes into a Perspectives issue. But before diving into this, a little about me. Read More

Ecopolis Munich: Environmental Stories of Discovery

The student exhibition “Ecopolis Munich: Environmental Stories of Discovery” sheds light on the relationship between Munich’s residents and their urban environment. The exhibition was on display from 12 to 20 October 2019 at the whiteBOX in the Werksviertel Mitte. The practical seminar leading to the production of the exhibition also received LMU’s prize for innovative teaching (Lehreinnovationspreis).
*Featured image courtesy of Laura Kuen.

By Laura Kuen (Ecopolis senior curator)

Collective Curation

“Ecopolis Munich” was the result of a unique collaboration. In two runs in 2016/17 and 2019, master’s students of the Rachel Carson Center’s Environmental Studies Certificate Program developed the project. This year saw 15 students, coming from 14 different disciplines (ranging from linguistics to veterinary medicine), curating the exhibition through interdisciplinary group work and in fruitful cooperation with professional exhibition designers and RCC teaching staff. Read More

Insects as Inspiration

As part of the series “Silent Spring Continued: A World without Insects,” guest author Jan Goedbloed shares with us how he developed a deep interest in invertebrates and reflects on how insects continue to inspire him in life, work, and beyond.
*Featured image: Chaoborus pallidus, a phantom midge in the family Chaoboridae. Copyright Jan Goedbloed.

By Jan Goedbloed

My name is Jan, I am now 67 years old. I studied biology between 1969 and 1976, and then could not find a job. I helped start a bird hospital, and then worked as an educational assistant in a natural history museum where I tried to incorporate nature meditation. Later I worked in building until I got back problems, and resumed working for the same company, but in the office. It drove me almost crazy. Later, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. After that, I did odd jobs like chauffeuring for people with physical and developmental disabilities. I also worked editorially for several regional publications: a dragonfly atlas, a bird paper, and a butterfly and dragonfly paper. Together with a friend, I spent some time doing ecological research and consulting. I have been retired now for a year, but I am still studying nature.

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