Insect Profile: The Schaus Swallowtail

By Irus Braverman.

*The follwong text is taken from the book Wild Life: The Institution of Nature, by Irus Braverman. © 2015 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Published by Stanford University Press. Used here with the permission of the publisher.

The Schaus swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus) is a large brown and yellow butterfly endemic to southern Florida. Additional subspecies occur in the Bahamas, Hispaniola, and Cuba. The butterfly is restricted to intact tropical hardwood hammocks and their associated margins.

In 1973, the Schaus swallowtail was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and in 1984, the butterfly’s status was upgraded to endangered,1 making it the only one of more than 573 swallowtail butterfly species to be listed as endangered.2 So widespread in the early 1900s that they were described as bobbing along South Florida’s breezes by the hundreds, the Schaus swallowtails succumbed to habitat destruction and anti-mosquito insecticides sprayed in the region.3 In a serendipitous occurrence, just two months before Hurricane Andrew swept through in 1992, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) granted the University of Florida permission to remove one hundred Schaus swallowtail eggs to serve as the starter nucleus of a large-scale captive propagation program. Following the destruction wrought by the hurricane, the USFWS committed major funding to continue the field surveys and the captive propagation program, as well as to implement experimental reintroductions of the species within protected habitat areas.4

This was not the end of the story for the Schaus Swallowtail. In tomorrow’s installment, author Irus Bravermen will provide an excerpt from her book, Wild Life: The Institution of Nature (Stanford University Press, 2015), in which she recounts her conversation with Thomas Emmel who directed the breeding and reintroduction program. Their in-depth discussions reveal the bureaucratic and other challenges of trying to save an endangered species.

 

Histories of Women and Energy

Workshop Report (23–25 April 2019, Rachel Carson Center, Munich)

By Ruth Sandwell and Abigail Harrison Moore

Why Women and Energy?

As people around the world slowly take in the connections between the energy-related practices of their daily lives and the planetary threat posed by fossil-fuel-induced climate change, historians are becoming increasingly aware of energy as a discrete force in shaping and changing societies over time. In a parallel move, scholars within energy studies are increasingly acknowledging the importance of the social and historical contexts, as well as the technological and economic, within which energy transitions occur. But the social history of energy transitions remains under-developed, and particularly with regard to gender. We now have a rich and growing analysis of men’s inventions, men’s labor, and men’s planning and development of systems for financing, organizing, selling, running, repairing, and maintaining the new networks of power, particularly electricity, oil, and gas, as well as some very good analyses of the political and economic implications of energy transitions. Though undeniably important topics, and ones that have intersected with women’s lives directly and indirectly, current studies have not left much room for either describing or theorizing the relationships that women have had with their environments, their families, and society more generally through the energy that they produced, processed, and consumed to support themselves and (typically) their families, nor how these changed through a variety of energy transitions. Read More

USES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES: SULE EMMANUEL EGYA

The Uses of Environmental Humanities series explores diverse and creative ways of thinking with the Environmental Humanities in responding to socio-environmental challenges. Contributors address the influence of the Environmental Humanities and ways in which we might use this field of study, offering insights into the interactions between societies, science, politics, and culture. The series is curated by Samantha Rothbart.


Anglophone Environmental Writing in Nigeria

By Sule Emmanuel Egya

Before I begin, let me point out that Environmental Humanities is yet to take an institutional shape in Nigeria, as I do not know of any department, institute, or center dedicated to it. Only a few of us are engaged in it, although there is a growing interest in it. We had a great impetus last year in the form of a national conference that I convened on 27–30 June 2018. Sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Bonn, it had the theme “Ecology and the Convergence of the Sciences and the Humanities.” It was the first of its kind in Nigeria, attended by enthusiastic scholars, most of them eager to know more and work within the area of Environmental Humanities. In my contribution to this series, I will give an overview of environmental writing in Nigeria in English, and sketch out how it can be read in a context of environmentalist concern.

