Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Call for Papers: The Environmental History of the Pacific World

Conference – Sun Yat Sen University, Guangzhou, China

24 May – 26 May 2018

Location: Sun Yat Sen University, Guangzhou, China

Sponsors: The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich; Department of History and The Center for Oceania Studies, Sun Yat Sen University, Guangzhou; The Center for Ecological History, Renmin University of China, Beijing.

pacific world

The Pacific Ocean is the ancient outcome of plate tectonic movement, creating one of the largest eco-regions on earth. Although navigators explored those waters early on, and peoples spread to all the ocean’s shores and penetrated as far into the center as the Hawaiian archipelago, it was not until the 16th century that the great body of water was discovered as a whole and mapped at a global scale. Since then, the Pacific has become a place of increasing human-nature interaction—through international trade, warfare, cultural interchange, and extraction of resources. Our conference aims to bring this ocean more fully into the discourse of environmental historians.

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Call for Candidates: Doctoral Program Environment and Society

You can download the pdf of this call here.

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The Doctoral Program in Environment and Society invites applications from graduates in
the humanities and social sciences who wish to research the complex relationships between environment and society within an interdisciplinary setting. Our program is based at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC), a joint initiative of LMU Munich and the Deutsches Museum. The RCC is an international center for research and education in the environmental humanities and social sciences: its mission is to advance research and discussion concerning the interrelationship between humans and nature.

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The Taproom

Everyone’s Favorite Topic: Beer and the Rest of the World”

By Pavla Šimková

beer-a-pint-cup-alcohol-65210When I started doing research in beer history, I had no idea what I was getting into.

I doubt there is a beer pun in the world I haven’t heard yet. People have wished me hoppy holidays. They can barley contain their excitement about interesting beer articles they have just read. They collapse in fits of laughter when talking about the first draft of my project.

I have gotten used to people treating my research as something of a joke, a topic growing out of a personal fondness for the malt beverage. Mostly I play along: When I go to a pub, I’m conducting empirical research. When my pint arrives, I sniff and swirl the glass as if it were Château Lafite and pontificate about strong hoppy-citrus flavors and dark malts with just a touch of smoke. (My friend Malcolm can actually do this—wait until you read his contribution to this blog!) Continue reading


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Day 7. Danube Excursion: Bratislava—Munich

by Lea Wiser


Bratislava → Munich


 

Spending a night on a boat and waking up to views over the glimmering river is not something that happens every day. After a long night, a hearty breakfast helped us to regain our energy for the last guided tour with Peter Pisut, who specializes in the historical geography of Slovak rivers. Even though we did not have much time, it is mandatory to walk up to Bratislava Castle, which overlooks the Danube.

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Uses of Environmental History: Sandra Swart

This is the final post in the uses of environmental history series. 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.


“Feral Historians?”

By Sandra Swart

The greatest strength we have as historians—our secret superpower—is the ability to take an apparently immutable existing status quo and show that “it was not always so.” We can look at the present and expose the seemingly “natural order” for just how “unnatural” (how anthropogenically constructed) it really is. For example, gender historians have exploded the static, apparently unchanging, and ostensibly biological dualism between men and women—thereby opening up new ways of understanding the social order. After all, a key value of learning about the past is to defamiliarize the present. To simply know that “it was not always so” is amazingly potent. It can empower humans to challenge the existing order that we are otherwise taught to believe is “natural,” “biological,” “incontrovertible.” If it has changed before, it can be changed further.

Yet if this ability to complicate the seemingly natural is our superpower, it is also our kryptonite. Many historians have been effectively self-silenced in today’s debate over critical environmental issues simply because we do not think or communicate in soundbites. We’re trained to understand nuance, uncover complexity, and eschew partisanship. These are some of our fundamental values as a discipline and I am not suggesting we jettison them—but I do think we leave too much of our research to be interpreted by interlocutors and politicians. Instead, we need to insert ourselves into those public debates. The role of professional historians in the making of public policy is a contested terrain. We need to extend our home ranges and escape the safely domesticated university, where we feel at home and where there’s always a warm fire and a bowl of milk. We must run feral in the wilder public spaces. Continue reading


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Day 6. Danube Excursion: Vienna—Bratislava

by Laura Kuen


Vienna → Orth → Gabčíkovo → Bratislava


Traveling from Vienna to Bratislava, our day’s topics branched in quite different directions: water power and nature conservation. We first visited the Austrian National Park Donau-Auen in Orth and later the Gabčíkovo Dams, Slovakia’s biggest hydroelectric plant.

Conservation in the Donau-Auen

The national park, which spans the distance between Vienna and Bratislava, finds its roots in a story of resistance, years of struggle, and constant negotiations between opposing forces. Our guide, Manfred Rosenberger, whose personal biography is deeply interwoven with the park, vividly recounted the park’s history.

Karte_nationalpark_donau_auen

Map of the Donau-Auen National Park, reaching from Vienna to the Slovakian border near Bratislava.

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Day 5. Danube Excursion: Krems—Vienna

by Christoph Netz


Krems → Vienna


Research Channels, Sterlets, and the Danube Island of Vienna

With another early start, it was lucky that the memorable apricot jam, a local specialty, provided a good incentive to get up in time for breakfast. Only five minutes behind schedule, we departed from Krems, with its beautiful historic center and surrounding vineyards, for Vienna.

Nussdorfer Lock and Weir

Our first stop was the Nussdorfer Schleuse, a lock and weir where the Danube canal branches off from the Danube in the northern outskirts of Vienna. Between the canal and the main river lies an outdoor research channel that is used to investigate the flow dynamics of different riverbeds and flood plains. Here, we met with Christine Sindelar of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU), who conducts her research at the outdoor research channel. The building of the research channel was part of the DREAM project (Danube River Research and Management), which was cofinanced by the City of Vienna and the European Union. The slope between the Danube and the canal allows the scientists to experiment with flow rates of 10 cubic meters per second, and hence provides unique opportunities to make 1:1 scale simulations of river flow and sediment dynamics.

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