Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Danube: Environments, Histories, and Cultures

A Place-Based Workshop

4–11 June 2017

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Route along the Danube. Photo modified from David McGregor, CC BY-SA 2.0

Winding through Central and Eastern Europe, the once longstanding frontier of the Roman empire, the Danube, has carved its way into the landscapes and cultures of the countries it traverses. But the marks of humans, imprints of the Anthropocene, are also clearly visible on the river itself—and on the ecologies and landscapes surrounding it. By uncovering and reading landmarks across time and place, the interactions between societies and rivers can be recounted from different perspectives as multifaceted environmental histories.

The place-based workshop “Danube: Environments, Histories, and Cultures” was the second event of a collaborative research project on rivers organized by the Rachel Carson Center and the Center for Culture, History and Environment at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (the first event took place in 2016 along the Mississippi). The excursion saw a group of professors and graduate students from the US, Germany, and Austria, follow the course of the Danube from Munich to Bratislava. On the way, they explored the world’s most international river from many different, transdisciplinary perspectives. They met with more than a dozen environmental experts and, integrating approaches from disciplines like hydrology, international relations, economics, geography, ecology and conservation, environmental history, and civil engineering, they asked how the river has shaped the lives of humans and how humans have shaped the river.

A kickoff event was hosted at the Rachel Carson Center on Sunday 4 June, 2017. After a general welcome and introductions, Wolfram Mauser gave a talk on “Climate Change and the Danube—the River and its Future.”  Over dinner, participants had a chance to get (re)acquainted and discuss the upcoming trip.

Follow this blog series over the next few weeks to read a post about each day of the trip and the environmental histories uncovered. The posts have been written by students from the RCC’s Environmental Studies Certificate Program who took part in the excursion.

The first installment, “Day 1. Munich–Deggendorf” will be out next Friday!


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CfA: Student Assistant at the RCC

The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC) is an international, interdisciplinary research institute located in central Munich. It was founded in 2009 as a joint initiative of LMU Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität) and the Deutsches Museum. The working language of the Center is English. At any given time, the RCC is home to around twenty-five visiting scholars from across the globe, as well as an international team of staff who manage academic programs, publications, communications, events, and finances.

The RCC is looking for a student in any humanities subject to assist the work of the center on a part-time basis. Student assistants work between 8–12 hours per week as part of a small team. Duties include library service (supporting our international visiting fellows with library access, photocopying, etc.); assisting at conferences, workshops, and other events; processing outgoing mail; staffing the RCC front desk and library; and various other duties related to the day-to-day work of our busy research institute. Student assistants are an integral part of our community of scholars and have the opportunity to attend our lunchtime colloquia, workshops, social events, and make use of the academic resources at the center.

Successful candidates must have an excellent command of the English language as well as a good knowledge of German. Applicants must be currently enrolled in a degree program at a Bavarian university; those who have completed a Master’s (or equivalent) are not eligible for this position. Applicants should enjoy working as part of a team, be well organized and able to work independently, and be interested in working with colleagues of diverse cultural backgrounds. Computer literacy and a good knowledge of the Munich library (BSB and UB) systems are required; knowledge of other foreign languages and/or an interest in environmental issues would be advantageous.

Working hours are flexible, but occasional availability on the weekend for events is a necessity. Student assistants are paid in line with the standard tarif for studentische Hilfskräfte. Contracts will be awarded for six months with the possibility of extension.

To apply, please send your CV, cover letter, and the contact information of two references as one pdf to jobs@rcc.lmu.de by 21 July 2017. Interviews will be conducted in the week of 24 July 2017 with the position starting on 1 September 2017.


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CfA: General Operations Internships at the RCC

The RCC is currently looking for interns to start in September 2017.

The deadline for the September internship has been extended to 14 July 2017.  

