Five Minutes with a Fellow: Carmel Finley

Five Minutes with a Fellow offers a brief glimpse into what inspires researchers in the environmental humanities. The interviews feature current and former fellows from the Rachel Carson Center.

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Carmel Finley is interested in the role of oceans as an intersection between science and politics. Her book All the Fish in the Sea: Maximum Sustained Yield and the Failure of Fisheries Management (University of Chicago Press, 2011) deals with the influence of the US State Department in the development of fisheries science between 1945 and 1958. Finley also maintains a blog about the history of fishing in the Pacific. A former newspaper reporter, in 2007 Finley completed her PhD in the history of science at the University of California, San Diego.

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The Art of Ecological Thinking: documenta 13

Post by Ben Tendler

Now held every five years for 100 days in Kassel, Germany, documenta is one of the largest and most important international contemporary art fairs in the world. It was originally one element among many aimed at social, political, and cultural recovery following the collapse of Germany’s Nazi regime. As such, at its inception in 1955, one of its key purposes was to restore to prominence artworks that the Nazis had branded “degenerate” (entartete Kunst) in 1937. Since then, documenta has provided a unique window on international art movements. By the time documenta 13 ended in September this year, themes of collapse and recovery associated specifically with the post-World War II scenario in Germany had clearly become entangled with themes of collapse and recovery associated with contemporary or pending ecological crises around the world.

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Learning to Love Pesticides: A Look at Popular American Attitudes

Post by Michelle Mart

Since the publication of Silent Spring in 1962, there have been numerous popular and scholarly studies of pesticide use in the United States. Environmentalists and others have credited Rachel Carson with awakening people to the dangers of overuse of these chemicals. Such praise is warranted, and it is clear that Silent Spring did change the course of modern American history, changing people’s understanding of the environment and the human role in it.

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Questioning the Limits to Growth: Responses to a Lecture by Dennis Meadows

Following Dennis Meadows’ lecture, “The Limits to Growth and the Future of Humanity,” which was given at the Amerika Haus in Munich on Tuesday, 4 December 2012, the RCC is making available the slides used during the presentation and the questions collected from the audience. Many people responded to the issues Meadows raised. To make the questions easier to navigate, we have grouped them into five (loose) categories: Individual Actions, Collective Strategies, Visions of the Future, Politics and Business, and Science and the Scientific Community. We hope that these resources give a flavor of Meadows’ fascinating talk and of the thought-provoking discussion that followed.

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree: “The Limits to Growth” through the Generations

By Annka Liepold; published in conjuction with a lecture by Dennis Meadows, co-author of The Limits to Growth, an event co-sponsored by the RCC.

book_coverGrowing up, most people are told by their parents what they can do to make this planet better. I remember that my dad’s advice was a little more radical than the usual “plant a tree” or “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Maybe because it’s so radical, I remember it well. He always told me and my brother that if you wanted to really help the environment, there were two things you could do: 1) immediately kill yourself, or 2) don’t have kids.

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The Alpha Experiment

Post by Dominic Kotas

Imagine that, at some point in the future, we discover another planet (Planet Alpha). It’s perfect for us. Somehow it satisfies all our requirements and renders Earth irrelevant to our survival. So, we leave Earth, and move into our new planet. After a few months, we start to feel at home in Alpha’s abundant environment. Earth, with its annoyingly delicate ecosystems and fragile climate, becomes a distant memory.

We find, though, that we feel a vague unease on Alpha. Didn’t we used to claim that we cared about Earth? In that case, shouldn’t we return and check that everything is going well? Read More

An Interview with Jane Carruthers

Combining histories to look at the whole picture is something very particular to environmental history, according to Jane Carruthers, a professor of history at the University of South Africa and an RCC board member. She offers this and other interesting insights into the present and future of environmental history in this video, produced by the journal Historia Ambiental  Latinoamericana y Caribeña (Environmental History of Latin America and the Caribbean) for their most recent volume.

Watch the interview and tell us your thoughts.


HALAC is the journal of Sociedad Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Historia Ambiental (SOLCHA), the academic community for Latin American and Caribbean environmental historians.

Thanks to HALAC for letting us share the interview!

Five Minutes with a Fellow: Claudia Leal

Five Minutes with a Fellow offers a brief glimpse into what inspires researchers in the environmental humanities. The interviews feature current and former fellows from the Rachel Carson Center.

Claudia Leal is an associate professor in the department of history at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. Her research has focused on both the formation and the present state of peasant societies in rainforest environments, and on the role of racial categorization in shaping Latin American societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

 

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Assessing the Success of Silent Spring

Post by Katie Ritson, posted in conjunction with the publication of the RCC Perspectives issue, “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring: Encounters and Legacies”

Working for a center named after Rachel Carson and in the fiftieth anniversary year of her book Silent Spring, it’s easy to wax fulsome on the great woman and the role she played in creating an environmental awareness for our modern age. Certainly, the influence of Silent Spring and Carson’s continuing, albeit posthumous, ability to inspire legions to take up the green banner is undeniable and wonderful.

But the danger of the closed narrative that this kind of hagiography inspires is that it ties up the story too neatly. There seems to be a deep human need to seek out reductive and causal fables to underpin our understanding of the world, and Carson’s success is too easily readable as a turning point in human history: the moment when the world’s population, with Rachel at its head, started to see sense, and moved to stem the tide of pollution and anthropogenic damage.

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Dust Storm

Post by Donald Worster

On October 19 the American media excitedly reported “a massive dust storm” blanketing northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas. For several hours the winds blew dirt eastward from the plains, limiting visibility on the ground to a mere ten feet. The storm turned Interstate 35, which runs from Kansas City to Oklahoma City, into a nightmare. Automobiles collided with one another in the thick fog of dust, and more than a dozen people were injured.

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Germany’s “Coal Pit” Reinvents Itself

This post was originally composed for polis and is re-posted here with their permission.

Miners’ homes at Robert Müser mine in Bochum, 1961. Source: Bundesarchiv
Deep in the West, where the sun is gathering dust,” bellows Herbert Grönemeyer in an ode to his home town, Bochum, “things are better, much better than you think.” Even for the bestselling German pop artist of all time, this was a tough sell. Bochum is located in the middle of the Ruhr region, colloquially known as “der Pott,” or “the coal pit.” Generations of Germans have grown up to think of it as a place filled with coal dust and poisonous fumes, smokestacks and gritty miners’ towns, and the roar and glow of blast furnaces. Like many boom regions of the classic industrial period, from the Yorkshire coal fields to the U.S. Rust Belt, the Ruhr has been hit hard by the decline of mining and heavy industry since the 1960s. The jobs vanished; rusting steel, crumbling bricks, and a heavily polluted landscape remained. How to build a new identity from the industrial ruins of yesteryear in the postindustrial age is a question few have answered convincingly.

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Barry Commoner and the Bridge between the Lab and the Ghetto

Post by Robert Gioielli

With Barry Commoner’s death last week, the American environmental movement lost one of its most underappreciated leaders and voices. This may seem like an overstatement, considering the robust obituaries offered up in the days after his passing, but Commoner is not as well known as he should be. He is deserving of this attention not only because of a career of research, activism and advocacy that lasted for more than fifty years, but also because of his understanding of the radical implications of environmental activism, and his willingness to connect ecological thinking to the social conflicts of postwar America.

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