Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

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Snapshot: Our Future in the Anthropocene


Prominent visitors at the Anthropocene Exhibition. Left to right: Wolfgang M. Heckl (Director General of Deutsches Museum), Ministers Gerd Müller and Peter Altmaier, and RCC Director Helmuth Trischler.

On 15 September the Deutsches Museum hosted a Zukunftskongress (Future Congress) together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Club of Rome; the event brought together international visionaries, experts, and activists to discuss ways to tackle problems such as climate change and hunger and move towards a more sustainable society. Continue reading

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Bookshelf: The Troubled History of Environmentalism

By Bob Wilson


The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation

by Adam Rome

The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000

by Michael Bess

Seeing Green: The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images

by Finis Dunaway


Why have Americans been unable or unwilling to address climate change? Given the dire genius of earth day romethreat of global warming, why has it taken so long for a political movement to tackle climate change to emerge in the United States? These are some of the questions that have guided my project at the RCC about the development of the American climate movement, in many ways, an offshoot of the environmental movement. Yet there is another related question: What happened to American environmentalism? A robust, popular environmental movement should have been able to respond to climate change and activists should have been able to pressure their government to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the consequences of a warming world. But until recently, that has not happened. Why?

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Worldview: Anthropocene: A Non-Concept?

by Amélia Polónia

A concept should serve to create a common understanding between scholars, a common language to facilitate communication among disciplines. Does this apply to the term “Anthropocene”?

The “Anthropocene” is without doubt a widely used term, not only among academics—from geologists, Earth system scientists, ecologists, and physicists to philosophers, anthropologists, and historians—but also increasingly in the media. It appears in scientific journals and a wide variety of papers, and at exhibitions and conferences. A quick web search leads to a wealth of interdisciplinary approaches. The humanities, social sciences, and “hard sciences” all seem to be discussing macro-realities or epiphenomena derived from this new concept: the “Anthropocene.” And all this has happened in a very short period of time since the term was coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer about 15 years ago (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000, Crutzen 2002).


Fires along the Rio Xingu, Brazil, to clear forest for agriculture. Photo from NASA Earth Observatory.

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Riches of Nature, Limits of Nature

“Riches of Nature, Limits of Nature: Donald Worster and Environmental History”

Report on an International Conference (Beijing, China, June 26-28, 2016)

New Picture (1)

In June of 2016, the Center for Ecological History (CEH) along with the School of History at Renmin University of China, hosted an academic conference honoring environmental history’s doyen Donald Worster (RCC alumnus). The theme was “Riches of Nature, Limits of Nature: Donald Worster and Environmental History.” Inspired by the publication of his latest book entitled Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance (Oxford UP, 2016), the CEH invited more than two dozen environmental historians (among them were many of Worster’s former graduate students) from all over the world to thank him for his stimulating example and to present him with the long-term effects of his writings and teaching. Continue reading

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Student Research: Why the Past (Really) Matters

By Yolanda Lopez-Maldonado

Concern has grown in recent years over how our actions have transformed the natural world. This worry has prompted a deluge of news stories about environmental crises and their impact on global societies, such as climate change, food and water security, resource degradation, loss of biodiversity, and rising costs of resource management. But what are the future challenges and risks associated with these past influences? This was one of the issues addressed at “Transformations of the Earth,” an international graduate student workshop in environmental history that took place at Renmin University of China in Beijing from 21 to 23 May this year. The event was organized by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society and Ludwig Maximilian University, and cosponsored by Renmin University of China’s Center for Ecological History.


Photo: Yolanda Lopez-Maldonado.

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CfA: RCC Researcher in Residence

The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC) is pleased to announce the creation of one or more Researcher in Residence positions starting at the earliest in January 2017. These positions are designed for postdocs or inter-disciplinary scholars who have a project that falls within the RCC’s research field of Environment and Society.

The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC) is an international, interdisciplinary center for research and education in the environmental humanities and social sciences. The RCC was founded in 2009 as a joint initiative of Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Deutsches Museum, and it is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Researcher in Residence positions will be remunerated for up to nine months; the salary is designed to finance the applicant’s residence at the RCC during this period to work exclusively on the development of the research project and grant application. The position is designed with the procurement of one of the following (or similar) grants in mind:

  • ERC Starting Grants
  • DFG Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Groups
  • BMBF Junior Research Groups
  • Sofja Kovalevskaja Awards of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation
  • Volkswagen “Freigeist” Fellowships
  • Major Grants of the Leverhulme Trust
  • DFG Eigene Stelle Grants

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Cycling Cities: An Interview with Ruth Oldenziel

Cycling Cities: The European Experience was recently published by the Foundation for the History of Technology and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. Edited by Ruth Oldenziel, Martin Emanuel, Adri Albert de la Bruhèze, and Frank Veraart, the book explores 100 years of urban cycling policy, use, and practice in 14 European cities. We sat down with visiting scholar and former Carson fellow Ruth Oldenziel (RO), to discuss this wonderful addition to the cycling discourse.

SR: You recently published Cycling Cities. What prompted the idea for the book?

RO: I was invited for the 400th anniversary between Amsterdam and New York, and there was a bike slam. This was at a time in 2009 when Mayor Bloomberg was establishing a cycling policy as part of economic growth and a livable city. And the people at the bike slam were asking the Dutch, “How do you do it?” and the advisors and consultants really couldn’t explain. They sort of said “Well, we just do it.” I had colleagues at the time who had published what was, up until that time during the 90s, the comparative study—historical study—on cycling in these different cities, but it was in Dutch. And there was one graph which was floating around the internet, and people were quoting it without having read the report. So that’s how it started out; I just wanted to be a facilitator of making this accessible to an English-speaking world… I got so fascinated with the topic. Initially, we were translating it but it became a much bigger project, with more cities and more people coming in. An international team. Attractive pictures and captions, so yeah, that’s how it started. Continue reading