Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Hazardous Cruises: Welcome to Toxic Paradise

by Jonas Stuck

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Cruiseship passing Venice. Photo by Wolfgang Moroder, via Wikimedia Commons. Available under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

The summer is over, but the holiday season hasn’t stopped. Going on vacation is how many people calm down from a hectic work life and enjoy a good time. Cruise ships offer this experience all year round in the most naturally beautiful holiday destinations in the world: from the Arctic Circle or the Norwegian fjords to Mediterranean beaches. The urge to explore the world by cruise ship and see spectacular natural beauty has risen dramatically. Around 25 million people will board cruise ships this year, meaning the demand for such luxurious vacations has increased more than 68 percent during the last 10 years. Maybe you too would like to go on a cruise, but think twice: while you may be expecting to enjoy the fresh sea breeze, you are more likely to end up breathing in toxic pollutants.

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Toxic Floods: Let’s Talk about the Weather

By Simone M. Müller

We’ve probably all been thinking about the weather lately. Our officemates are sneezing, others are coughing, the first one is turning in a sick note. It’s the time of year when weather-related topics start dominating our everyday conversation: the change of the season, the turning of the leaves from deep green to ruby-red, tangerine, or a sun-soaked yellow. Fall is reigning. And let’s not forget, fall is also hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere. As the difference in temperatures between the North Pole and, let’s say, the South of Italy grows, storms and even hurricanes become an everyday weather phenomenon across Europe and the Atlantic. With the storms, we usually get it all: wind, flood, and destruction—and if we’re not immediately affected by these events ourselves, they are neatly brought to us via our daily news feeds in easily digestible news snippets and images from the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, or Northern Germany.

Yet when, in recent weeks, those of us lucky enough to be watching from our cozy armchair at home, from our office, or while squeezed up close to our fellow commuters on the metro saw images of, for instance, Americans wading waist-deep in mud-brown water, few of us realized, perhaps, that some of these people trying to save their life and livelihood had also been in there waste-deep.

There is more to these floods than meets the unsuspecting eye. These mud-brown waters are not solely the result of an everyday weather phenomenon in the fall in the Northern hemisphere gone a little out of control. Beneath the surface, these waters harbor a story of unresolved toxicity and waste management. Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading


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Introducing “Trash Talks,” a New Series on Our Everyday Encounters with Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste surrounds us. We may not realize it, but toxic, hazardous, and harmful waste objects are part of our everyday encounters. They form part of our daily routines of consumption, mobility, work, leisure, and travel. We could stumble across a hazardous waste story when watching the news or going shopping. Often these stories are hidden from sight, and more often than not, we also choose not to see or care about hazardous waste: the outdated batteries in our trash, our old cell phone in the drawer, let alone the consequences of all those plastic items that we accumulate.

The four blog posts in Trash Talks: Hazardous Waste and the Everyday comprise the first instalment in an ongoing series from the research group Hazardous Travels: Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy. In this instalment, we tackle our everyday encounters with hazardous waste material. Each post explores a different aspect of how hazardous waste is present in our everyday items and activities, ranging from the weather or calling the plumber, to going on vacation or taking a stroll along the beach. Hazardous waste is our everyday companion, whether we like it—or see it—or not.

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CfA: RCC Fellowships 2018–2019

RCC staff and fellows

The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society invites applications for its 2018–19 cohort of postdoctoral and senior fellows. The RCC’s fellowship program is designed to bring together excellent scholars who are working in environmental history and related disciplines.

The center will award fellowships to scholars from a variety of countries and disciplines. Applicants’ research and writing should pertain to the central theme of the RCC—transformations in environment and society. Research at the RCC is concerned with questions of the interrelationship between environmental and social changes, and in particular the reasons—social, political, cultural, and environmental factors—for these transformations.

The RCC awards four types of fellowships:

  • Carson Writing Fellowships
  • Interdisciplinary Writing Fellowships
  • Outreach Fellowships
  • Short-Term Fellowships

All fellows are expected to spend their fellowship in residence, to work on a major project, to participate actively in life at the RCC, to attend the weekly lunchtime colloquium, and to present their project at the center. Please note that the RCC does not sponsor field trips or archival research for any of the fellowship types.

Carson Writing Fellowships
These fellowships are at the center of our fellowship program and are awarded to scholars aiming to complete several major articles or a book project in the environmental humanities.

Interdisciplinary Writing Fellowships
To promote cooperation across disciplinary boundaries, we invite applications for interdisciplinary writing fellowships. Scholars from the humanities are invited to apply jointly with scholars from the sciences or field practitioners with the purpose of authoring a collaborative project. These fellowships are only intended for writing.

Applicants for interdisciplinary writing fellowships must apply together from at least two separate institutions or organizations. It would be advantageous if one of these institutions is LMU Munich or another Munich-based organization. Please note that funding will only be awarded to the non-Munich partners. All members of the collaboration should plan to be in residence in Munich at the same time. If applying with a LMU scholar, please include a letter of support from this scholar.

Outreach Fellowships
Outreach fellowships are intended for candidates whose work promotes public engagement with the topic of transformations in environment and society. We invite applications from documentary filmmakers and writers in particular.

Short-term Fellowships
Short-term fellowships (up to 3 months) are designed to encourage genuinely explorative partnerships and dialogue across disciplinary divides and between theory and practice. Scholars on short-term fellowships come to Munich to develop a specific project—for example, a joint publication, a workshop, or other collaborative research projects.

