Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Day 4. Danube Excursion: Linz—Krems

by Stefan Bitsch


Linz → Hütting → Grein → Melk → Krems


Dangers of the Danube: Floods and Rapids throughout History

On the fourth day of our excursion, the group had the opportunity to learn from Christian Rohr (University of Bern) and Severin Hohensinner (University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna), who shared their expertise with us during the various stops along the way.

Hütting and the Machland Dam

The first series of stops were concentrated around the small town of Hütting, part of the longest connected dam-building program in Central Europe, which cost around €180 million and was completed in 2012. Forty-five kilometers of dams and flood retention areas now follow the course of the Danube in this region. The area has a long history of flooding, and the town has learned how to deal with these events over time.

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Day 3. Danube Excursion: Passau—Linz

by Lea Wiser


Passau → Linz


Our third day on the Danube excursion was both eventful and thought provoking, packed with activities covering a broad range of subjects: from environment and sustainability to modern history and the Nazi regime, to where these two subjects intersect—the city of Linz.

Jochenstein

Our first stops, the Donaukraftwerk in Jochenstein and Haus am Strom in Untergriesbach, were already familiar to us, but during this visit we were able to admire the views from the other side of the Danube. On the way, we passed the Schlögener Schlinge, a meandering part of the river that created a loess-rich agricultural land below the steep slopes of the Bohemian Massif.

jochenstein bridge

Hydropower plant Jochenstein. The German-Austrian border runs through the center of the structure.

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Uses of Environmental History: Lise Sedrez

This is the sixth 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.


“Of Water, Narratives, and the Uses of Environmental History”

By Lise Sedrez (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro), 2015

São Paulo, the largest city in South America, is going through a historical drought. So is California, in the USA. That is how newspapers refer to these droughts: “historical,” a “once in a lifetime” drought or, even more dramatically, “an unheard of” drought. By describing droughts in these ways, journalists aim to stress the terrifying and absolute power of nature. But is this really  the case? Droughts may simply be part of the dynamics of a dry and fragile ecosystem (like California’s), or extremely rare— but not unprecedented—events in a wet region (like São Paulo). These descriptors, however— historical, once in a lifetime, unheard of—don’t refer merely to levels of rain and pluviometric records. Were these the only indicators, climate scientists could do a much better job than historians of drafting a history of droughts. But “history,” “lifetime,” and “hearing” are directly connected to social relations, to narratives and memory—and this is where we, environmental historians, have much to offer.

Superakvego_en_Rio_de_Janeiro_en_2010_liencf_Niterói_6_strato

Flooding in Rio in April 2010. Phot: Leonardo Fonseca [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Snapshot: Katrin Kleemann Takes First Prize in Photo Competition

Katrin Kleemann has been awarded the jury’s first prize in the LMU GraduateCenter’s “Mein Forschungsgegenstand/My Research Object” photography competition for her photo of the Laki fissure in Iceland. Katrin is a doctoral candidate in the Rachel Carson Center’s Doctoral Program Environment and Society and a research associate of the Environment & Society Portal. Her research project studies the impacts of the Icelandic Laki fissure eruption of 1783 on the northern hemisphere.

The GraduateCenterLMU has been organizing this photo competition every year since 2009. The winning photographs will be displayed in the offices of the LMU Graduate Center and used by the LMU Munich to promote doctoral candidates’ diverse research. All the submissions to the competition can be viewed here.


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ProEnviron Presents…

Workshop: Envisioning Environments—Visual Media for the Environmental Humanities

By Arun Adhikari, Maximilian Feichtner, and Fabian Zimmer

“And action!” Katie Ritson, the master of ceremonies for the evening, claps her hands. Gradually, people unglue from the buffet, where they have been busy chatting and grabbing drinks and snacks, and they move to the conference room to find a good place to sit. For some, this means the front row, as they are eager to have a clear view of what they’re about to see; others hurry to find a place somewhere in the back, out of sight. There is a lot of nervous laughter and chuckling. The reason for all the excitement is announced on the folded leaflets lying on every seat: “ProEnviron presents! Short Films from the Envisioning Environments Workshop.”

(Our Daily Oil—Texaco’s Legacy, by Maximilian Feichtner)

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Making Tracks: Mu Cao

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.

By Mu Cao.

When I was little, I spent a lot of time sitting in our small yard listening to funny local stories from my grandma. Though most people in our region consider themselves authentic northeasterners, they are actually quite new immigrants to this land. My grandma’s father carried my grandmother to Harbin (my hometown and the capital city of the northern most province of China) in one of the two baskets hanging from his shoulder pole, when she was 5 or 6 years old—like many other refugees when the war was spreading across central China. For this reason, their homeland stories tend not to be very local; they mostly reflect the folklore of Central China or are about wild nature. It makes sense then that my childhood memories of Harbin recall some of my earliest experiences with the natural environment—an area that was basically thick and boundless forest, rich black soil, and wide rivers.

One of the most common stories we heard was about the hunting life of early immigrants, and how easy it was. To say that they could “use sticks to hunt deer, use gourd ladles to take fish out of the rivers, and just open their windows to let pheasants fly into their cooking pots,” is not an exaggeration. Believe it or not, although in the Qing Dynasty, China was already under great population pressure, massive exploitation in this part of China didn’t happen until the mid-nineteenth century. The Willow Palisade built by Qing emperors, who believed Northeast China was the birthplace of the Manchu minority group—“the land of the rising dragon”—prevented the Han immigrants from exploiting the land. Han Chinese distinguished themselves from other tribes through agricultural production, whereas the Manchus practiced hunting and gathering for subsistence.

Winter of Songhua River Harbin part

Songhua River in winter, Harbin. Photo: Binsheng Cao.

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Uses of Environmental History: Tom Griffiths

This is the fifth 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 Tom Griffiths

Photos courtesy of author

arctic

A haunting view of the Arctic.

A few years ago, when I was writing a history of Antarctica (Slicing the Silence) and researching human experience in polar stations during the long, dark winter, I turned to the medical and psychological studies of life in isolated communities and kept coming up against the limits of faceless, nameless, clinical accounts of deeply personal and cultural matters. In the name of objectivity, rationality, and generalization, scientists and social scientists gutted the real people, and the meaning ebbed away. History, by contrast, spills over with illuminating, specific, named, known, verifiable examples that you can argue with. This person did that here, then, because.  History’s commitment to contingency and particularity has often been seen to weaken its usefulness. But to understand the rigors of the long polar night—and to survive it—people need vivid tales of winters past.

Historians are often challenged about the usefulness of their discipline—and they frequently challenge themselves. The Australian historian and political scientist, Hugh Stretton, besieged by rising economic rationalism in the 1980s, treasured history as a discipline because it has “three qualities which have been scarce in modern social science”: it is “holist, uncertain and eclectic.” Continue reading