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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Photo of the Week – Lawrence Culver

Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley Viewed from the Summit of MountSan Jacinto
Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley Viewed from the Summit of Mount
San Jacinto. Photo: Lawrence Culver.

The Coachella Valley and adjacent Imperial Valley, both part of the Colorado Desert in southeastern California and northern Baja California, are located in one of the hottest and driest regions in the world. The Coachella Valley is home to Palm Springs and a number of other desert resort cities famed for lush golf courses and swimming pools. The Imperial Valley is one of the largest centers of agricultural production in the US, providing produce year-round. Both are dependent on the Colorado River for their artificial abundance of water.

(Please click the photo for a larger image.)

Photo of the Week – Ingo K. Heidbrink

Photo: Prof. Dr. Ingo Heidbrink (December 2012)

The remains of the Norwegian whaling station ‘Hector Whaling Company’ and the British Research Station ‘Deception Island – Base B’ at Whalers Bay on Deception Island were destroyed by volcanic eruptions in 1967 and 1969. Today they serve as a monument for the whaling history of Antarctica as well as for the exposure of all human activities to natural hazards in high latitudes.

(Please click the photo for a larger image.)

Worldview: China’s Colorful Future

Post by Fei Sheng

“Yellow” has a unique meaning in the Chinese conception of environment and society. We have always believed that our civilization—which, despite small interruptions, has never been significantly disrupted during the last 4,000 or even 5,000 years—is derived from the soil of our mother land, the Yellow Highland (Loess Plateau), and from the water of our mother river, the Yellow River. Defining us within a settled and agricultural tradition, “yellow” is the symbol of all that is stable, fertile, and peaceful. Is this an accurate representation of our country? Does it reflect our understanding of environment and history?

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Five Minutes with a Fellow: Andrea Kiss

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.

pic_kissAndrea Kiss holds an MSc in geography, MAs in history and Hungarian medieval studies from Szeged University, and an MA and PhD in medieval studies from Central European University. She has taught at Szeged University for 16 years, lecturing on historical geography, environmental history, and related disciplines. Since 2010 she has been a research fellow at the Habsburg Historical Institute in Budapest and Szeged University. Her research focuses mainly on long-term changes in the historical environment of Hungary and the Carpathian Basin.

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“The Anthropocene: Where on Earth Are We Going?”

We are pleased to present a video of the keynote speech from the opening of The Anthropocene Project, a transdisciplinary investigation into the Anthropocene hypothesis, which states that Earth has entered a new geological epoch in which mankind itself has become a dominant geophysical force.

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“Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw”: Jiang Rong’s “Wolf Totem”

Post by Brenda Black

Jiang Rong’s autobiographical novel Wolf Totem was one of the group reads for the Global Environment Summer Academy held at the Rachel Carson Center last August. It recounts the experiences of a Chinese college student, Chen Zhen (the author’s alter ego), sent to live among the nomadic herders of Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. The young man is fascinated by the grasslands and the customs and culture of the people he is living among. The sheepherders live in constant conflict with the wolves as they try to protect their herds from attacks by the hungry animals, but also honor and revere them, returning their dead to the heavens (“sky burial”) through the agency of the wolves. This world is in danger, however, from the Chinese government, which is sending immigrants to settle and plow the grasslands in order to help feed China’s growing population.

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