Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Making Tracks: Anitra Nelson

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.

“Goolengook and Guernica”

By Anitra Nelson

In the Guernica of today’s universal threat from future climate change, environmental campaigners fight for light-bulb suns, such as the ecologically precious “Goolengook.” In the southeastern state of Victoria, Goolengook was the site of the longest-running forest blockade in Australia’s history. From January 1997, activists kept vigil for more than five years until a final, successful, raid in March 2002 by the government agency responsible.

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Mural of Picasso’s “Guernica” made in tiles and full size. Photo: Papamanila (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons. {FoP-Spain}

During this period, Goolengook became an icon and battleground to protect the old-growth forests of East Gippsland, forests said to have given birth to the eucalypts of southeastern Australia. Covering more than one million hectares, the forests of East Gippsland harbor hundreds of rare and threatened species of plants and animals. Such forests are villi in the lungs of the planet, significant carbon sinks. If, and as, they are cleared—for timber, settlements, agriculture, and even monospecies plantations—the entire planet suffers. Continue reading


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Bavarian Beavers Remind Us of Lent

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A tree felled by beavers next to the Isar in Munich. Photograph: Robin Aschoff.

Walking along the Isar and Würm rivers in Munich you can see the remnants of trees that have been felled by the resident, nonhuman “ecological engineers.” Conservationists are delighted by the success of beaver reintroduction programs, but residents on the receiving end of beaver-related damage and safety hazards are beginning to find cause for complaint. Even the Deutsches Museum has been affected—the leveling of shores surrounding the museum, necessary for vital restoration work, caused concern given the protected status of resident beavers. However, it seems that the landscaping did little harm, and the animals remain a popular feature of city tours of the area. Where the construction and feeding activity of beavers meets human spaces and agriculture, problems are bound to arise. Scientists in northwest Germany, with the help of ecotourists, are analyzing the expanding beaver populations in the hope of understanding how best to mitigate future conflicts.

There is also another especially timely reason to turn our attention to beavers right now—in the meat-free forty days of Lent, beaver is (historically) fair game. Apparently—along with other “amphibious” animals like otter, and barnacle geese (a whole other story)—beaver is aquatic enough to constitute a non-meat addition to the Lent menu. We once hunted them to near-extinction, but could beavers again become so numerous that they reappear on our menus? If you want to know a bit more about the fascinating history of beavers at lent (and what beaver tastes like), take a look at former RCC Board member Dolly Jørgensen’s  2014 blog post!