Research Roundup #4

Welcome to the fourth installment of Research Roundup, Seeing the Woods’ listing of recent publications in the environmental humanities by staff and fellows at the Rachel Carson Center. (For the previous installments, please click here.) It has been a busy and exciting few months for Carson Fellows and Alumni!

Please use the following links to jump between the five sections. Publications within each section are listed in alphabetical order of the author’s surname.

Academic Journal Articles
Edited Special Journal Issues
Popular Media Articles and Blog Posts
Book Chapters

Academic Journal Articles
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Ética animal en diálogo con recientes reformas en la legislación de países latinoamericanos

By María Valeria Berros, in Revista de bioética y derecho, Vol. 33.

The aim of this article consists of constructing a dialog between the fields of animal ethics and regulations that, recently, have recognized nature as a legal entity at a constitutional or legal level in some countries of Latin America. With this purpose we propose, from a corpus of documentaries integrated by a set of regulations, to explore the processes of translation and to recreate the heterogeneous ethical perspectives that inspired the contemporary regulation of non-human animals. Finally, we focus on the construction of questions and reflections that allow the building of a dialog between animal ethics, the recognition of nature as a legal entity, and the challenges involved in juridical and institutional fields.

Jurisprudencia argentina reciente en materia de riesgos ambientales y relativos a la salud humana: articulaciones entre derecho de daños y principio precautorio

By María Valeria Berros, in Revista de Derecho de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Vol. 43.

The purpose of this work is to present one of the lines of argument of the contemporaneous Argentinian jurisprudence on environmental risks relating to human health. First, a set of resolutions deciding on the exposure to non-ionizing radiation and to agrochemicals, that over the past years have been turned into a notorious legal issue, are studied. These typee of decisions are in the intersection between the law regarding damages that have traditionally dealt, in Argentina, with the risk issue, and the precautionary principle that deals, in environmental law, with the issue of disputed or uncertain risks. Identifying this set of resolutions allows thought in the arising construction of a precautionary vision that generates a set of tensions within the law regarding damages.

Beyond Doom and Gloom: An Exploration through Letters

Edited by Elin Kelsey, RCC Perspectives, No. 6.

Our worries about the environment are not only academic—they affect us personally. Yet there is a strange silence about the emotional impact of the ways in which we talk about the environment, which is so enmeshed with hopelessness: horrifying statistics and gut-wrenching images that threaten to seal the planet’s fate. How can we best influence and enact a shift beyond “doom and gloom”? The letters in this Perspectives volume are responses to this dilemma. Through an exploration of new environmental narratives, this volume aims to stimulate readers to emotionally reflect on how we can embrace hope and resilience in our stories about the environment. The volume includes papers by Carson Fellow alumni Sherilyn MacGregor, Anna Mazanik, Cameron Muir, Chioma Daisy Onyige, Seth Peabody, Jenny Price, Thomas Princen, Nicole Seymour, and Fei Sheng, and RCC Managing Editor Katie Ritson.


By Emily O’Gorman, in Living Lexicon for the Environmental Humanities in Environmental Humanities, Vol. 5.

This short essay argues that belonging is never a question of biology or culture in isolation but a contested terrain of biocultural meaning.

Rethinking the British Empire through Eco-Cultural Networks: Materialist-Cultural Environmental History, Relational Connections and Agency

By Emily O’Gorman, James Beattie, and Edward Melillo, Environment and History, Vol. 20.

In this short discussion, we use examples from the British Empire to introduce the concept of eco-cultural networks as a lens for examining interconnected, wide-ranging social and environmental processes. We present three conceptual advances that this framework offers to environmental historians: 1) a rethinking of the divisions between cultural and material approaches to environmental history; 2) an emphasis on relational connections in the making of networks; and, 3) a renewed focus on questions of agency. Each of these developments opens up new questions within environmental history and promotes engagement with work outside the field, especially with the ecological sciences and the environmental humanities.

Among Animals

By Harriet Ritvo, in Environment and History, Vol. 20.

The tendency to see humans as special and separate influences even practices like scientific taxonomy which explicitly place them among other animals. The animal-related scholarship that has emerged throughout the humanities and social sciences often reveals analogous tensions. Animal topics have similarly inspired historians, including environmental historians, but historical perspectives have become somewhat marginalized within the field labeled “animal studies.”

Edited Special Journal Issues
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Small Islands and Natural Hazards

Edited by Rebecca Hofmann, Uwe Lübken, special issue of Global Environment.