To Apply:
All successful applicants should plan to begin their fellowship between 1 September 2018 and 1 December 2019; it will not be possible to start a fellowship awarded in this round at a later date. Decisions about the fellowships will be announced in mid-May 2018. Fellowships will usually be granted for periods of 3, 6, 9, or 12 months; short-term fellowships are granted for 1 to 2 months. The RCC will pay for a teaching replacement of the successful candidate at his or her home institution; alternatively, it will pay a stipend that is commensurate with experience and current employment and which also conforms to funding guidelines.

The deadline for applications is 31 January 2018. Applications must be made in our online portal. The application portal will be open from 1 January to 31 January 2018. It closes at midnight (Central European Time) on 31 January.

Candidates are welcome to apply for more than one type of fellowship. In such cases, the candidate should submit a new application for each fellowship type. If successful, the candidate will only be awarded one fellowship.

The application should discuss the RCC’s core research theme “transformations in environment and society” in the project description or the cover letter and should include the following:

• Cover letter (750 words maximum)
• Curriculum vitae (3 pages maximum)
• Project description (1,000 words maximum)
• Research schedule for the fellowship period (300 words maximum)
• Names and contact information of three scholars as referees; these scholars should be people who know you and your work well. Please note that we do not initially require letters, and we may not contact your referees.

Please note that in order to be eligible for all fellowships except the outreach fellowships, you must have completed your doctorate by the application deadline (31 January 2018). Scholars already based in the greater Munich area are not eligible.

You may write your application in either English or German; please use the language in which you are most proficient. You will be notified about the outcome of your application by mid-May 2018.

For more information, please visit the Fellowship Applications – Frequently Asked Questions section of our website. Please consult this section before contacting us with questions.

You can download this call here.


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Making Tracks: Lisa FitzGerald

In the “Making Tracks” series, RCC fellows and alumni present their experiences in environmental humanities, retracing the paths that led them to the Rachel Carson Center. For more information, please click here.

By Lisa FitzGerald

Environments needle their way into our minds, becoming the settings for our stories but also telling their own tales.

Landscapes push back, shaping our bodies as we move through our lives. As Seamus Heaney wrote, the landscape is “written into your senses from the minute you begin to breathe.”[1] I was raised in Kerry on the west coast of Ireland and that, no doubt, has shaped me. Land positioned on the Atlantic seaboard means a mild and moist climate, battered peninsulas, and roaring tides. It’s where red fuchsias blanket the hedgerows, where ridged and furrowed lazy beds are etched into the landscape. It, too, is etched into and on to my body. Our stories are our engagements with our natural worlds.

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My home place: Ballymacelligott, County Kerry. Photo courtesy of author.

Several years ago, as a fine art undergraduate, I tried to paint pictures that captured that interplay between the body and its subjective environmental experience. I was (in my own mind) painting that effervescent vitality that goes beyond words. For the last several years, theatre, that visceral art medium that involves the artist’s body merging with its surroundings, has been the locus for my exploration of environmental narratives—narratives that are produced as the space around us bears down on our skin, into our senses, and on to our minds. Bodies and space are constantly engaged in the production of a performance, and it is this environment that I review in my recent publication, Re-Place: Irish Theatre Environments. Continue reading


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The Taproom: Susan Gauss

Un trago amargo—A Bitter Drink: Beer, Water, and Globalization”

By Susan Gauss

A truck drives down the street in Zaragoza, Coahuila, its loudspeaker reminding residents to conserve water or face fines. Local farmers also feel the pain, as they scale back planting due to a lack of water. Yet nearby, water is flowing well through an aqueduct carrying it to a factory 40 kilometers away in Nava, Coahuila. The factory is new, built by Grupo Modelo—maker of the world-famous Corona beer—in 2010 and expanded after its 2013 takeover by Constellation Brands. Inside, it produces 22 million beers a day for export largely to the US, each made using 3.25 liters of water piped in from the aquifer that serves Zaragoza.

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Image courtesy of Banco de imágenes de Mexicali Resiste.

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Five Minutes with a Fellow: Ryan Jones

Five Minutes with a Fellow offers a brief glimpse into what inspires researchers in the environmental humanities. The interviews feature current and former fellows from the Rachel Carson Center.

Ryan was a Carson fellow in the summer of 2017.

 

Ryan Jones

Ryan graduated with a BA in German history from Walla Walla College (Washington State, USA) in 1998, before sojourning in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kamchatka to learn Russian and witness the chaos of the Yeltsin years. He returned to the US and completed his PhD in global history at Columbia University in 2008. His research inspierd an interest in the Pacific and took him to the University of Auckland, where he taught Pacific and environmental history. Ryan began research on the Pacific and history of whaling, working with marine biologists and policymakers. He also began research for his current book project: a global environmental history of Russian and Soviet whaling. He now teaches at the University of Oregon.

 

How does your research contribute to discussions around solving environmental challenges?

My research tries to give historical depth to understandings of the ocean. A perspective from the humanities allows us to understand just what happened to the oceans; why humans made the choices that they made; how they interact or fail to interact with the oceans in certain ways. What the barriers are to sustainability, what the (international) challenges are.

So there are two things. First, to try to get a deeper sense of oceanic ecosystems, which is particularly difficult and requires interdisciplinary work. But my research also contributes to these discussions more in the realm of the humanities in order to understand emotional, legal, and societal relationships to the oceans. Continue reading