Gifts and Ghosts

By Kate Wright

I’m seven years old dancing to Buddy Holly on a red rug. The warm crackle of the stylus on the vinyl rhymes with the burning wood hissing on the open fire. Carbon, once captured and condensed into living forests, is rapidly escaping its cellulose confines. A grammar of branches crumbling in the intensities of flame punctuates the staccato words vibrating in our lounge room, each wooden pop and bang a wild loose comma accentuating the rhythms of the song. Dad turns the volume up and red wine swirls in his glass as we dance and sing Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue, pretty pretty pretty pretty Peggy Sue, oh-oh peggy, my peggy sue-oo-oo.

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Between Here and There

Countries of origin of RCC Fellows, Rachel Carson Center (Source: Anna Pilz)

By Anna Pilz

I have never set foot on the continent called Australia. I am unfamiliar with its beaches, bushlands, deserts, and cityscapes, with their sounds and smells, colours and textures. It is a place far away that I encountered mostly in my studies on nineteenth-century Ireland. I have travelled there in my imagination alongside thousands of Irish migrants who were shipped to or set sail for the new colony in attempts to leave famine-stricken Ireland. I imagined what the lengthy journey across oceans must have been like for the 4,000 orphaned Irish girls whose arrival is marked by a Famine Rock in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown. Stepping onto land with uncertainty and fear in an unfamiliar environment. Read More

Smoke, Black Cockatoos, and Banksias

Stirling Ranges, Western Australia (Source: Terri Anne Allen)

By Jessica White

In November 2019, before I flew to Munich, I stayed with my parents in Armidale, New South Wales. National parks, farms, and properties between the town and the coast were on fire and, depending on the wind, the grey-brown miasma of smoke blocked out the blue sky. The town was on level five restrictions, limiting residents to 160 litres of water per person per day. My mother, who had gardened all her life, agonised over which plant to save and which to let die. We threw our bathwater over the broccoli. In the mornings, I woke with the smell of smoke in my hair. Read More

Watch and Act, Summer

Susan Ballard, Tree scratchings, Wollongong, November 2019

By Susan Ballard

At first, there are only a couple of photos. The usual places: the Guardian, Instagram, Facebook. I trace the fire as it creeps down and across the Southern Highlands, through the deep gullies of the Blue Mountains, and suddenly flares across the South Coast. I keep half an eye on the glistening diamonds placed carefully by the Rural Fire Service on their Fires Near Me app. They give each fire a name of its own: Currowan, Ruined Castle, Grose Valley, Green Wattle Creek. They colour them blue, yellow, red. They tell me to “watch and act.” I watch, only a little afraid. I don’t act. Read More

Matter of Degrees

*Featured image: Australian bushfires from space, 2019 (CC BY SA 3.0)

By Anna Pilz and Kate Wright

In early January 2020, we began discussing the possibility of curating a collection of creative and intellectual work about the bushfire crisis devastating unceded Aboriginal countries in the continent that is now commonly called “Australia”. Now, only three months later, we find ourselves in a changed world. The Australian bushfire crisis has been outrun by the next disaster. While the smoke cloud from the bushfires circles the Earth, the COVID-19 virus is spreading like wildfire across the globe.

We are living in a time of rolling crises, launching from one calamitous event to the next. How is one to respond well, in both thought and action, to this era of increasing precarity? As a return to “normal life” becomes an impossible target, there is an urgent need for creativity, invention, and experimentation to determine how we will collectively live inside, and in relation to, crises.

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Annotated Bibliography

Australian bushfires as viewed from the International Space Station, 4 January 2020, NASA ISS (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Compiled by Jayne Regan

The destructive scale of the 2019-2020 Australian fire season was reported around the world. This multilingual bibliography—collated with the help of RCC associates—offers a sample of online material relating to the fires, published within Australia and without.

For their assistance in collating this bibliography, we would like to thank: Anna Antonova, Anna Barcz, Ayushi Dhawan, Malcolm Ferdinand, Martín Fonck, Sara M. Gregg, Christian Lahnstein, Thomas Lekan, Morgane Llanque, Ajit Menon, Jenia Mukherjee, Killian Quigley, Katie Ritson, Libby Robin, Sofia De La Rosa, Elana Torres Ruiz, and Xiaoping Sun. Read More

Mosquitopia? Could We or Should We Eradicate Mosquitos: A Short Film

In this short film created by the Mosquitopia team following the Rachel Carson Legacy Symposium “Mosquitopia? The Place of Pests in a Healthy World,” 21 experts give their opinions and insights on this critical question. For more on the topic, check out the symposium report, as well as the three-part feature “Mosquitopia” in the ongoing series “Silent Spring Continued: A World without Insects.”

Writing with Landscape—A Workshop with Laura Watts

By Martín Fonck, Saskia Brill & Noemi Quagliati

“Stuff happens off camera, the pen only moves so fast, you can only sit in one chair, not all the chairs in all the room. This is good, honest objectivity because it has good, honest limits. The instruments for observation are here, not over there, and definitely not everywhere all at once. What you read has a partial perspective” (Watts, 2018:6)

In February 2020, we, the members of the doctoral program from the RCC, invited Laura Watts from the University of Edinburgh as our guest speaker for the Lunchtime Colloquium. We were curious to hear about Laura’s work not only because of her interesting research on energy landscapes, but also for her experience in creative and speculative writing. Laura is an ‘Ethnographer of Futures’ as well as a writer, artist, and poet. Her research, based on the Orkney Islands, explores ‘landscapes on the edge,’ where she asks how futures are imagined and made.

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Book review: Fire: A Brief History (Second Edition) by Stephen J. Pyne

This book review was written by Annika Spenger, one of the students in the Environmental Studies Certificate Program at the Rachel Carson Center.

By Annika Spenger

“We are truly a species touched by fire” (p. 24)—Stephen J. Pyne’s book Fire: A Brief History focuses on exactly this relationship of mankind, fire, and nature. Published as part of the Weyerhaueser Environmental Books series by the University of Washington Press in 2019, the second edition adds to the first, from 2001, with a new chapter on the future of a world full of fire. Pyne suggests calling the world we are living in “Pyrocene”—a new concept inspired by and carrying onward the well-used term Anthropocene. Apart from this new chapter, Pyne revises his nearly two decades old first edition in the light of the ongoing fire research in transdisciplinary environmental studies. Yet he has kept the overall structure of the book the same, narrating “the entire human history of fire on Earth” (p. IX).

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Opplevelser I Stavanger

(Adventures in Stavanger)

In this mini series you can read about the experiences of Johanna Felber and Malin Klinski, candidates of the RCC’s Environmental Studies Certificate program, during an exchange program with the University of Stavanger in Norway. If you want to find out more about life in the land of the midnight sun, trolls, and vikings, you are in the right place... 

By Johanna Felber and Malin Klinski

Stavanger is a place of contradictions. The fourth largest city of Norway is situated on the southwestern coastline. Depending on who you ask, you will hear quite different stories about the place. Some might talk about Stavanger as being Norway’s (or even Europe’s) petroleum capital. The big-oil resources have not only helped the city of Stavanger to accumulate wealth – they are also a symbol of the nation’s global economic importance. As recently as January 2020, the Norwegian government officially opened a new giant oil field, 140 kilometers off the shore of Stavanger. It is estimated to generate a maximum turnover of US $100 billion. Norway itself obtains its energy mostly from renewable sources, especially wind- and hydropower. Stavanger’s oil and gas are mainly export goods.

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