On Canoes, Pine Trees, and Volcanoes: The Importance of Eyewitness Observation in Environmental Journalism

By: Mark Neužil

There are three critical components of environmental journalism: observation, research, and description. Of the three, in my experience as a journalist and journalism teacher, eyewitness observation is the piece that is most likely undervalued and, in some cases, ignored altogether.

Most journalists, by the time they get to a level in their careers where they can specialize in a topic like the environment, have developed skills in research (reporting out the facts) and description (the ability to write well). Indeed, it is nearly impossible to advance in the business without those two attributes. The same could be said for scholars in history, the humanities, and the sciences. My former PhD adviser memorably referred to the field of sociology as “slow journalism.”

Read More

Picturing Complexity: Environmental Photojournalism in the Twentieth Century

By: Anna-Katharina Woebse

Ever since the invention of photography in the late nineteenth century, animals, plants, picturesque sites, sublime landscapes, and human interactions with the environment, have provided motifs that have captured many modifications of human-nature relations. Photography has fundamentally affected the way readers and viewers understand and learn about the dynamics and consequences of such changes. Over the long twentieth century, photography and photojournalism became decisive instruments in framing environmental awareness and in setting the environmental agenda. The sets of accompanying narratives, however, changed and expanded over time, as did the extent and the complexity of environmental problems and conflicts.

Read More

Contested Ecologies: Munich

By: Clemens Hufeld

Munich is a beautiful city that has much to offer. It has the Oktoberfest, one of the world’s largest urban fairs, surfers in the middle of the city, beautiful landscapes in its vicinity, and a long tradition of urban life. The city is shrouded in such a wonderful air of beauty that it can only make you wonder: what is missing? Where are the problems any large city faces? Where is the conflict? Of course, as with any other city, there is plenty. These range from serious issues, such as close affiliations with the Third Reich, to interesting tidbits such as the Therme Erding’s—a water park and spa—origin as a Texaco borehole. Unfortunately, many people have neither the time nor the desire to dig into the unknown. This is where “Contested Ecologies: Munich” comes in.

Read More

Cfp: An Existential Toolkit for Climate Educators

Workshop, 03.07.2020 – 05.07.2020

Conveners: Jennifer Atkinson, Elin Kelsey, Sarah Ray

Location: Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, Germany

03.07.2020 – 05.07.2020 

This workshop seeks materials and presentations for an interdisciplinary workshop that will address the following question: how can educators, activists, and community leaders help students navigate the emotional impacts of ecological degradation and social injustice in the age of climate disruption? Our aim is to develop a practical toolkit for educators, students and activists across disciplines and professions, with potential emphasis on pedagogical applications, curricular implications, and even co-curricular connections (counseling and wellness, student life, etc).

Read More

Beyond Denial and Anger: How Journalists and Scientists can Collaborate for Better Communication

By: Rosalind Margaret Donald

In the early months of 1999, the UK press traded headlines for and against the use of genetically modified crops. A circulation war had escalated to ecstatic heights, peaking in February with the Daily Express’s headline “MUTANT CROPS COULD KILL YOU.” Questioned a few months after the frenzy was over, in the cold light of Parliament, the editor admitted the claim was “probably racked up to make it a good headline.” It was, he said, “probably pushing it quite far.”

Scientists can find themselves carried on the crest of a wave of stories only partly connected to their research. The Express’s headline was based on a paper discussing the unproven possibility that genetic modification of food crops could spread antibiotic resistance to human pathogens, but the paper’s choice to cover it as part of an anti-GM campaign resulted from competition with other outlets like the Daily Mail.

Read More

The Making of a Mountain: Constructing the Untersberg Mountain as a Contemporary Spiritual Destination

By: Robert Baumgartner

While waiting for the train back to Munich at the end of our place-based workshop in Berchtesgaden National Park last summer, I browsed the local station bookshop’s section on local tourism, culture, and folklore. With the National Park becoming an ever more popular tourist destination, it was not surprising to see tables filled with hiking guides addressing specific interests like local geology, local wildlife, short trips for families, and mountain bikes.

