Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

Research Roundup #2

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Welcome to the second installment of the Research Roundup, Seeing the Woods’ quarterly listing of recent publications in the environmental humanities by staff and fellows at the Rachel Carson Center. (For the first installment, please click here.)

Please use the following links to jump between the five sections.

Academic Journal Articles
Edited Special Journal Issues
Popular Media Articles
Books
Book Chapters

Without further ado, here are the fruits of another productive few months for RCC fellows and alumni…


Academic Journal Articles
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Climate change is provoking a pragmatic turn in our approach to sustainability, resulting in a more pluralistic debate about both the desirable sustainable society and the means by which it is to be achieved. The traditional green approach, founded on a moral view of the socio-natural relationship and inclined to a radical transformation of the current social system, now seems misguided. In this regard, sustainability should be considered as an inherently open principle for guiding social action that also serves as a framework for discussing the kind of society we wish to have. The distinction between an open and a closed account of sustainability aims to reflect this. But, at the same time, sustainability should go beyond the common distinctions between strong and weak versions of the principle, turning substitutability into a much more flexible criterion that puts cultivated (rather than natural and human-made) capital at its centre. Sustainability is thus to be freed from nature. Adopting a post-natural stance with regard to sustainability is a key part of the much-needed renewal of environmentalism itself.

This article examines climate and perceptions of climate as factors in the migration and settlement history of the western United States. It focuses on two regions of great interest in the nineteenth century. One, the so-called Great American Desert, in the western Great Plains, seemed a potential obstacle to settlement. The other, the Mexican state of Alta California, which after 1848 became the US state of California, proved a definite attraction to settlers. By the late nineteenth century, both regions were attracting migrants. One, however, would experience climatic disasters that discouraged settlement, while the other would continue to grow, encouraging an even larger migration after 1945 to the southernmost tier of US states, from Florida to California, a region that became known as the Sunbelt. Read more….

This study presents military training areas as important military landscapes, and sites of conflict in their own right. It explores the development of military-environmentalism at two active British training areas, Salisbury Plain Training Area and Lulworth Range, Dorset. It contrasts the rise of the military-environmental discourse with the removal of human inhabitants of the areas during the Second World War. The public protests and memorial attempts that followed, it argues, along with (but not allied with) emerging environmentalism, shaped military understanding of the value of its landholdings. Two walks at Imber and Tyneham highlight the critical role of access in militarized landscapes. This study goes beyond the barbed wire to reveal military training areas as complex places, at which a site-based perspective teases out the nuances of broad narratives—war, rural development, environmentalism, and anti-military protest—as they have played out on two different landscapes from 1943 to the present.

No description available.

Abstract (in French)

Overfishing is most commonly explained as an example of the tragedy of the commons, where individuals are unable to control their activities, leading to the destruction of the resource they are dependent on. The historical record suggests otherwise. Between1949 and 1958, the US State Department used fisheries science, and especially the concept of maximum sustained yield (MSY) as a political tool to achieve its foreign policy objectives. During the Cold War, the Department thought that if countries were allowed to restrict fishing in their waters, it might lead to restrictions on passage of military vessels. While there has been much criticism of MSY and its failure to conserve fish stocks, there has been little attention paid to the political context in which MSY was adopted.

This paper offers a materialist reading of the charity spectacles that situates them within a popular culture of sentimentality engaged in making and imagining forms of global community through social practices of exchange. It draws on the feminist scholarship on sentimental cultures and their imbrication with social reform movements and commodity capitalism to show how Band Aid can be understood as part of a popular culture of sentimental exchange, in which famine relief images, stories, tears, money and goods were passed along in affective exchanges that also involved sentimental stories and personalized commodities and capital such as wedding rings, household furniture and allowances. Continue reading…

  • “Envisioning an Ecological Atlantic, 1500-1850”
    By John McNeill, in Nova Acta Leopoldina, Vol. 114

No description available.

