Cross-Species Conversations and the Coronavirus

The hand of human intervention in mutual symbiosis and harmony with nature © Olaf Hajek

By Serenella Iovino (translated by Elena Past)

Zoonosis. This is one of the strange words that the onset of the coronavirus has forced us to learn. Zoonosis is a transitive infection, a virus that passes from animals to human beings. Or rather: it passes to our species from other animal species, recalling that human and nonhuman animals share an entire biological kingdom and that our bodies’ cells speak languages that are not all that dissimilar. That which affects “them” can affect us, a fact which testifies to an all-too-often forgotten kinship of destinies and origins. Read More

“You have to change your life!” Our Common Post-Corona Future through a Swedish Lens

Intensive care unit in Algemeen ziekenhuis St-Maarten (Saint Martin’s General Hospital) at Mechelen, Flanders, Belgium, 10 June 2018, © Ad Meskens

By Sigurd Bergmann

Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, we will wake up to a new society. Before everything gets better, however, everything will get worse—for a long time yet. We are faced with frightening images and stories of suffering in refugee camps, ill-equipped hospitals in poor countries, and the suffering of so many people across Europe.

Ever since the coronavirus migrated from China’s “wet market” from animals to humans, we have gained daily insights into how the social body works. Does the pandemic offer us new opportunities, or will it lead to “a deafening silence—one that stops all rational thought”?[1] Read More

Is Covid-19 a “Capitalocene” Challenge?

Featured image courtesy of Elisabeth Abergel

By Jenia Mukherjee and Amrita Sen

Rapid shifts across nine planetary boundaries, including deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and climate change, have occurred as a result of the Anthropocene. As recent advances in research suggest, political, economic, and technocratic interests drive global development enterprises. “Capitalocene,” a word used frequently now, emphasizes the palpable connections between planetary transformations and the functioning of the capitalist machine.[1] The environmental social sciences, especially Ecological Marxism and, more recently, emerging discourses within the environmental humanities (EH), have drawn our attention to the systemic causes of environmental destruction, which have generated numerous crises scenarios for humanity. In this piece, we show how Covid-19 is a challenge emanating from the “Capitalocene” and argue that this framework provides a better understanding of global pandemics—their outbreak, spread, and the long-term (welfare) measures needed to prevent them. Read More


Bushfire smoke around Parliament House, Canberra (Source: European Press Agency)

By Kelly Donati

In early January 2020, hitting the refresh button on The Guardian punctuated my waking hours as I obsessively tracked the movement of the bushfires from Munich. Watching from afar, sleep grew elusive. Just as I was meant to be drifting off, people along the east coast of Australia were waking up—if they had slept at all—to appraise the destruction and gather their wits for another day of fire-fighting, evacuation, or just waiting. It was a time in which breath did not come easy. Anxiety slithered around my chest and tightened its grip as I worried for friends. My shallow inhalations were contrasted by long sighs that punctuated the writing group during which my Rachel Carson colleagues and I attempted to focus on our research. It felt so unfamiliar to see people across Australia donning facemasks as they choked on thick smoke blanketing cities and rural areas for weeks on end. Nobody had any notion that the whole world would be wearing them only a few weeks later.

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Canberra Dispatches

Kosciuszko National Park near Thredbo (Source: Cameron Muir)

By Cameron Muir

The smoke has been here hanging all day or blowing in of an evening for weeks now. The kids have been indoors most of this time. Even for the last two weeks of school, before the summer holidays, they were ordered to stay inside and spent their lunches and recesses in the classroom or hall because of the heatwaves.

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Summer’s Tempo: Bushfires, Water, and Time

A view from Toorourrong Reservoir, Kinglake National Park, Whittlesea, Victoria (Source: Ruth Morgan, 2019)

By Ruth Morgan

For me, the Savage Summer was televised, unfolding in my family’s living room in Perth and then a hotel room in Ooty in southern India. I’d expected locals there to ask me about cricket, but all they wanted to talk about were the bushfires that had seemingly engulfed the entire continent. I watched as the Nullarbor’s Eyre Highway was shut for days as fires tore through the Great Western Woodlands, stranding travellers at roadhouses I’d visited on a road trip across Australia just twelve months earlier. From Melbourne, my partner sent me photos of the smog blanketing the suburbs as she frantically searched for smoke masks to help vulnerable clients at a medical centre she managed. Social media was ablaze too with videos documenting the fires firsthand, so vivid and visceral.

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The Strong Who Inspire: A Poem in Memory of Rachel Carson

This short guest post by award-winning nature writer Ellery Akers commemorates one of the worlds greatest conservationists and our intitute’s namesake, Rachel Carson. Carson died on 14 April 1964 at the age of 56. The poem, taken from Ellery’s new book Swerve: Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance, has been reprodced here with her kind permission.

By Ellery Akers

Rachel Carson

I think of the way she bent over tide pools at night:
a woman stooped in the dark with her flashlight
as if she were stepping into the lit harness of her work. Read More

The Fire Knows No Boundaries

This picture is not from the fires, but of a sacred place, Mt Yengo. It’s where Biame [a creation ancestor] stepped back into the sky. That’s why the mountain is flat. It was part of the bushfire story and is part of our Story that will outlast these times. (Source: Rob Waters)

By Rob Waters

The fences catch the kangaroos, cage the koalas, trap the echidna, goanna and the emu too, but not the fire.

The fire knows no boundaries. Read More

Gifts and Ghosts

By Kate Wright

I’m seven years old dancing to Buddy Holly on a red rug. The warm crackle of the stylus on the vinyl rhymes with the burning wood hissing on the open fire. Carbon, once captured and condensed into living forests, is rapidly escaping its cellulose confines. A grammar of branches crumbling in the intensities of flame punctuates the staccato words vibrating in our lounge room, each wooden pop and bang a wild loose comma accentuating the rhythms of the song. Dad turns the volume up and red wine swirls in his glass as we dance and sing Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue, pretty pretty pretty pretty Peggy Sue, oh-oh peggy, my peggy sue-oo-oo.

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Between Here and There

Countries of origin of RCC Fellows, Rachel Carson Center (Source: Anna Pilz)

By Anna Pilz

I have never set foot on the continent called Australia. I am unfamiliar with its beaches, bushlands, deserts, and cityscapes, with their sounds and smells, colours and textures. It is a place far away that I encountered mostly in my studies on nineteenth-century Ireland. I have travelled there in my imagination alongside thousands of Irish migrants who were shipped to or set sail for the new colony in attempts to leave famine-stricken Ireland. I imagined what the lengthy journey across oceans must have been like for the 4,000 orphaned Irish girls whose arrival is marked by a Famine Rock in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown. Stepping onto land with uncertainty and fear in an unfamiliar environment. Read More