Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Tales from Piplantri

“A Fable for Today…”

By Vidya Sarveswaran

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Way to Piplantri: the road not taken…

We are just beginning to hear the murmurs of a nervous street. The sky above is like handmade parchment. Powder blue with swirls of crimped clouds. The air is heavy with the cloying smell of equally heavy flowers that attract snakes. But they do not worry about snakes here. This is the land of the brave desert warriors. Rajasthan, a state in the northwest of India and the only desert state in the country.

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Cow lounging in the marble dust!

Our dusty SUV swerves around to avoid a cow, who looks rather annoyed that we are in her way. We wait for our escort, Champalal: he arrives on his noisy Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike wearing a blood-red turban and an obsequious smile. As we drive through several alleys of this town called Piplantri in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, we cannot help but notice the squeaky clean roads, the vibrant signposts and wall graffiti drawn by the children of the village. The houses that pass us are all splendidly bright and wear a medieval look. And suddenly, the motorbike is lost in the raucous voices of villagers and vendors who have all come out to meet us.

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Lives Wasted: Garbage as a Forgotten Dimension of the European “Refugee Crisis”

by Maximilian Feichtner and Theresa Leisgang

A deflated rubber boat is washed up on the eastern coast of Chios. Once the waves have buried it under rocks and it becomes even more entangled with seagrass, you will hardly be able to see it. But for tourists strolling along the beach, this isn’t the only reminder of the boat landings by refugees who crossed Europe’s borders at night. All across the beaches of the Aegean Islands, where tourists usually swim and sunbathe, refugees leave their life jackets, water bottles, soaked clothes—and the boats on which they started their journey to a new life. The waste is what connects both, tourists and refugees, in their everyday life, as both are caught up in a circle of producing and managing waste. Beyond that, the waste is a material trace of countless people’s struggles to survive and escape violent conflicts. It is a trace that tourists and islanders would like to ignore; a trace, however, that won’t disappear by itself.

About one million people arrived on Greek shores in 2015 and the first few months of 2016, most of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria. Since March 2016, when the EU signed a deal with Turkey to halt the flow of migration to Europe, arrivals via the Aegean Sea dropped dramatically. However, possibly due to rising tensions regarding EU-Turkey relations, numbers are increasing again: 4,609 people reached Greece via boat in September 2017 according to the UNHCR. With them, the amount of discarded rubber dinghies, sports boats, and other waste on the islands will likely amount to tonnes. Their waste comes in addition to the already existing refugee boats, carelessly piled up in the hinterland, turning pastures into ship graveyards. What remains undiscussed in the broader public and political debates is the potential environmental crisis that risks adding another level of complexity to the so-called “refugee crisis” in Europe. Continue reading


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Making Tracks: Gregg Mitman

By Gregg Mitman

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In Sequoia National Park on a family trip. Photo courtesy of author.

My journey to the Rachel Carson Center began in 1967 in the backseat of a blue Dodge sedan, packed with my father’s engineering precision, headed west on the American interstate highway system. It was a momentous trip in the eyes of my six-year old self, who had spent the better part of his early childhood in doctors’ offices and hospital oxygen tents struggling to breathe. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in America, many an asthmatic had left the East coast and headed West in search of health. But this was not what drove our family to the painted deserts of Arizona, to the giant sequoias of Yosemite, and to the geysers of Yellowstone. We had come from Pennsylvania across the Continental Divide to see the splendor of America’s national parks. For the next six weeks, home was a car, canvas tent, Coleman cook stove, and campgrounds on and off the beaten path. I didn’t know it then, but we were living a textbook chapter in American environmental history, one focused on the history of leisure, a growing middle-class, and the consumption of nature in postwar America.  Continue reading


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Doktorandentag 2017!

Eight new members of the RCC’s doctoral program and two visiting doctoral students presented their projects at the center’s annual “Doktorandentag.” Organized and moderated by members of the program, the format allowed each student to present a *snapshot* of their research followed by a discussion with their peers, doctoral program board members, RCC fellows, and staff. Eight different nationalities, at least six different disciplines/interdisciplines, and 10 very different topics made for a fascinating and enriching day for everyone involved!


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Making Tracks: Lisa FitzGerald

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 Lisa FitzGerald

Environments needle their way into our minds, becoming the settings for our stories but also telling their own tales.

Landscapes push back, shaping our bodies as we move through our lives. As Seamus Heaney wrote, the landscape is “written into your senses from the minute you begin to breathe.”[1] I was raised in Kerry on the west coast of Ireland and that, no doubt, has shaped me. Land positioned on the Atlantic seaboard means a mild and moist climate, battered peninsulas, and roaring tides. It’s where red fuchsias blanket the hedgerows, where ridged and furrowed lazy beds are etched into the landscape. It, too, is etched into and on to my body. Our stories are our engagements with our natural worlds.

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My home place: Ballymacelligott, County Kerry. Photo courtesy of author.

Several years ago, as a fine art undergraduate, I tried to paint pictures that captured that interplay between the body and its subjective environmental experience. I was (in my own mind) painting that effervescent vitality that goes beyond words. For the last several years, theatre, that visceral art medium that involves the artist’s body merging with its surroundings, has been the locus for my exploration of environmental narratives—narratives that are produced as the space around us bears down on our skin, into our senses, and on to our minds. Bodies and space are constantly engaged in the production of a performance, and it is this environment that I review in my recent publication, Re-Place: Irish Theatre Environments. Continue reading


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Communicating the Climate: How to Communicate Scholarly Findings on Climate and Weather in a Controversial Time

Workshop Report (Rachel Carson Center, Munich, Germany, 18 August 2017)

by Katrin Kleemann

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On 18 August 2017, the RCC hosted a workshop on the challenges and goals of communicating climate research. The workshop was organized by two RCC doctoral candidates, Jeroen Oomen and Katrin Kleemann, and financed by the European Commission through the Marie Curie ENHANCE ITN Program.

The workshop’s call for participants was mainly aimed at early-stage researchers working on climate-related issues from social science and humanities perspectives. The workshop’s goal was to discuss how to effectively communicate climate science, climate research, and other issues relating to climate change, as well as how to engage with climate science from a humanities perspective, and most importantly, how to communicate work in this field in a way that could make a difference.

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Day 7. Danube Excursion: Bratislava—Munich

by Lea Wiser


Bratislava → Munich


 

Spending a night on a boat and waking up to views over the glimmering river is not something that happens every day. After a long night, a hearty breakfast helped us to regain our energy for the last guided tour with Peter Pisut, who specializes in the historical geography of Slovak rivers. Even though we did not have much time, it is mandatory to walk up to Bratislava Castle, which overlooks the Danube.

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