When in 2008 Parks Canada signalled its intention to sponsor a marine hunt for the sunken and lost ships of the 1845 Northwest Passage expedition led by Sir John Franklin, one of the main reasons given by federal authorities was the need to assert their claims to Arctic sovereignty in an unstable and tense circumpolar geopolitical environment. The wrecks of the Erebus and Terror in this context were seen as important due to their historic associations with the development of Canada as a nation. I argue that the phantasmic nature of these shipwrecks, as well as the rhetorics of the supernatural associated with the Franklin expedition in history, literature, documentary, popular culture and heritage policy, discloses a haunting inheritance in the modern Canadian imagination. Through an examination of recent Franklin searches this article locates the place of this ‘quintessential interdisciplinary, diachronic, semiotic subject’ in the contemporary imagination.

This article examines a particular case of post-disaster planning: the ‘city-territory’ of the Belice Valley. As a consequence of an earthquake which devastated a depressed rural area of western Sicily in 1968, town planners, supported by special post-disaster legislation, undertook a planning experiment aimed at redeveloping the disaster area and promoting its social and economic transformation. The Belice Valley plan became an experiment in socio-economic engineering, and the idea of combining reconstruction and development was associated with a particular spatial layout: the ‘city-territory’. Based on archival research, this work examines this planning idea, its roots and its outcome. I will argue that, despite its peculiarities, the ‘city-territory’ idea was deeply rooted in the Italian and international culture and practices of the day, which were particularly favourable for large-scale planning and development policies. I will also demonstrate that the attempt to realize this plan for a ‘city-territory’ was hindered by a radically transformed context and by a general crisis of industrial development policies. This case study, therefore, attempts to shed light on a key issue of 1960s and 1970s international planning culture and practice, and illustrates some of the reasons for its partial failure.

This article explores the relationship between disasters and the population movements in two case studies: the 1908 Messina earthquake and the 1968 Belice Valley earthquake. While they happened in different areas and at different times, the earthquakes share two major characteristics. First, they caused the almost complete destruction of infrastructure over a large area. Second, they resulted in massive population movements away from the disaster areas. This paper aims to understand the connection between these phenomena, posing a number of questions: Were the population movements permanent or temporary? Were the disasters solely responsible for the movements? Did the demography of the stricken areas recover from the disaster or not? And why, or why not? Read more…

Historians often study the history of conservation within the confines of national borders, concentrating on the bureaucratic and political manifestations of policy within individual governments. Even studies of the popular expression of conservationist ideas are generally limited to the national or sub-national (province, state, etc.) scale. This paper suggests that conservationist discourse, policy and practice in Canada and the USA were the products of a significant cross-border movement of ideas and initiatives derived from common European sources. In addition, the historical development of common approaches to conservation in North America suggests, contrary to common assumptions, that Canada did not always lag behind the USA in terms of policy innovation. The basic tenets of conservation (i.e. state control over resource, class-based disdain for subsistence hunters and utilitarian approaches to resource management) have instead developed at similar time periods and along parallel ideological paths in Canada and the USA.

This paper addresses the relationship between meat eating and climate change focusing on motivational explanations of environmentally-relevant consumer behavior. Based on a sample of 1083 Dutch consumers, it examines their responses to the idea that they can make a big difference to nature and climate protection by choosing one or more meals without meat every week. This idea can be seen as a new opportunity to help mitigation, but also as a counterproductive message that might trigger negative responses among consumers who are skeptical about climate change. As hypothesized, the meat-free meal idea was received more positively by consumers who valued care for nature and more negatively by those who did not value it. Also as hypothesized, the meat-free meal idea was received more negatively by consumers who were skeptical about the seriousness of climate change. The idea was not received more positively by those who did take it seriously. The results support the notion that the meat-free meal idea may serve as a counterproductive message. From the perspective of motivation, it is preferable not to isolate the meat-climate issue but to develop an approach that combines multiple values regarding food choices, including health and nature-related values.

No description available.

No description available.


Edited Special Journal Issues
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No description available. (German-language journal.)

Contains articles by Poul Holm and other RCC alumni.


