Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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The Taproom: Malcolm F. Purinton

Empire in a Bottle: Tales of a Beer Historian”

By Malcolm F. Purinton

“Why don’t you write your literature review about alcohol?” my African colonialism professor asked me during my master’s degree. “I can do that?!” I replied. The possibility of researching and writing on the history of beer and alcohol was, honestly, mind-blowing. I had already been an avid homebrewer for many years and had just begun to write articles for a regional beer magazine on historical topics. That first academic piece of writing ended up being a literature review about British alcohol policies. This was 10 years ago and nine years before I completed my doctoral dissertation focusing on the world history of Pilsner: “Empire in a Bottle: Commodities, Culture, and the Consumption of Pilsner Beer in the British Empire, c. 1870–1914.” It has been a lot of hard work and fun since that fateful question.

Guinness Storehouse Research

Doing research at the Guinness Storehouse. Photo courtesy of the author.

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Call for Papers: Migrations, Crossings, Unintended Destinations: Ecological Transfers across the Indian Ocean 1850–1920

Workshop

10 October – 12 October 2018

Location: Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, Germany

Conveners: Ulrike Kirchberger (Kassel University), Christof Mauch (RCC)

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In the age of high imperialism, thousands of species of plants and animals were transferred between Australia, Asia, and Africa. Some of them were exchanged deliberately for economic, scientific, or aesthetic reasons. European settlers, for example, transported cattle, horses, and sheep between South Africa, Asia, and Australia; camels were exported from Northern India to Australia; and exotic birds from South Asia, such as, for example, the Myna bird, were taken to Australia and South Africa. Other species traveled between the continents accidentally, as stowaways. Whether intentional or not, these transfers changed ecologies and livelihoods on the three continents forever.

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Bookshelf Special Feature Part 2: National Park Science

A Review of National Park Science: Jane Carruthers’ Magnum Opus

 by Bernhard Gißibl

Part 1 features Jane Carruthers’ introduction to her book and a comment by Libby Robin. A full review of National Park Science by Bernhard Gißibl will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Environment and History.

Jane Carruthers’ National Park Science is the first comprehensive and authoritative study of the rise of the conservation sciences in South Africa. The book charts the various disciplines that have contributed to the field and situates their development in the national and international processes and constellations that shaped the professionalization and institutionalization of sciences as varied as zoology, botany, animal ecology, invasion biology, and many other, ever more specialized subdisciplines. It is a story of science made in Africa, and is awe inspiring in its interdisciplinarity.

Cover photographDigesting an impressive number of sources from an array of disciplines and archives, Carruthers traces how the raw material of South Africa’s flora and fauna was nurtured in various protected areas, not just national parks. The study shows how protected nature was subjected to thorough analysis by amateurs, hunters, collectors, and, increasingly, university-trained scientists. Hailing from South Africa herself, Carruthers analyzes how the various sciences contributed to the management of these territories, how the management objectives of protected areas shaped the kind of science that could be conducted, and how governmental interests were served by both the protected areas and the sciences they enabled. Continue reading


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Bookshelf Special Feature Part 1: National Park Science by Jane Carruthers

Jane at opening of A

We were delighted to welcome Jane Carruthers back to the Rachel Carson Center this autumn. Jane has a longstanding relationship with the RCC; she served on its advisory board for six years, the latter three as its chair, and was a great influence on the center in its formative years. She was made an honorary Carson fellow in 2014 in recognition of her enormous contribution to the work of the center. After all the support the RCC has had from Jane, it was a great pleasure for us to host a celebration of the publication of her latest book National Park Science: A Century of Research in South Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2017) here in Munich.

Jane spoke about her book to staff and students as part of our Tuesday Discussion series, and was joined by two other influential environmental historians, Bernhard Gißibl and Libby Robin, who talked us through the contribution that her book makes to the field. We are pleased to present written versions of the three scholars’ remarks on the new book on Seeing the Woods. A full review of National Park Science by Bernhard Gißibl will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Environment and History, an edited draft of which will be featured here on Seeing the Woods next week.

(*These are edited versions of the talks presented at the Tuesday Discussion. All photos are courtesy of Jane Carruthers.)

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Tales from Piplantri

“A Fable for Today…”

By Vidya Sarveswaran

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Way to Piplantri: the road not taken…

We are just beginning to hear the murmurs of a nervous street. The sky above is like handmade parchment. Powder blue with swirls of crimped clouds. The air is heavy with the cloying smell of equally heavy flowers that attract snakes. But they do not worry about snakes here. This is the land of the brave desert warriors. Rajasthan, a state in the northwest of India and the only desert state in the country.

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Cow lounging in the marble dust!

Our dusty SUV swerves around to avoid a cow, who looks rather annoyed that we are in her way. We wait for our escort, Champalal: he arrives on his noisy Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike wearing a blood-red turban and an obsequious smile. As we drive through several alleys of this town called Piplantri in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, we cannot help but notice the squeaky clean roads, the vibrant signposts and wall graffiti drawn by the children of the village. The houses that pass us are all splendidly bright and wear a medieval look. And suddenly, the motorbike is lost in the raucous voices of villagers and vendors who have all come out to meet us.

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Lives Wasted: Garbage as a Forgotten Dimension of the European “Refugee Crisis”

by Maximilian Feichtner and Theresa Leisgang

A deflated rubber boat is washed up on the eastern coast of Chios. Once the waves have buried it under rocks and it becomes even more entangled with seagrass, you will hardly be able to see it. But for tourists strolling along the beach, this isn’t the only reminder of the boat landings by refugees who crossed Europe’s borders at night. All across the beaches of the Aegean Islands, where tourists usually swim and sunbathe, refugees leave their life jackets, water bottles, soaked clothes—and the boats on which they started their journey to a new life. The waste is what connects both, tourists and refugees, in their everyday life, as both are caught up in a circle of producing and managing waste. Beyond that, the waste is a material trace of countless people’s struggles to survive and escape violent conflicts. It is a trace that tourists and islanders would like to ignore; a trace, however, that won’t disappear by itself.

About one million people arrived on Greek shores in 2015 and the first few months of 2016, most of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria. Since March 2016, when the EU signed a deal with Turkey to halt the flow of migration to Europe, arrivals via the Aegean Sea dropped dramatically. However, possibly due to rising tensions regarding EU-Turkey relations, numbers are increasing again: 4,609 people reached Greece via boat in September 2017 according to the UNHCR. With them, the amount of discarded rubber dinghies, sports boats, and other waste on the islands will likely amount to tonnes. Their waste comes in addition to the already existing refugee boats, carelessly piled up in the hinterland, turning pastures into ship graveyards. What remains undiscussed in the broader public and political debates is the potential environmental crisis that risks adding another level of complexity to the so-called “refugee crisis” in Europe. Continue reading


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The Taproom: Jeffrey Pilcher

“The Global Invention of Lager Beer”

By Jeffrey Pilcher

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“Around the World in 80 Beers.” Image courtesy of PureTravel.com.

“Around the World in 80 Beers.” It’s an arresting image of the globalization of beer. This map on the PureTravel website depicts each country according to its bestselling or iconic national brand: from Budweiser in the United States and Corona in Mexico, to Tsingtao in China and Oettinger in Germany. What is so striking about the image is that, with the sole exception of Ireland’s Guinness Stout, every label represents a single style: light, crisp, clear, Pilsner lager. The global spread of lager beer can be told as a story of Western cultural imperialism: A European product sails out in the hands of merchants, migrants, and imperialists to upend social patterns and transform landscapes around the world. But modern lager beer is just as much a product of globalization, invented and reinvented in locations around the world. Continue reading