The Rachel Carson Center invited all former and current fellows to attend the conference. In return, the fellows provided short essays explaining how they had come to work on environmental humanities issues.
We were delighted with the results. Scholars from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds described their upbringings, studies, and careers, as well as the chance encounters and twists of fate that led them to environmental studies and to the Rachel Carson Center.
Their essays demonstrate the diversity of the Rachel Carson Center and offer more general reflections on environmental scholarship. Some of the pieces were published in a volume of our RCC Perspectives journal entitled “Making Tracks: Human and Environmental Histories.” Due to limited space, we were not able to include all of the essays. We therefore decided to post both the essays from the journal volume and the unpublished essays on our blog, as an ongoing record of journeys leading to the Rachel Carson Center.
Full of humor and insight, these posts provide a unique glimpse into the development of environmental awareness, the development of environmental studies, and the ways in which our connections to people and places shape our lives. We hope you enjoy them!
To read the full series, scroll through the blog here. The most recent posts are provided below.
By Dominic Hinde From around the age of 15, I think I had wanted to be a journalist, and in the pre-Amazon time before print publishing’s great data-driven reckoning I would go to the branch of the British book chain Waterstones in my local town and buy autobiographies and memoirs by foreign and war correspondents.
By Marcela López Since I was a child, I have had the opportunity to travel around Colombia with my family and friends and explore a wide variety of ecosystems ranging from tropical rainforests to deserts, savannas, and páramos. By traveling through these remote landscapes, I became fascinated not only by nature’s “pristine” character, but also by the large-scale infrastructure projects that were crossing, dissecting and (dis)connecting these landscapes.
By Claiton Marcio da Silva The Brazilian Cerrado made me an environmental historian. My interest in the agricultural transformations in Brazilian savannas—a biome located in the central part of Brazil that extends over an area of approximately 2.000.000 km²—started when I left the southern and subtropical regions of the country to seek employment in the mythical Brazilian backwoods.
By Tony Weis I come from the settler-colonial nation of Canada, in a part of southwestern Ontario that sits upon the traditional territories of the Attawandaron, Anishnaabee, Haudenosaunee, and Leni-Lunaape Peoples. Today, nine First Nations reserves together control just over one percent of all land in southwestern Ontario. The landscape must have been beautiful, and still is in small patches, especially along river valleys and lake shores.
By Jennifer Carlson My journey to the Rachel Carson Center began in the 1980s on Texas’s blackland prairie, where my family spent weekends on an old farm that my father’s parents owned east of Austin. While my father, mother, and grandfather cared for our cows, fixed fences, or bought supplies in town, my grandmother swept and scrubbed the old house she and my grandfather had built before work led them elsewhere.
By Birgit Schneider I have been interested in representations with a focus on visuality for a very long time. In fact, it wasn’t my early childhood experiences with the outdoors that led to my interest in environmental issues in the first place, but rather my mediated experiences with nature. Like most others, I frequently encounter current environmental issues as they are presented to me through various media—in nature movies or documentaries, weather reports, maps, and even apps—making these mediated experiences even more likely than unmediated ones.
By Lynda Walsh I’m not 100 percent positive, but I believe I may be the first rhetorician who has been a fellow at the Rachel Carson Center. This impression was corroborated by the confused squints that frequently greeted me when I introduced myself in the corridors or at a Works-in-Progress meeting: “Rhetoric?” my new colleagues would echo, and their undulating eyebrows added: “What’s that? And what’s it got to do with the environment?”
By Charlie Trautmann Have you ever received a paperback for Christmas from your mother-in-law that landed you a fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich? I have. My journey to the Carson Center was more like an odyssey—long and circuitous.
By Chris Cokinos Intention is a funny thing, especially when it comes to creative work. Intention can become something forced; it can become an attachment to outcome at the expense of actually giving into the work itself. There’s a phrase from Taoist philosophy—wu wei. Wu wei means working without effort. Flow.
By Teresia Spezio As a child, I had first-hand experience with air and water pollution. I grew up in the city of Pittsburgh, which was once the steel making capital of the United States. I remember trips on the Parkway East with my family driving past the Jones & Laughlin primary steel mill where men (and very few women) worked with colossal ovens and furnaces to make steel for every kind of industry. The smell could be oppressive.