Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Household Consumption and Environmental Change in the Twentieth Century

30–31 May 2017, Bologna, Italy

In May 2017, the University of Bologna’s Department of History and Culture hosted a workshop entitled “Household Consumption and Environmental Change in the Twentieth Century.” The workshop was co-convened by RCC alumnus Giacomo Parrinello (Sciences Po, Paris) and professor of contemporary history Paolo Capuzzo (University of Bologna). The event was co-sponsored by the RCC and the University of Bologna. Twelve scholars from the US, Germany, and Italy convened to discuss the links between consumer culture (and practices) in the household and ecological transformations on multiple spatial and temporal scales.

By Giacomo Parrinello

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The papers, all pre-circulated in advance, were grouped into three panels: food and the kitchen, household technologies, and energy and the home. The three panels were preceded by an introduction by the conveners, which presented the central concern of the workshop: the apparent contradiction between awareness of negative ecological impact of mass consumption and the affects and identities embedded in consumer practices. Continue reading


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Uses of Environmental History: Paul Josephson

This is the third 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.


“The Need for Public Environmental History”

By Paul Josephson

It is difficult to quantify, but surely both the extent and pace of environmental change have accelerated in the last century? Historians debate the nature of change and its causes, but rarely turn to larger audiences to inform them of their findings. Among the usual explanations they offer are the rapid industrialization of all processes, including in agriculture, with significant capital inputs of chemicals and GMOs; the universality and extent of large-scale technological systems; excessive consumption, especially in North America and Europe, but also growing consumption in China, India, and elsewhere; and power generation based on nonrenewables, especially fossil fuels that contribute to greenhouse gas formation and global warming. Some individuals blame population growth as the major factor in environmental change, among them notably Garrett Hardin in his seminal, if misguided “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968) that, together with his later works, revealed deep-seated racism.

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CfA: Zusatzstudium Environmental Studies/Environmental Studies Certificate Program Coordinator

The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society is accepting applications for its Environmental Studies Certificate Program Coordinator position. The contract is for 24 hours per week, and runs from 1 July 2015 until 31 August 2018. Candidates must be fluent in both German and English.

Application deadline is 31 May 2015. More information can be found here.


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“Very Old Stone With Fire Inside”: Kindergarten Explorers Visit the RCC

Post by Katie Ritson (Managing Editor, RCC)

DSC_0406I am used to explaining what exactly the Rachel Carson Center is, and what my work there involves, but I don’t usually have to do it to a room full of five and six-year-olds. However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it’s actually much easier to explain the workings of a research institute to a kindergarten class than it is to most adults. Kids are natural researchers and the pursuit of knowledge is an entirely logical one from their point of view. Moreover, they don’t worry much about what things actually cost – the idea of having visiting fellows from all over the world living and working in Munich in order to share their research was one they seemed to grasp with no trouble at all, presumably since they weren’t busy working out who is footing the bill and in whose national or international interest this could possibly be. So for once, there was no need to launch into a spirited defence of the humanities in our pragmatic solution-defined knowledge economy. Continue reading