Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


Leave a comment

Worldview: Regressive Research Policy in Argentina

By Samantha Rothbart

15665904_1194074564011344_7550814989610763620_n

The National Scientific and Technical Research Council is in trouble. This was in the email sent to the RCC blog team by Carson alumna María Valeria Berros on 21st December 2016. She was standing alongside her fellow colleagues and scientists in Santa Fe, in dialogue with research fellows all over the country—particularly outside of the Ministry of Science in Buenos Aires—and describing the dramatic events as they unfolded.  The Council (Concejo Nacional de Investigaciones en Ciencia y Tecnología—CoNICeT) ordinarily consolidates all funding related to research in the country, from PhD scholarships to postdocs, research and travel grants, and, crucially, the carrera del investigador—a permanent researcher position. With certain exceptions, research and higher education institutions do not have their own research budgets, but their staff is funded via CoNICeT. “With budget cuts, social sciences and humanities will be the first to suffer the effects, as usual,” Berros said. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Worldview: Taking the Venice Architecture Biennale as an Example

by Jeroen Oomen

This post was first published on 21 November 2016 on the ENHANCE ITN website.

drone-impact-fragmentation-model

Drone Impact: Forensic model of a drone explosion, showing that drone rockets are specifically designed to penetrate buildings before explosion and maximize human casualties (main pavilion). Photographs: Jeroen Oomen.

“What is the environmental humanities?” is a question that typically pops up whenever I care to explain that ENHANCE, the doctoral training network I am part of, stands for Environmental Humanities for a Concerned Europe. And in all honesty: I don’t quite know. Nor do my colleagues, nor do our professors. What the environmental humanities is, is much debated and undecided. To some, it is a new discipline of scholarship, it is “seeking to un-discipline and de-institutionalise modes and means of research,” to “sensitively respond to the need for new forms of engagement and expression called forth by the often destructive, at times regenerative, complexities of human-non human entanglements within the anthro/capitalocene.” Others, me among them, would argue that environmental humanities are just humanities disciplines with an environmental focus. And, I might add, they run the risk of finding themselves caught in a web of politically correct and jargonistic terminology. As one of the guests of the Stories of the Anthropocene festival related to me, “we academics often find immensely difficult ways of expressing what (local) people already know.” I suspect that the debate over what environmental humanities is, and what it should do, will continue indefinitely, and will eventually be decided institutionally rather than by consensus. Even among the 12 ENHANCE PhD students there are vast differences of opinion—as it should be, I would be inclined to say. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Worldview: Doce River Disaster

“The Bitterness of the Doce River—One Year Later”

By Lise Sedrez

It was way worse than I thought.

img_9817

Sludge floating on the Rio Doce. Photographs: Lise Sedrez.

Over the last three days, with a group of colleagues, I looked at the Rio Doce and asked myself how we could have done this to the river. Rio Doce has nurtured Brazilian history for hundreds of years, offering water, wealth, food, joy, and beauty. We repaid it by poisoning it with mercury in gold mining operations in the past, polluting it to critical levels with PET bottles and raw sewage, destroying its riparian vegetation and, finally, burying 600 km of it under tons of mining waste.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Worldview: Watch Your Step!

“Moss Conservation in Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland”

By Katrin Kleemann

All photographs were taken by Katrin Kleemann and used here with her express permission.
2016-08-18-13-46-32

View of the southwest half of the Laki fissure from Mount Laki.

Lakagígar is a fissure volcano in Iceland’s remote highlands that erupted in 1783–84 and left behind a landscape full of lava fields, now covered in lush green moss. Tourists can travel to the Laki fissure only with a four-wheel drive because the terrain is very rough and you have to cross several rivers to reach it. Most of the year, routes to the area are impassable due to the harsh climatic conditions, so visitors can only gain access during the summer months (mid-June to mid-September). Continue reading


Leave a comment

Worldview: Berta Cáceres

Let Us Wake Up, Humankind! Justice for Berta Cáceres and for All Environmental Activists Killed around the World”

By María Valeria Berros

In our worldview, we are beings who come from the Earth, from the water, and from corn. The Lenca people are ancestral guardians of the rivers, in turn protected by the spirits of young girls, who teach us that giving our lives in various ways for the protection of the rivers is giving our lives for the well-being of humanity and of this planet. COPINH (National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), walking alongside people struggling for their emancipation, validates this commitment to continue protecting our waters, the rivers, our shared resources and nature in general, as well as our rights as a people. Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We are out of time. […] Continue reading


Leave a comment

Worldview: Anthropocene: A Non-Concept?

by Amélia Polónia

A concept should serve to create a common understanding between scholars, a common language to facilitate communication among disciplines. Does this apply to the term “Anthropocene”?

The “Anthropocene” is without doubt a widely used term, not only among academics—from geologists, Earth system scientists, ecologists, and physicists to philosophers, anthropologists, and historians—but also increasingly in the media. It appears in scientific journals and a wide variety of papers, and at exhibitions and conferences. A quick web search leads to a wealth of interdisciplinary approaches. The humanities, social sciences, and “hard sciences” all seem to be discussing macro-realities or epiphenomena derived from this new concept: the “Anthropocene.” And all this has happened in a very short period of time since the term was coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer about 15 years ago (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000, Crutzen 2002).

6283416535_eb67c3aa30_o

Fires along the Rio Xingu, Brazil, to clear forest for agriculture. Photo from NASA Earth Observatory.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Worldview: Legal Implications of Environmental Risks

“State and Enterprise Responsibility for Civil and Environmental Risks”

By Harald Koch, Berlin/Hamburg

What has the Agent Orange disaster of the 1960s in Vietnam left behind, other than the terrible health effects suffered by innocents and persistent ecological damages?

Are there lessons to be learned from the way the legal system handles such man-made disasters, from the way relief was sought and granted to victims in Vietnam, the US, and other countries? Given that many environmental disasters today have international repercussions, is transborder litigation the means to achieve “global justice”? And how can we ensure the accountability of corporations and government institutions that are responsible for wide-spread health injuries and environmental damages?

Within this framework, three issues were addressed during a conference on Agent Orange organized by the RCC in Tutzing last year; they will be illustrated here using case studies involving international environmental and human rights damages.
Continue reading