When did environmental writing start in Nigeria? There are those who believe that recognition of the connection between environment and writing has a historical marker. This preconception underscores the emergence of ecocriticism as a relatively recent field of study. But it is problematic, in my view, to even think of environmental writing, in Nigeria, in Africa, as a recent phenomenon or as a function of the field of ecocriticism. Environmental writing has existed in Nigeria since the inception of modern Nigerian literature, and has its inspirational roots in the oralities (oral literatures) of Nigeria’s indigenous communities. Read More

Photographs of Turgoyak: Exploring Spiritual Awareness and Eco-resistance

Guest author Francesc Bellaubi is a senior researcher at South Urals State University and is currently collaborating with the chair of environmental ethics from the University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain. He has a background in environmental geology and engineering and experience in providing technical assistance to development agencies, NGOs, research institutes, and civil organizations, with special support towards fair management and governance of environments and natural resources. In this post, he diverges from the technical side of nurturing positive interactions with nature, and introduces us to a sacred place threatened by destructive human activity that has inspired his more recent philosophical work on spiritual human-nature relations. He reflects on how the photographic image could bring us to engage critically with a spiritual dimension, and how the act of taking and viewing photographs within this context can foster attitudes of respect to fellow humans and nature that could inspire spiritual eco-resistance.

*The above featured image shows a view of Lake Turgoyak from Miass city in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia. The lake is 60 million years old. Photo: A. Baygusheva, used here with kind permission.


 

Sacred Turgoyak: Where humans and Nature—past, present, and future—reside

Turgoyak is a small lake at the foot of the Southern Urals: a sacred, megalithic, ancient place and a site of pilgrimage for the Old Orthodox Believers, descendants of the Eastern Russian Orthodox Church. The smaller brother of Lake Baikal, Turgoyak is fed by the River Miass. It is the home of Russian mining colonies, witness to a Soviet missile factory, a forgotten lake for local hunters, and a tourist destination for Muscovites—a fantasy Tarkovsky-film location in which the past and present talk and people are just actors amongst the scenery. The lake cries slowly and quietly and the city close by is, every summer, engulfed by the surrounding forest. The elders walk around and the kids play in abandoned gardens. Read More

USES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES: LISA FITZGERALD

The Uses of Environmental Humanities series explores diverse and creative ways of thinking with the Environmental Humanities in responding to socio-environmental challenges. Contributors address the influence of the Environmental Humanities and ways in which we might use this field of study, offering insights into the interactions between societies, science, politics, and culture. The series is curated by Samantha Rothbart.


“Earth Bodies: Ana Mendieta, Performance Art, and the Environmental Humanities”

By Lisa FitzGerald

imagen de yagul

Imágen de Yágul (Image from Yagul), 1973. Lifetime color photograph, 19 x 12 ½ inches (48 x 32 cm). ©The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC, courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.

My art is grounded on the belief in one universal energy which runs through everything; from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.

My works are the irrigation veins of this universal fluid (Ana Mendieta).


The emergence of the environmental humanities discourse in recent years has instigated a review of conventional methodologies for cultural analysis. Re-reading a text or image can, in many ways, reveal (or at least reconfigure) an insight that speaks as much to contemporary environmental discourse as it does to its historical context. If we apply this point to the images and narratives of the past, we can see, through our (hopefully) more nuanced and objective stance, the undercurrents that made certain artists so relevant. The body art that emerged as a part of the growing feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s broke with convention to forge new ways of representing women’s bodies and is widely recognized for the political and social upheavals it instigated. However, looking at the movement and the artworks within it from the perspective of the environmental humanities also unveils more nuanced relationships to the nonhuman world such as the matter (blood, earth, and fire, for example) that forms the bedrock of the work of Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta. Read More

Uses of Environmental Humanities: Nicole Seymour

The Uses of Environmental Humanities series explores diverse and creative ways of thinking with the Environmental Humanities in responding to socio-environmental challenges. Contributors address the influence of the Environmental Humanities and ways in which we might use this field of study, offering insights into the interactions between societies, science, politics, and culture. The series is curated by Samantha Rothbart.


“The Aesthetics and Affects of Art in the Plasticene”

By Nicole Seymour

We’ve all seen it: a dead bird carcass on the ground, plastic shards and objects heaped where its stomach would have been. The image comes from US artist Chris Jordan’s photo series Midway: Message from the Gyre (2009–present) and, along with others in the series, it has been widely circulated as an emblem of the Anthropocene and, more specifically, the Plasticene.

Albatross_at_Midway_Atoll_Refuge_(8080507529)
Photo: Chris Jordan (via US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters) / CC BY 2.0 [Public domain]
As an environmental humanities scholar who has long been engaged with questions of aesthetics and affect, and who has recently started a project on microplastics, I am particularly struck by Jordan’s body of work, especially his recent documentary Albatross (2017). Filmed on the Midway Islands, the same location for his photo series, Albatross documents the births, lives, and occasional plastic-related deaths of the titular birds. (In one segment, we learn that parent birds can inadvertently swallow plastic when fishing in the ocean, and then later regurgitate it into their offspring’s mouths. When the fledglings need to purge later in order to fly, the plastic can tear their insides—leading to slow and painful demises. Albatross thus clearly hopes to move viewers emotionally, perhaps to the extent that they reduce the use of plastic in their own lives. Read More

