Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Student Research: Permaculture – Alternative Agriculture, part 2

Last year, students of the RCC Environmental Studies Certificate Program had the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop with Jochen Koller, Diploma Permaculture-Designer and Director of the Forschungsinstitut für Permakultur und Transition (FIPT). Students gained an insight into the ethics and design principles of permaculture, the diverse spheres of activity, and the practical possibilities. In this short series of posts, students reflect on their experiences at the workshop and on permaculture as an interdisciplinary approach to thinking, planning, and designing.


“Permaculture and the Hummelhof— A Philosophy for Life?”

By Stefan Bitsch

We are 14 people, driving through the calm and gentle landscape of the Allgäu to the first stop of our permaculture workshop. The first thing which strikes us as we enter the 17-hectare farm is that the garden has an unfamiliar feeling to it. It seems both peaceful and, strangely enough, busy, like no other place we will visit on that trip.

In front of the farm, whose façade is paneled with insect hotels, Mr. Hummel is already waiting to give us a tour.

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Insect hotel. Photo: Lea Wiser.

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Student Research: Permaculture – Alternative Agriculture, part 1

Last year, students of the RCC Environmental Studies Certificate Program had the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop with Jochen Koller, Diploma Permaculture-Designer and Director of the Forschungsinstitut für Permakultur und Transition (FIPT). Students gained an insight into the ethics and design principles of permaculture, the diverse spheres of activity, and the practical possibilities. In this short series of posts, students reflect on their experiences at the workshop and on permaculture as an interdisciplinary approach to thinking, planning, and designing.


“Let’s Save the World by Gardening!”

By Marlen Elders

“Permaculture”—a neologism combining “permanent” and “agriculture”—is all about sustainability with the aim of creating a self-preserving world (Koller 2009, 9ff.). A permacultural gardener aims to create a symbiotic interaction between soil, plants, animals, and microorganisms, each of which profits from the other—ideally resulting in a positive outcome for the gardener too. Clearly, the concept comes with an ideology: the ethics of diversity and care that goes beyond bare agricultural methods. This idea is alive and kicking, still evolving, still improving, as the father of permaculture, Bill Mollison, hoped it would. He referred to permaculture as a tool that needs to be tested, modified, and developed further. He encouraged the creation of permaculture networks to exchange experiences and to spread knowledge amongst practitioners (Mollison and Holmgren 1985, 13).

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Jochen Koller (right) with Alexander H. at Hummelhof, Elmatried. Photo by Ursula Münster.

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Making Tracks: Ernst Langthaler

In the “Making Tracks” series, RCC fellows and alumni present their experiences in environmental humanities, retracing the paths that led them to the Rachel Carson Center. For more information, please click here.

By Ernst Langthaler

A Pile of Stones in the Midst of a Meadow”

I grew up in a remote village of about 2,000 inhabitants. It was situated at the northeastern fringe of the Austrian Limestone Alps and embedded in a mountainous landscape. Located in the main valley, the central settlement, the Markt (“market”), comprised public buildings (among them a Catholic church, a municipal office, and a primary school) and several dozen private houses belonging to nonagricultural dwellers—employees in the building and manufacturing industries and transport services, as well as small artisans and merchants. In the adjacent valleys and scattered along the mountains, medium-sized family farms dotted the landscape, vast stretches of grassland and forest between them.

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Figure 1: Central settlement and surrounding area of my home village with restored meadow (light brown area) after a landslide, ca. 2005. Photo: Ernst Langthaler.

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Student Project: Krautgarten

by Adrian Franco, LMU and Environmental Studies Certificate Program Student

Which spaces at our university provide the right kind of ground for gardening? How does urban farming work, and is it realistically achievable? How can we develop an understanding of the plants we eat by growing them ourselves? Fruitful discussions as part of the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Certificate Program inspired us to bring our ideas and thoughts literally into the field. What had started as academic dialogue led a group of us renting and cultivating a plot at Fasanerie, on the outskirts of Munich. Continue reading


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Fundraising Appeal: Catastrophic Fires around Lake Baikal, Siberia

by David Moon, Lead Investigator, Leverhulme International Network, Exploring Russia’s Environmental History and Natural Resources

The pristine taiga forests surrounding Lake Baikal in Siberia—the world’s largest freshwater lake—have been hit by catastrophic fires during a heatwave this summer. The fires are now getting out of control and emergency services are struggling to cope. The ecological consequences are potentially very serious.

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Catastrophic Forest Fires at Lake Baikal. Photograph: SOS Baikal Buryatia.

I was very fortunate to visit Lake Baikal with an international group of environmental historians at the end of July. We saw forest fires around the lake, much of which was shrouded with smoke. The situation is now much worse, as reported in the English language Siberian newspaper.

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Snapshot: Farmers’ Protest in Munich

By Katharina Müller

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Tractors line up at Odeonsplatz, Munich. Photograph: Katharina Müller.

Around 3,000 despairing farmers rally at Munich’s Odeonsplatz against the milk price drop. A farmer needs at least 40 cents per liter in order to operate sustainably, receiving an average of 26 cents: this threatens the existence of around 80,000 farms in Germany. The German Association of Dairy Cattle Holders (Bundesverband Deutscher Milchviehhalter) sees the problem in the current surplus of milk, and calls for a prohibition of the surplus production through the European Union. Continue reading