Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


Leave a comment

Mumbai Deluge 2017: Nowadays Rain Gods Have a New Tool—Plastic Bags!

by Ayushi Dhawan

We often do not think twice before buying a plastic bag at a supermarket or a shopping mall. It’s bought because it’s needed and discarded after being used for a short while. How harmful can these everyday practices be to our environment? Mumbai’s recent floods definitely have a story to tell in this regard, where these harmless-looking plastic bags acted as a major pollutant and literally suffocated both the drains and the residents of the city.

Mumbai, the sprawling financial metropolis and capital city of Maharashtra, with a population of over 18.3 million people, came to a grinding halt on 29 August 2017 when torrential rains struck the city. Transportation systems came to a standstill as the suburban train services were temporarily suspended. Along with that, many flights were either canceled or delayed because the runway remained non-operational, marooning countless people. Subsequently, the power supply was cut off in various parts of the city to prevent electrocution. This deluge was instantly compared, by media channels and local residents, to the 2005 floods when the state of Maharashtra was struck by high tides which in turn triggered devastating storms and floods killing 1,094 people in the city of Mumbai. But these comparisons in a way were misleading, since statistically speaking the metropolis received just 12 inches of rain during the flooding this year, whereas, in the 2005 floods, 37 inches of rainfall was recorded, thus over three times more than the current scenario.

v2 fig 1

Flooding in Mumbai, August 2017. Photo by News Measurements Network Live, via Wikimedia Commons. Available under a CCO 1.0 creative commons license.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

The Taproom: Susan Gauss

Un trago amargo—A Bitter Drink: Beer, Water, and Globalization”

By Susan Gauss

A truck drives down the street in Zaragoza, Coahuila, its loudspeaker reminding residents to conserve water or face fines. Local farmers also feel the pain, as they scale back planting due to a lack of water. Yet nearby, water is flowing well through an aqueduct carrying it to a factory 40 kilometers away in Nava, Coahuila. The factory is new, built by Grupo Modelo—maker of the world-famous Corona beer—in 2010 and expanded after its 2013 takeover by Constellation Brands. Inside, it produces 22 million beers a day for export largely to the US, each made using 3.25 liters of water piped in from the aquifer that serves Zaragoza.

20423957_1253290514782115_2679477263276260893_o (1)

Image courtesy of Banco de imágenes de Mexicali Resiste.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Communicating the Climate: How to Communicate Scholarly Findings on Climate and Weather in a Controversial Time

Workshop Report (Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany, 18 August 2017)

by Katrin Kleemann

climate-cold-glacier-iceberg

On 18 August 2017, the RCC hosted a workshop on the challenges and goals of communicating climate research. The workshop was organized by two RCC doctoral candidates, Jeroen Oomen and Katrin Kleemann, and financed by the European Commission through the Marie Curie ENHANCE ITN Program.

The workshop’s call for participants was mainly aimed at early-stage researchers working on climate-related issues from social science and humanities perspectives. The workshop’s goal was to discuss how to effectively communicate climate science, climate research, and other issues relating to climate change, as well as how to engage with climate science from a humanities perspective, and most importantly, how to communicate work in this field in a way that could make a difference.

Continue reading


1 Comment

Uses of Environmental History: Don Worster

This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring the uses of environmental history. The series has been adapted from contributions to a roundtable forum published in the first issue of the new Journal for Ecological History, edited by Renmin University’s Center for Ecological History.


By Donald Worster

If I did not believe that environmental history is already useful and practical, more so than other fields of historical research, then I would have abandoned it long ago. Seeing nature as part of the many changes and revolutions that have occurred in human history has always seemed to me one of the most useful things in the world. How can we live wisely without understanding more fully how we got here or how the natural environment has interacted with society? When historians have explained more fully the course of history, as Charles Darwin explained the evolution of species, then we will have become the most practical people around. We are not there yet, but we are making progress.

Admittedly, there are historians who still don’t know how to be useful in that way. They assume without question that society has had no important connection with water, soil, climate, energy, or biota. The crying need of our time is to overcome that blindness and explain the global ecological crisis. Historians are most useful when their research reveals some significant truth about how that crisis developed over time, or what we can learn from earlier societies about solutions they attempted and how well they worked.

22954029562_0d447bc289_o

The Lyell Glacier in Yosemite National Park, now more accurately called the Lyell Ice Patch. Along with the Earth’s natural climate fluctuations over tens of thousands of years, today’s rapid warming is taking its toll on many natural features. 1883 photo: USGS/Israel Russell; 2015 photo: NPS/Keenan Takahashicaption. Images: NPS [public domain], via Flickr.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

The Future of Wild Europe

Conference Report (The University of Leeds, UK, 12–14 September 2016)

By Roger Norum

A version of this report was first published  17 October 2016 on ENHANCE ITN.


logo

This three-day conference was the first of three large events for the ENHANCE ITN (The Environmental Humanities for a Concerned Europe Innovative Training Network), a three-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral research program convened by the University of Leeds, the Rachel Carson Center at LMU Munich, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Because ENHANCE is an inherently interdisciplinary project, we decided to organize the conference around a theme that would not just appeal to both social scientists and humanities scholars, but that would also showcase current research by young and emerging scholars across disparate fields, while also questioning the configurations of the very categories and concepts we use to talk about the environment in the context of a changing Europe—and beyond. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Snapshot: Our Future in the Anthropocene

anthropocene

Prominent visitors at the Anthropocene Exhibition. Left to right: Wolfgang M. Heckl (Director General of Deutsches Museum), Ministers Gerd Müller and Peter Altmaier, and RCC Director Helmuth Trischler.

On 15 September the Deutsches Museum hosted a Zukunftskongress (Future Congress) together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Club of Rome; the event brought together international visionaries, experts, and activists to discuss ways to tackle problems such as climate change and hunger and move towards a more sustainable society. Continue reading


2 Comments

Bookshelf: The Troubled History of Environmentalism

By Bob Wilson

 

The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation

by Adam Rome

The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000

by Michael Bess

Seeing Green: The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images

by Finis Dunaway

 

Why have Americans been unable or unwilling to address climate change? Given the dire genius of earth day romethreat of global warming, why has it taken so long for a political movement to tackle climate change to emerge in the United States? These are some of the questions that have guided my project at the RCC about the development of the American climate movement, in many ways, an offshoot of the environmental movement. Yet there is another related question: What happened to American environmentalism? A robust, popular environmental movement should have been able to respond to climate change and activists should have been able to pressure their government to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the consequences of a warming world. But until recently, that has not happened. Why?

Continue reading