On Environmental Grief and the Rights of Nature

Guest post by Kriss Kevorkian

*Featured image: Jill Hein

Twenty years ago, when I first coined the term environmental grief—the grief reaction stemming from the environmental loss of ecosystems caused by either natural or human-made events—I thought I was the only one grieving the destruction and ecocide I saw taking place around me. Fortunately, a few well-respected scientists told me that I had put a name to a vague feeling people had but couldn’t identify. Environmental grief was exactly what scientists, conservationists, and even science reporters were reacting to as they continued to observe species after species declining in front of their eyes. At a conference at Oxford University in 2006, I presented my research to a group of environmental scientists. When I talked to them, it was as though a light bulb had gone off. They too had experienced something for which, until that moment, they hadn’t been able to give a name to. But, at the time, there were also those who didn’t seem to understand environmental grief at all. At a second conference, several people asked me, “Why would you grieve about the environment?” Read More

Uses of Environmental Humanities: Salma Monani

The Uses of Environmental Humanities series explores diverse and creative ways of thinking with the Environmental Humanities in responding to socio-environmental challenges. Contributors address the influence of the Environmental Humanities and ways in which we might use this field of study, offering insights into the interactions between societies, science, politics, and culture. The series is curated by Samantha Rothbart.


“Four Ways of Seeing the Uses of Ecomedia Studies”[1]

By Salma Monani, Gettysburg College

Digital media permeates everyday life worldwide. All across the globe, from New York City to Nome,  from Nanjing to Mankosi, people can pull out a smart phone, tap on its screen, and access not only written words and photographs but also films, video games, and a host of other interactive and mixed media. As someone who remembers a time before such everyday access, who is uncomfortably a “digital immigrant,”[2] and spent my childhood without a computer (let alone a cell phone), I’m tempted to think about such media the way so many environmentalists have engaged technology for what seems like an eternity—with alarm at “the end of nature” and hand-wringing about “nature deficit order.” There is, of course, a tired hypocrisy to such declarations. Like so many others, I use digital media more than I don’t—not only for work but for play, sociality, and retreat. And, since I’m not alone in my use but rather one of over 2.1 billion people who owns a smart phone, there’s got to be some use in thinking about digital media in more than terms of gloomy (and doomy) binaries of technology versus Nature. This is the project of ecomedia studies. The field explores both digital and analog media through ecocritical lenses, and encourages interrogation of the entanglements of nature and culture that mark our everyday use of media.[3] Below I reflect on various uses of the field, bringing my own personal interest in the value of Indigenous media and its insights to the fore.

Read More

(Um)Weltschmerz: An Exercise in Humility and Melancholia

Conference Report (7–20 October 2018, Munich)

Nearly three years to the day after the Marie Curie ENHANCE ITN’s official kick-off  in Munich, a final conference titled (Um)Weltschmerz: An Exercise in Humility and Melancholia marked the official end of the program. After three years of intensive collaboration, the wide variety of academic disciplines and topics of the twelve doctoral researchers of ENHANCE came together in a four-day conference. The title (Um)Weltschmerz, a conjunction of Umwelt (environment) and Weltschmerz (the suffering of being in the world)—and a play on the recent term solastalgia—connotes the emotions felt for changing environments that were explored in this conference from a variety of perspectives.

Read More

City Environments around the Globe: Past Challenges, Future Visions

Conference Report (10–12 February 2019, New York University, Abu Dhabi)

The new collaboration between Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU Munich) and New York University (NYU) focuses on understanding urban environments over time and aims to explore urban issues and challenges via a comparative, transnational, and global framework. The second installment took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.


By Elena Torres Ruiz

We kicked off the workshop with an early-morning exploration of Abu Dhabi’s Eastern Mangroves. Our guide John Burt (Biology, NYUAD) elaborated on the relevance of such coastal ecosystems: Over half the human population lives within 100 km of a coast, and coastlines contain more than two-thirds of the world’s largest cities. As a result, humans have substantially modified the world’s natural coastal environments to suit their needs. Kayaking through the mangroves, we observed a stunning diversity of birds, the shallow waters alive with crustaceans and fry, mangrove roots lining the edges of sandbanks, and finally, construction equipment signaling the impending transformation of these habitats. John elaborated on the extraordinariness of these fragile, yet adaptive, systems that have suffered from human intervention as well as benefitted from it by way of increased access to nutrients and freshwater. Read More