But, I was intrigued when I found a number of guide books for spiritual tourists—an unexpected demographic for Bavarian tourism. Books like Magisches Oberbayern. Wanderungen zu Orten der Kraft (Magical Upper Bavaria: Hiking Trips to Sites of Cosmic Energy) and Magisches Berchtesgadener Land. Ein Führer zu den vergessenen und neuen Kraft- und Kultorten rund um den Untersberg (The Magical Berchtesgaden Region: A Guide to the Forgotten and New Sites of Cosmic Energy around the Untersberg Mountain) suggest that the area of the national park, especially the northernmost mountain of the Untersberg region, enjoys a special spiritual significance.

Read More

Green Talks: Barbro Soller and the Emergence of Modern Environmentalism in 1960s Sweden

*Featured image: The modern villa family, on the front page of the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, 4 November 1968. ©Dagens Nyheters digital archive, used with kind permission.

By David Larsson Heidenblad

The historiography of modern environmentalism revolves around scientists, intellectuals, activists, and politicians. Hence, we know much about the likes of Rachel Carson and Barry Commoner, the formation of the environmental movement, and the making of new environmental policy. However, the role journalists played in, and for, these turn of events remains underdeveloped. Who were the first environmental journalists? What did they do? What consequences did their writings have? In this blog post, I will address these questions by highlighting the work of Swedish journalist Barbro Soller and her public breakthrough as an environmental journalist in the spring of 1968.

Read More

Green Talks: Looking Behind the Scenes of Environmental Journalism

In this new series edited by Maximilian Feichtner, Jonas Stuck, and Ayushi Dhawan of the DFG Emmy-Noether Research Group Hazardous Travels. Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy, the authors take a look into the role of environmental journalism in communicating science and spurring change, as well as the challenges journalists face in documenting and writing dynamic events involving the natural world.

By Maximilian Feichtner, Jonas Stuck, and Ayushi Dhawan

“I got an anonymous call. For some reason I thought it was one of the workers out at the platform. I answered the phone and they said something like, ‘The ocean is boiling. The bottom of the ocean exploded’,” said Bob Sollen, former Santa Barbara News-Press reporter. On 28 January 1969, a disastrous leak at the Union Oil well led to a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara; an estimated 11 million liters of crude oil was spewed into the ocean, creating an oil slick 56 kilometers long along California’s coast and killing thousands of birds, fish, and sea mammals. Read More

Memorializing the Landscape: Walking the Stanza Stones Trail

Image of the Beck Stone reused with thanks to John Illingworth, who retains copyright
The Beck Stone. Photo © John Illingworth (cc-by-sa/2.0).

By: Eveline de Smalen

Preparing to take my sister out on a walk in the Yorkshire countryside, I looked at a map. The map, as it often is in these days of technological wonder, was an app that I have on my phone. I am a literary critic, not a cartographer. I don’t know very much about maps. Still, or perhaps for this very reason, I was intrigued. I was studying the terrain between Ilkley and Saltaire, which I heard was a nice place to walk. There seemed to be some runs of water, quite a few paths, a body of water called The Tarn, and a plethora of small black triangles with names like Cranshaw Thorn Hill, Hog Hill, and the mysterious Spy Hill. A white star in a brown circle marked a landmark called Cow and Calf, and there something caught my literary eye: a second brown circle, this one with what seemed like a white obelisk, marked Stanza Stone: Beck.

Read More

Sourdough Cultures

By: Matthew Morse Booker

Introduction: An Embodied Multispecies Environmental Humanities Experience

As one of the first Alumni Fellows at the Rachel Carson Center (RCC), I wanted to return something to the remarkable community of RCC staff, students, and fellows. In North Carolina I am part of the Sourdough Project, a global public science experiment using sourdough bread culture to explore the biological diversity in our homes.[1] With some effort, sourdough allowed us to share an embodied, multispecies environmental humanities experience together.

Family Sourdough

This culture entered my family tree around 1900, the year that 22-year old Charles E. Bunnell and his wife Mary Ann Kline migrated to Kodiak, Alaska to work as teachers.[2] According to their daughter Jean, the Bunnells got the culture as a gift from a “sourdough,” a prospector in the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, who in turn made it locally or brought it from unknown origins outside Alaska.[3] Read More