Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Day 4. Danube Excursion: Linz—Krems

by Stefan Bitsch


Linz → Hütting → Grein → Melk → Krems


Dangers of the Danube: Floods and Rapids throughout History

On the fourth day of our excursion, the group had the opportunity to learn from Christian Rohr (University of Bern) and Severin Hohensinner (University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna), who shared their expertise with us during the various stops along the way.

Hütting and the Machland Dam

The first series of stops were concentrated around the small town of Hütting, part of the longest connected dam-building program in Central Europe, which cost around €180 million and was completed in 2012. Forty-five kilometers of dams and flood retention areas now follow the course of the Danube in this region. The area has a long history of flooding, and the town has learned how to deal with these events over time.

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Day 3. Danube Excursion: Passau—Linz

by Lea Wiser


Passau → Linz


Our third day on the Danube excursion was both eventful and thought provoking, packed with activities covering a broad range of subjects: from environment and sustainability to modern history and the Nazi regime, to where these two subjects intersect—the city of Linz.

Jochenstein

Our first stops, the Donaukraftwerk in Jochenstein and Haus am Strom in Untergriesbach, were already familiar to us, but during this visit we were able to admire the views from the other side of the Danube. On the way, we passed the Schlögener Schlinge, a meandering part of the river that created a loess-rich agricultural land below the steep slopes of the Bohemian Massif.

jochenstein bridge

Hydropower plant Jochenstein. The German-Austrian border runs through the center of the structure.

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Day 2. Danube Excursion: Deggendorf—Passau

Written by Leon Gomoll


Deggendorf → Vilshofen → Jochenstein → Passau


Bridge-Building and Nature Conservation on the Donau

Early Modern Bridges and Politics in Bavaria

On the second day of our field trip, we learned about Early Modern bridge-building in Bavaria. Martin Keßler’s talk focused on the politics of bridges, using as an example the bridge of Vilshofen, a small town near Passau. In the Middle Ages, Passau was an autonomous bishopric, independent from the duchy of Bavaria and archbishopric of Salzburg. It maintained its autonomy from Bavaria until 1802. Early Modern Bavaria included the lands between the rivers Lech to the west, the Danube to the north, and the Inn to the east. Within the territory of Bavaria there were many other stand-alone territories, for example imperial free cities like Augsburg and Nuremberg.

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Uses of Environmental History: Lise Sedrez

This is the sixth in a series of posts exploring the uses of environmental history. The series has been adapted from contributions to a roundtable forum published in the first issue of the new Journal for Ecological History, edited by Renmin University’s Center for Ecological History.


“Of Water, Narratives, and the Uses of Environmental History”

By Lise Sedrez (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro), 2015

São Paulo, the largest city in South America, is going through a historical drought. So is California, in the USA. That is how newspapers refer to these droughts: “historical,” a “once in a lifetime” drought or, even more dramatically, “an unheard of” drought. By describing droughts in these ways, journalists aim to stress the terrifying and absolute power of nature. But is this really  the case? Droughts may simply be part of the dynamics of a dry and fragile ecosystem (like California’s), or extremely rare— but not unprecedented—events in a wet region (like São Paulo). These descriptors, however— historical, once in a lifetime, unheard of—don’t refer merely to levels of rain and pluviometric records. Were these the only indicators, climate scientists could do a much better job than historians of drafting a history of droughts. But “history,” “lifetime,” and “hearing” are directly connected to social relations, to narratives and memory—and this is where we, environmental historians, have much to offer.

Superakvego_en_Rio_de_Janeiro_en_2010_liencf_Niterói_6_strato

Flooding in Rio in April 2010. Phot: Leonardo Fonseca [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Day 1. The Danube Excursion: Munich—Deggendorf

Written by David Stäblein


Munich —> Winzer —> Mühlham —> Deggendorf


The bus ride from Munich to Deggendorf along the Isar river

The landscape en route from Munich to Deggendorf is dominated by the flat valley of the river Isar. The river has carried a lot of material from the Alps to the lower part of the river near Deggendorf. This is the reason the soil here consists of an eight-meter-thick layer of river sediment. The Isar valley is surrounded by hills, in a landscape where erodible brown soil has been heavily deposited. The colluvium from this landscape, combined with the river sediments, makes the area the perfect place for agriculture (primarily sugar beet and corn). The Mühlbogental is an area near Deggendorf which has become the focus of concentrated industry; here lies a paper mill, as well as a BMW production site that was built on subsidies to discourage migration out of the region.

To the south of Deggendorf the Isar flows into the Danube (Donau in German), which was, in former days, only constrained in its meandering by the Bavarian Forest (a cool, infertile, and mountainous range dominated by gneiss) in the north east. Today, many dikes bound the naturally wandering landscape of the Danube, and the ancient current is limited by a row of hydropower plants spanning the whole of the Danube’s course through Bavaria. Together, the hydropower plants in Bavaria produce around 15 percent of Germany’s electricity supply. All the best spots for these plants have been occupied, which means that the expansion of hydropower is only possible if the plants become more efficient (to reach the goal of 17 percent). The flood defenses around Deggendorf were first installed in the 18th century and have since been expanded and modernized. Throughout the year (especially around June and August) numerous small flood events (below HQ 30) hit the area, but the dikes and polders usually prevent severe damage to surrounding communities. Continue reading


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Radical Hope: Inspiring Sustainability Transformations through Our Past

Conference Report (Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany, 3–4 July 2017)

By Erika Bsumek and John Barry

Hope by Vaclav Havel

Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world
Either we have hope within us or we don’t.
Hope is not a prognostication—it’s an orientation of the spirit.
You can’t delegate that to anyone else.
Hope in this deep and powerful sense is not the same as joy
when things are going well,
or the willingness to invest in enterprises
that are obviously headed for early success,
but rather an ability to work for something to succeed.
Hope is definitely NOT the same as optimism.
It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it turns out.
It is hope, above all, that gives us strength to live
and to continually try new things,even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.
In the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing
to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily,
without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.

In early July 2017, the Rachel Carson Center, together with University of Austin, Texas hosted a two-day workshop on “Radical Hope.” It brought together 21 people from a variety of continents and disciplinary perspectives to explore and exchange ideas on that renewable and essential resource: hope. A resource that is often sadly and noticeably lacking in academic and popular conversations on the dominant framing of the Anthropocene in terms of ecological “crisis,” pragmatic pessimism, and scientific “realism.” Continue reading


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Snapshot: Katrin Kleemann Takes First Prize in Photo Competition

Katrin Kleemann has been awarded the jury’s first prize in the LMU GraduateCenter’s “Mein Forschungsgegenstand/My Research Object” photography competition for her photo of the Laki fissure in Iceland. Katrin is a doctoral candidate in the Rachel Carson Center’s Doctoral Program Environment and Society and a research associate of the Environment & Society Portal. Her research project studies the impacts of the Icelandic Laki fissure eruption of 1783 on the northern hemisphere.

The GraduateCenterLMU has been organizing this photo competition every year since 2009. The winning photographs will be displayed in the offices of the LMU Graduate Center and used by the LMU Munich to promote doctoral candidates’ diverse research. All the submissions to the competition can be viewed here.