Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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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.


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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


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Urban Cultures of Sustainability

Conference Report (Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) at the Albert-Ludwig-University, Germany, 11–14 July 2016)

From 11 to 14 July 2016, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society and the FRIAS (Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies) project group A Green City Mandate? co-hosted a Graduate Student Seminar and International Workshop on Green Cities and Urban Cultures of Sustainability.

The project group invited an interdisciplinary group of young scholars and students from various disciplinary and national backgrounds, as well as several distinguished scholars from the fields of sustainable urban development, urban geography, environmental history, and ecocriticism to work together on issues of “green cities.”

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Making Tracks: Axel Goodbody

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.

“From Romantic Poetry to Contemporary Fiction and Climate Discourse” 

by Axel Goodbody

My task at the Rachel Carson Center has been to investigate what is generally referred to as climate denial or skepticism—in its most extreme form, this constitutes disputing the existence of global warming or its anthropogenic origins; more commonly it is the querying of its consequences. Most common of all is an in-principle acceptance of all of these points, but rejection of their implications for individuals’ life choices, and opposition to the restriction of individual freedom associated with most climate policy. More specifically, I have been concerned with how skepticism in Germany relates to that in other countries, the arguments of German skeptics, and their understandings of self and others, science, and nature. Research into climate skepticism has so far concentrated on the political structures and economic interests behind it (especially in the United States), and tended to assume that skeptics are either devious or deluded. Applying methods of textual analysis and literary ecocriticism to selected texts from the German media, popular science, and political discourse, it was my aim to examine the formations that have shaped climate skeptics’ perceptions of nature and how we should interact with it—contributing thereby to a better understanding of their motivation, and hopefully to a less confrontational and more fruitful engagement with their positions.

Axel

Immersed in research. Photograph: Tim Mitchell.

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Making Tracks: Nicole Seymour

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.

The Great Indoors: Notes on a Perverse Path to the Environmental Humanities

by Nicole Seymour

One of my colleagues once posted an image from Someecards, the online service known for its satirical electronic greeting cards, on my Facebook wall. “I thought you might enjoy this,” he wrote. The image features a man and woman in old-fashioned clothes sharing a cocktail, with the caption, “I’m outdoorsy in that I like getting drunk on patios.” Putting aside the issue of whether the caption accurately describes my personal habits, I want to think about what it means that a fellow scholar thought I would enjoy this image. More specifically, I want to use this image to think through how I came to the environmental humanities in general and literary/filmic ecocriticism in particular, and what animates my work in those areas.

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Material Matters: A Report on the 8th Biennial ASLE-UKI Conference

By Nicole Seymour

Thanks to the Rachel Carson Center, I was able to attend the ASLE-UKI (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland chapter) conference last month at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England. As a regular attendee of the main ASLE conference—which brings hordes of fleece-and-sandal-wearing professors to US and Canadian locations every other year—it was a special treat to explore literature and environment issues in a more intimate context. I was particularly excited to encounter innovative ideas and approaches such as Tonia Raquejo’s concept of “sound-landscapes” and Isabelle Hoving’s ecocritical readings of Japanese animation. Poetry and poetics were particularly well-represented at the conference, as was the crucial new concept of the “Anthropocene,” and an interest in water—perhaps a sign that the so-called “blue cultural studies” (Steven Mentz) is well underway.

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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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