Popular Media Articles and Blog Posts
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From Environmental Injustice to the Environmental Humanities

By John Agbonifo in Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center.

Religion as a Creative Skill in Environmental Change—Exploring the Entanglement of Images of God, Nature, and the Sacred

By Sigurd Bergmann in Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center.

Photo of the Week: Minnesota, USA

By Annka Liepold in Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center.

Interspecies Ethnography and Human-Elephant Relations in South Asia

By Piers Locke in Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center.

Photo of the Week: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

By Anna Rühl in Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center.

Relations between Scientists and Animals in Experimental Systems

By Sai Suryanarayanan in Seeing the Woods: A Blog by the Rachel Carson Center.

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Cycling Cultures: Studies in Diversity and Practice

Edited by Peter Cox (University of Chester Press, 2015).

This book brings together a number of authors to examine a range of bicycling practices through the lens of cultural analysis. Issues of diversity, inclusion and complexity come to the fore as individual chapters tackle a spread of topics from gender to mapmaking, and cargo bike use to policy and politics. Both historical and current dimensions are included and the volume as a whole is designed to integrate the separate chapter length case studies into an integrated argument for more nuanced understandings of the variety of activities and meanings subsumed under the simple label of “cycling.”

Desert Water: The Future of Utah’s Water Resources

Edited by Hal Crimmel (University of Utah Press, 2014).

This book brings scientific research together with the experienced voices of environmental social scientists, humanists, and activists to provide a broad perspective on Utah water issues. The matters discussed are relevant beyond this one state, as similar conditions and concerns—especially over supply and demand in the face of demographic and climate change—exist throughout the West. Some of the essays are scientific and analytical; others literary and personal. Together they draw attention to problems that Utah residents and legislators must address but also emphasize ways to build solutions. Desert Water will help citizens, policy makers, and anyone interested in Utah’s water supply and use understand the real challenges—and ethics—involved in managing this vital, finite resource. By increasing awareness, these essays should create a sense of urgency for finding workable solutions.

Conversations with W. S. Merwin

Co-edited by Hal Crimmel, with Michael Wutz (University of Mississippi Press, forthcoming 2015).

Conversations with W. S. Merwin is the first collection of interviews with former United States Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin (b. 1927). Spanning almost six decades of conversations, the collection touches on such topics as Merwin’s early influences (Robert Graves and Ezra Pound), his location within the twin poles of Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, his extraordinary work as a translator, as well as his decades-long interest in environmental conservation. Anticipating the current sustainability movement and the debates surrounding major and minor literatures, Merwin was, and still is, a visionary. Merwin also wrote at the forefront of literature’s environmental advocacy and early on articulated concerns about ecology and sustainability. Now, for the first time, Conversations with W. S. Merwin offers insight into the various dimensions of Merwin’s thought by treating his interviews as a self-standing category in his oeuvre. More than casual narratives that interpret the occasional poem or relay an occasional experience, they afford literary and cultural historians a view into the larger through-lines of Merwin’s thinking.

Engaging the Everyday: Environmental Social Criticism and the Resonance Dilemma

By John M. Meyer (MIT Press, 2015).

Far-reaching efforts to address environmental issues rarely seem to resonate with citizens of the United States or other wealthy postindustrial societies. In Engaging the Everyday, John Meyer considers this impediment to action on environmental problems—which he terms “the resonance dilemma”—and argues that an environmental agenda that emerges from everyday concerns would resonate more deeply with ordinary citizens. Meyer explores the contours of this alternative, theorizing both obstacles and opportunities and then considering it in terms of three everyday areas of material practice: land use, transportation by automobile, and home dwelling.

Adopting the stance of an “inside critic” (neither detached theorist nor narrow policy advocate), and taking an approach that he calls “contested materiality,” Meyer draws on a variety of theoretical perspectives to construct a framework for understanding material practices. He reimagines each of the three material practices in terms of a political idea: for land, property; for automobiles, freedom; and for homes, citizenship. His innovative analysis offers a grounded basis for reshaping our talk about political concepts and values.

The Organization of Transport: A History of Users, Industry, and Public Policy

Edited by Massimo Moraglio and Christopher Kopper (Routledge, 2015).

This edited volume examines how users, policy-makers, and industrial managers have organized and continue to organize mobility, with a particularly attention to Europe, North America, and Asia. Taking a long-term and comparative perspective, the volume brings together thirteen chapters from the fields of urban studies, history, cultural studies, and geography. Covering a variety of countries and regions, these chapters investigate how various actors have shaped transport systems, creating models of mobility that differ along a number of dimensions, including public vs. private ownership and operation as well as individual vs. collective forms of transportation. The contributions also examine the extent to which initial models have created path dependencies in terms of technology, physical infrastructure, urban development, and cultural and behavioral preferences that limit subsequent choices.

