Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

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Worldview: Legal Implications of Environmental Risks

“State and Enterprise Responsibility for Civil and Environmental Risks”

By Harald Koch, Berlin/Hamburg

What has the Agent Orange disaster of the 1960s in Vietnam left behind, other than the terrible health effects suffered by innocents and persistent ecological damages?

Are there lessons to be learned from the way the legal system handles such man-made disasters, from the way relief was sought and granted to victims in Vietnam, the US, and other countries? Given that many environmental disasters today have international repercussions, is transborder litigation the means to achieve “global justice”? And how can we ensure the accountability of corporations and government institutions that are responsible for wide-spread health injuries and environmental damages?

Within this framework, three issues were addressed during a conference on Agent Orange organized by the RCC in Tutzing last year; they will be illustrated here using case studies involving international environmental and human rights damages.
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Making Tracks: Ernst Langthaler

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 Ernst Langthaler

A Pile of Stones in the Midst of a Meadow”

I grew up in a remote village of about 2,000 inhabitants. It was situated at the northeastern fringe of the Austrian Limestone Alps and embedded in a mountainous landscape. Located in the main valley, the central settlement, the Markt (“market”), comprised public buildings (among them a Catholic church, a municipal office, and a primary school) and several dozen private houses belonging to nonagricultural dwellers—employees in the building and manufacturing industries and transport services, as well as small artisans and merchants. In the adjacent valleys and scattered along the mountains, medium-sized family farms dotted the landscape, vast stretches of grassland and forest between them.


Figure 1: Central settlement and surrounding area of my home village with restored meadow (light brown area) after a landslide, ca. 2005. Photo: Ernst Langthaler.

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Doctoral Students Attend Workshop


Photograph: Munich Re.

Environment and Society doctoral candidates Ruhi Deol and Vikas Lakhani participated in a workshop entitled “Risk, Livelihoods, Capacity, Recovery, Insurance, and Tourism” on 24 May 2016, organized by Prof. Dr. Gordon Winder of the Geography Department at LMU, and the RCC. They presented their research projects to representatives from the Munich Re Foundation and visiting professor Dr. Mukesh Kanaskar, a RISK award winner from the All India Institute of Local Self-Government, Mumbai. Ruhi and Vikas are both members of Prof. Winder’s Disasters Research Group.

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Student Research: Orpheus in the Mud

By Adrian Franco, LMU and Environmental Studies Certificate Program Student

It is tempting to explore how visual experiences of music festivals are symbols of joy and embeddedness in modern societies, drawing attention to what people do in their free time. When people think of the Woodstock documentary, or the images of Wacken used by South Korean film director Sung Hyung Cho in 2006, they almost certainly recall the images of ecstatic crowds making their way through muddy festivalscapes, sometimes even literally bathing in murky ponds.

pic2 festival site

A tree trunk carved with  the Auerworld logo. Photograph: Adrian Franco.

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Making Tracks: Carrick Eggleston

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.

“From Atoms to Energy Transitions”

By Carrick Eggleston

Scientists can really only deal with very simple things. They are squeamish about uncontrolled variables. As a scientist and an RCC fellow, I am in unfamiliar territory. Environmental history and humanities? I don’t speak the language! With the help of the stimulating and dynamic intellectual environment at RCC, I am learning. There is a kind of wall that scientists place between their work and “society,” “policy measures,” and “value judgments.” It is difficult and professionally risky to cross that wall—but there is, I think, a growing need to jump back and forth across such walls in order to address climate change and energy transitions.

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Snapshot: Hochschultage Science Slam


Contestants and organizers of the “Expert Slam: Alternative Wirtschafts-Quickies” on Thursday, 9 June. Photograph: Annka Liepold.

The Hochschultage Munich, cosponsored by the RCC, took place in the second week of June this year. Following a stimulating talk given by Oliver Richters at the RCC’s weekly Lunchtime Colloquium, speakers and spectators gathered in the evening for some creative wordplay at the Expert Slam. Contestants and organizers gave short, original talks on alternative economic approaches, and included representatives from Cradle to Cradle, Transparency International, and the Social Entrepreneurship Academy Munich.

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Snapshot: Lunchtime Colloquium

LC 19 May

RCC fellow Pey-Yi Chu presents her work at the lunchtime colloquium: “Conquest versus Adaptation: Permafrost and Socialist Industrialization in the Soviet Union.”

The RCC’s weekly lunchtime colloquium series is always a hub of activity at the center. Here people meet, greet, and discuss their interests over a buffet lunch before watching a presentation given by an RCC fellow or guest speaker. The talks often focus on the speaker’s most recent project or research interests. Each talk is followed by a question-and-answer session designed to stimulate discussion and allow the audience to engage and develop their understanding of the presenter’s academic research. Developed as an outreach program, the lunchtime colloquium series allows researchers to bring their work to a wider audience; the talks are accessible, aimed at non-specialists, and are all completely free and open to the public.


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