Since its founding in 2009, the Rachel Carson Center has become one of the world’s most prominent and relevant research centers in the environmental humanities. Our mission is to advance research and discussion on the interrelationship between humans and nature. We contribute to public and scholarly debates about past transformations and future challenges in environment and society, harnessing the interpretative power of the humanities (and social sciences) to contextualize technologies, economies, and policies.

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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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Worldview: Iran Hosts Second International Seminar on Environment, Culture, and Religion (Part 1)

International Efforts to Mobilize Religions in the Cause of Conservation

Part 1. Tehran

“Religion is a powerful social force and for decades diverse actors who understand this have been engaged in earnest efforts to motivate and mobilize religious individuals and groups to construct environmentally sustainable societies. Although broad evidence suggests that these efforts have had limited success promoting the greening of religion so far, attempts are continuing. Given the often slow and multifarious ways that religions can change in time and place, it would be premature to predict the outcomes of such endeavors.” — Bron Taylor

In this two-part series, Bron Taylor reflects on such possibilities from the context of a trip to Iran in April 2016. In Part 1, he introduces us to Tehran and his experiences of contemporary culture and the troubled interface of religion, young culture, and the environment. Part 2 reports on the Second International Seminar on Environment, Culture, and Religion (Tehran, 2016), which was sponsored by UNEP, UNESCO, and the Department of the Environment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This series has been adapted from a conference report originally published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.


In late April, 2016, I was among those who took the first direct flight (after a trial run) from Paris to Tehran after the sanctions were lifted that had been imposed on Iran to discourage it from pursuing nuclear weaponry. I sat next to an attorney who, in 1970, fled Iran with her family to Paris when the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown during the Iranian revolution. She now has offices in Paris and Tehran, and is taking advantage of the emerging post-sanction opportunities.

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Transitions in Energy Landscapes and Everyday Life in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

27–29 April 2017, Munich, Germany

A report on the workshop sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), Rachel Carson Center, and the Deutsches Museum (Germany), convened by Heather Chappells (University of British Columbia), Vanessa Taylor (University of Greenwich), Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck College), Helmuth Trischler (Deutsches Museum), and Christof Mauch (Rachel Carson Center).
By Vanessa Taylor and Heather Chappells

 

The modernizing force of electricity, symbolized by pylons traversing the countryside to transform urban and rural space, is a recurrent theme in narratives of twentieth-century energy transition. This workshop aimed to consider wider interpretations of landscape across scales— from mega-structures to micro-grids, from the home to the hearth— to understand energy landscapes from an everyday perspective. With participants from a wide range of disciplines we explored the symbolic meaning, socio-political construction, and material manifestations of energy transitions across space and time. We wanted to conceptualize consumers and communities as entangled in and shaping energy landscapes, not as bystanders in evolving socio-technical networks. How, we asked, have people engaged with these landscapes over time in their roles as energy users and producers, consumers and citizens in the everyday contexts of home, work, and leisure?

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Student Research: Environmental (In)justice – The Case of Chevron-Texaco in Ecuador

By Camila Cabrera

Ecuador, a small country located on the equator, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, traversed by the Andes mountain range, and covered by part of the Amazon rainforest in the east, is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Nevertheless, as Nathalie Cely, the former Ecuadorian ambassador to the United States, stated, “underneath this natural beauty lies both a treasure and a curse: oil.”

Oil was discovered in the Ecuadorian Amazon in 1967 by the petroleum company Texaco. Rapidly, they began large-scale exploitation, generating impressive national revenues not seen in the past. However, such economic fortune did not bring equivalent social and environmental advantages.

As the political analyst Julio Ballesteros has stated, the Amazon has long been an isolated territory not only geographically but also anthropologically. For centuries, its inhabitants have subsisted thanks to the abundant vegetation and availability of natural resources such as water. Despite the presence of human groups in this area, the oil company generated around 18 billion gallons of toxic water, which drained directly into soils and watersheds.

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Crude contaminates the Aguarico 4 oil pit, an open pool abandoned by Texaco after 6 years of production and never remediated. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network. Available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 licence, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rainforestactionnetwork/4858073943.

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