Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Toward a Beautiful Rural Life

by Zhen Wang

Jenny Chio’s book A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China attracted me because of its connection to my current research project at the Rachel Carson Center. One of the reasons for this is that we share the same research area—southwest China. My own research focuses on the changing landscape of ethnic minority villages in Sichuan Province; Chio’s book tells a story of two ethnic minority villages located in Guangxi and Guizhou provinces respectively. Together, these are three important places in southwest China. Another main reason is that we are both interested in how minority peoples’ living environments and everyday lives have changed and been shaped by the influences which have come from China’s rapid urbanization and economic development during the last nearly four decades. Continue reading


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Making Tracks: Yan Gao

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.

“Watermarks on My Path”

By Yan Gao

When I started writing this article, my home city, Wuhan—situated at the confluence of the Yangzi and Han Rivers—was undergoing one of the largest floods in the city’s modern history. According to data from the Wuhan meteorological authorities, from 1 June to 6 July, cumulative rainfall in Wuhan’s main districts totaled 1087.2 mm, and the weekly precipitation in Wuhan from 30 June to 6 July reached a record-breaking 574.1 mm. The excessive water paralyzed the entire city: subway stations were submerged, roads were flooded, communities experienced severe drainage problems, there were citywide electricity cuts, and schools and workplaces closed. I was thousands of miles away, anxiously reading news reports. Continue reading


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CfP: “Transformations of the Earth”—International Graduate Student Workshop in Environmental History

Location: Renmin University, China

Conveners: Christof Mauch (Rachel Carson Center), Mingfang Xia (Renmin University), Donald Worster (Renmin University)

This conference is open to advanced graduate students and early postdocs, regardless of department, discipline, or country. The purpose of the conference is to provide promising, but inexperienced scholars an opportunity to present their work in progress (e.g., a chapter from a dissertation) before an international group of peers and a panel of senior mentors in the field.

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Beijing. Photograph: Flickr, Nikolaj Potanin.

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Student Project: The Birth of Geoengineering

by Martin Meiske

Congratulations to RCC doctoral program member Martin Meiske, who received the prize for the best poster at the 2015 ESEH conference in Versailles. In his poster he presented his dissertation project on “The Birth of Geoengineering: Large-scale Engineering Projects in the Early Stage of the Anthropocene (1850–1950)”—here, he tells us more about his inspiration and path to the RCC.

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Photo of the Week: Helmuth Trischler

Honge Hani Rice Terraces, Yunnan, China. Photograph: Helmuth Trischler.

Yunnan rice terraces. Photograph: Helmuth Trischler.

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces—a famous UNESCO world cultural heritage site in southwest China’s Yunnan province. Hani people have cultivated the land into terraced rice paddies for at least 1,300 years, creating a unique manufactured landscape. Continue reading


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CfP: Manufacturing Landscapes—Nature and Technology in Environmental History

28–31 May 2015, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China

Co-sponsored by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich, and the Center for Ecological History, Renmin University of China

Nuclear power plants, bullet trains, factory farms, and ancient rice paddies are all forms of landscapes transformed by technology. They express a relationship between humans and the natural world. Like all technologies, they have been shaped by their environmental conditions and in turn have reshaped the earth into new environments.

This conference seeks to include papers on such topics as the transformation of plants, animals, and genes into “organic machines,” the impact of water or electric power production on natural systems, mining as an intervention in nature, the perception of nature through the changing lens of technology and innovation, and the ecology of industrialization. Other issues of interest include the meaning of the “Anthropocene” and its cultural implications, Western vs. non-Western views of the line separating nature from technology, theories of hybridity and techno-imperialism, and concepts of envirotech histories.

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