Photo of the Week: Christof Mauch

Christof 1
Photo: Christof Mauch

This is a beach in Malibu. It is one of the most expensive places on the planet: the smallest bungalow is a multimillion dollar property.

The sea is eating the land away. The sand is public but the owners are protecting their properties by shovelling up public sand and putting it in plastic bags to protect their private properties. The workers who do this are generally Mexican and often illegal. Some of them wear uniforms to give the appearance of legitimacy but they are not allowed to be in the US. They are badly paid and wary of photographers.

Two weeks after this photo was taken, a heavy storm hit the coast and some of the bags were washed back into the pacific ocean.

(Please click the picture for a larger image.)

Video: Donald Worster on “Facing Limits: Abundance, Scarcity, and the American Way of Life”

The Rachel Carson Center has produced a series of video interviews with fellows and associates regarding their work. Below is one video from this series.

For the complete playlist (55 videos), click here.

All Environmental Politics is Local: What Today’s Climate Activists Can Learn From Yesterday’s Antipollution Movement

Post by Christopher Sellers

As we approach the forty-third Earth Day, American climate activism has finally gotten feisty. Hopes have arisen that its sway can approach that of the antipollution movement of the 1960s, out of which the first Earth Day sprang.

A recent “Forward Climate” protest on February 17 drew an estimated 35–40,000 people to the mall in Washington, D.C. – the largest non-Earth Day environmental protest to happen there since the 1979 antinuclear rally after Three Mile Island. While this activism may not stop the Keystone pipeline, the Bill McKibben-led but otherwise youthful team has much more in store for the summer, from an “Earth Night” to a campaign for divestiture from top fossil fuel companies that is gathering momentum. On this new climate movement’s dilemmas and prospects, that earlier movement against pollution that was so profusely successful sheds an instructive light.

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Five Minutes with a Fellow: Grace Karskens

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.


Grace Karskens is an associate professor of history in the School of Humanities at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Her research interests include urban/environmental humanities, Australian colonial history, and cross-cultural history. Her present project is an environmental history of the Penrith Lakes Scheme and the lost colonial landscape of Castlereagh in Western Sydney.

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The Origins of Ecocide

Post by Amy Hay

In the fall of 2011, an unusual mock trial (see video below) took place, putting corporate leaders on trial for the crime of “ecocide.” Based on an imagined international law prohibiting the destruction of the natural environment, whether intentional or not, the case returned one verdict of not guilty for the oil spill off the coast of Mexico and two verdicts of guilty for petroleum corporations’ extraction of oil from the Canadian tar sands. The idea of ecocide, however, originated much earlier, in the mid-twentieth century. Scientists and other critics of the United States’ war in Vietnam had grown increasingly concerned about the massive amounts of chemical defoliants sprayed on the South Vietnamese countryside. These concerns led them to a new understanding of environmental degradation: ecocide.

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A Note on Recent Floods and Relocation in Australia

Post by Ina Richter

The year 2013 is still fairly young but already there have been major natural disasters. Among these are the tremendous floods in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, brought on by Cyclone Oswald. The cyclone had formed in the Gulf of Carpentaria just north of Australia. It was degraded to an ex-tropical storm when making landfall on Queensland’s coast on January 22. Slowed down by a low pressure system, the storm hugged south-east Queensland for days before moving further south towards New South Wales. In the wake of Oswald, torrential rain and record breaking winds, tidal surges, and even tornados rushed over the East Coast.

Cyclone Oswald
Tropical Cyclone Oswald on 21 January 2013
Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: NASA, MODIS/LANCE

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Germany’s Great Green Gamble: Energy and Environmentalism in Transition

Post by Frank Uekoetter

A specter is haunting Europe: the specter of the Energiewende. One of the leading industrial countries has decided to forgo nuclear power, staking its future instead on renewable energies, and the rest of the world is trying to make sense of the decision. And with that country being Germany, we have the usual stereotypes at play: the sentimentallly green, oh-so-fearful of radiation, irrational German embarking on yet another Sonderweg; we will probably have to save their asses again. Energiewende is German angst reloaded.

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Changing the Conversation with Ecofeminism: A Primer

Post by Jenny Seifert

Changing a paradigm is no easy task—an understatement, no doubt. It probably seems just as easy as solving the world’s environmental problems. And shifting the paradigms that underlie those problems may seem like a doubly impossible task. Yet, the fate of humanity might hang on our ability to accomplish the impossible.

So, where do we even begin? I would argue the first step is to change the conversation—that is, how we even talk about and thus view our relationship with nature. We need to rid ourselves of the cultural narratives that have enabled environmental abuse and adopt an alternative storyline.

One movement that is attempting to drastically change the conversation but, in my opinion, has been too confined to academic circles is ecofeminism.

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Photo of the Week – Grace Karskens

Photo: Grace Karskens.

The Penrith Lakes Scheme area near Sydney, Australia, taken from Hawkesbury Lookout. The photo shows the surviving river flats and farms, the open cut gravel pits, the new lakes forming, the Nepean River on the right, and the foothills of the Lapstone Monocline (the Blue Mountains) in the foreground.

(Please click the photo for a larger image.)

Living with Zombie Mines

Post by John Sandlos and Arn Keeling

Mention the words “zombie mine” and you risk conjuring images of grotesque undead figures lurking in dark abandoned tunnels, more the stuff of movie or video game fantasies than anything to do with mining in the real world. And yet, the idea behind the zombie – that of a malevolent force expressed though the afterlife – is a useful metaphor for thinking about the social and environmental issues surrounding abandoned mines. Our research project, Abandoned Mines in Northern Canada, has suggested to us that mines can have a zombie-like ‘afterlife’ in two ways: through the redevelopment of a formerly abandoned mine to remove remaining ore deposits as prices improve on global markets, or (the focus of this blog contribution) though long-term environmental impacts such toxic tailings, acid mine drainage, or landscape change.

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