Eco-Cultural Networks and the British Empire: New Views on Environmental History

Co-edited by Emily O’Gorman with James Beattie and Edward Melillo (Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2014).

Nineteenth-century British imperial expansion has dramatically shaped today‘s globalised world. Imperialism drove mass migrations of people and altered the trajectories of trade. It also rearranged the world’s flora and fauna, leading to a series of radical environmental and social changes never before experienced in history. Eco-Cultural Networks and the British Empire explores how networks of human and non-human actors shaped environments, cultures and societies throughout the British Empire and beyond, and how local and regional conditions transformed these densely interconnected systems. The chapters in this collection are written by leading scholars in the field, who draw methodologically from recent studies in environmental history, imperial history, world history and the history of science. Together, these perspectives enrich our historical understanding of how the British Empire remade the globe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Climate, Science and Colonization: Histories from Australia and New Zealand

Co-edited by Emily O’Gorman with James Beattie and Matthew Henry (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2014).

Offering important new historical understandings of human responses to climate and climate change, this cutting-edge volume explores the dynamic relationship between settlement, climate, and colonization. The contributions gathered here consider a wide range of interrelated topics, among them the use of scientific evidence in historical research, the physical impact of climate on agriculture and land development, and changing understandings of climate, including the development of “folk” and government meteorologies. They reveal Australasia to be a remarkably varied and fertile area for analyzing cultural responses to climate as well as the wider social ramifications of historical climatic events.

Book Chapters
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Rethinking Bicycle Histories

By Peter Cox, in The Invisible Bicycle: New Insights into Bicycle History, edited by Tiina Männistö-Funk & Timo Myllyntaus (Brill, 2015).

The chapter examines issues in the historiography of cycling and challenges the tendencies toward both periodization and declensionist histories, using a case study of the UK in the 1960s.

Towards a Better Understanding of Bicycles as Transport

By Peter Cox, in The Organization of Transport: A History of Users, Industry, and Public Policy, edited by Christopher Kopper & Massimo Moraglio (Routledge, 2015).

A comparative study of a number of European nations reveals considerable differences in the timescale and rates of the adoption of bicycles as mass individual transport. Comparing cases reveals the diversity of factors involved in this process, and how a different factors are important in differing social and political contexts, observations that have strong implications for today’s advocacy for sustainable transport.

Wider Implications of Bike Design Diversity

By Peter Cox, in Beiträge zu einer ökologisch und sozial verträglichen Verkehrsplanung (TU Wien, 2014).

A study of the relationships between cycling design, infrastructure requirements and the social diversity of users. These factors are commonly all recognized within current policies designed to promote cycle use, but less frequently considered are the impacts that their interrelationships may have on each other and the broader urban environment.

Bicycle Design History and the Spaces and Practices of Cycling

By Peter Cox, in Designing Mobilities, edited by Justin Spinney (forthcoming 2015).

A comparative study of Germany in the 1930s, the UK in the 1960s and the Netherlands today to explore how manufacturing design constructs particular images of users of a technology and of how use of those designs shapes public identities of the users. Attention is also given to the deployment of the various cycle designs in public space and their relations to other transport infrastructure and space.

Back Story: Migration, Assimilation and Invasion in the Nineteenth Century

By Harriet Ritvo, in Rethinking Invasion Ecologies from the Environmental Humanities, edited by Iain McCalman and Jodi Frawley (Routledge, 2014).

Research from a humanist perspective has much to offer in interrogating the social and cultural ramifications of invasion ecologies. The impossibility of securing national boundaries against accidental transfer and the unpredictable climatic changes of our time have introduced new dimensions and hazards to this old issue. Written by a team of international scholars, this book allows us to rethink the impact on national, regional or local ecologies of the deliberate or accidental introduction of foreign species, plant and animal. Modern environmental approaches that treat nature with naïve realism or mobilize it as a moral absolute, unaware or unwilling to accept that it is informed by specific cultural and temporal values, are doomed to fail. Instead, this book shows that we need to understand the complex interactions of ecologies and societies in the past, present and future over the Anthropocene, in order to address problems of the global environmental crisis. It demonstrates how humanistic methods and disciplines can be used to bring fresh clarity and perspective on this long vexed aspect of environmental thought and practice.

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