Popular Media Articles
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Books
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What might an analysis of politics which focuses on the operation of power through space and place, and on the spatial structuring of inequality, tell us about the world we make for ourselves and others? From the national border to the wire fence; from the privatisation of land to the exclusion and expulsion of persecuted peoples; questions of space and place, of who can be where and what they can do there, are at the very heart of the most important political debates of our time.Bringing together an interdisciplinary collection of authors deploying diverse perspectives and methodological approaches, this book responds to the pressing demand to reflect on and engage with some of the key questions raised by a political analysis of space and place.

Processes of food production and consumption have the single largest environmental impact of all human activities. The fact that diets have to change into a more sustainable direction is generally agreed upon. However, a shared vision of a sustainable and desirable society to support these changes, is missing. This thesis contributes to the question why we disagree about food sustainability and what different pathways policy makers will need to develop simultaneously to facilitate more sustainable food choices.

Since the emergence of the dissident “parallel polis” in Eastern Europe, civil society has become a “new superpower,” influencing democratic transformations, human rights, and international co-operation; co-designing economic trends, security and defense; reshaping the information society; and generating new ideas on the environment, health, and the “good life.” This volume seeks to compare and reassess the role of civil society in the rich West, the poorer South, and the quickly expanding East in the context of the twenty-first century’s challenges. It presents a novel perspective on civic movements testing John Keane’s notion of “monitory democracy”: an emerging order of public scrutiny and monitoring of power.

The emergence of Greenpeace in the late 1960s from a loose-knit group of anti-nuclear and anti-whaling activists fundamentally changed the nature of environmentalism–its purpose, philosophy, and tactics–around the world. And yet there has been no comprehensive objective history of Greenpeace’s origins – until now. Make It a Green Peace! draws upon meeting minutes, internal correspondence, manifestos, philosophical writings, and interviews with former members to offer the first full account of the origins of what has become the most recognizable environmental non-governmental organization in the world.


Book Chapters
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  • Exploring the crisis of contemporary environmental politics
    By Chiara Certomà, in Crisis, Rupture and Anxiety: An Interdiciplinary, Examination of Historical and Contemporary Human Challenges, edited by Will Jackson, Bob Jeffery, Mattia Marino and Tom Sykes (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012)

Book description: Crisis, Rupture and Anxiety: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Contemporary and Historical Human Challenges brings together a range of original contributions that seek to critically interrogate the concept of “crisis,” a seemingly omnipresent and defining metonym of our times. Both international and interdisciplinary in perspective, the leading doctoral scholars and early-career researchers represented in this volume unsettle hegemonic notions of crisis (and possible remedies) by exploring both a very wide range of extant crises (in and of politics, economics, communities, technologies, urban policy, literary representation, media studies, language learning, nationalisms and national identity, and the legitimation of the state), as well as the roots of our contemporary understandings of crisis and the politics of “crisis representation.”

Book description: New Political Spaces in Latin American Natural Resource Governance takes a new look at an essential theme for Latin America’s social and economic development: how natural resources are governed and struggled over. It questions the idea that the governance now can be characterized as ‘post-neoliberal’ and illustrates the enduring constraints on democratic and ‘just’ resource extraction. Case studies written by anthropologists, geographers, and sociologists provide empirical detail and analytical insight into states’ and communities’ relations to natural resource sectors, and show how resource dependencies continue to shape their political spaces.

Abstract (in French).

  • “Une Histoire environnementale du monde dan l’ère des énergies fossiles (1800-2012)”
    By John McNeill, in Une Protection de l’environnment à la française?, edited by Charles-François Mathis and Jean-François Mouhot (Champ Vallon, 2013)

Abstract (in French)

  • “National Parks in the Canadian North: Co-Management or Colonialism Revisited?”
    By John Sandlos, in Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas: New Perspectives on Conservation and Rights, edited by Stan Stevens (University of Arizona Press, forthcoming)

No description available.

Book description: Every day, we are presented with a range of “sustainable” products and activities – from “green” cleaning supplies to carbon offsets – but with so much labeled as “sustainable,” the term has become essentially sustainababble, at best indicating a practice or product slightly less damaging than the conventional alternative. Is it time to abandon the concept altogether, or can we find an accurate way to measure sustainability? If so, how can we achieve it? And if not, how can we best prepare for the coming ecological decline?

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