Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Uses of Environmental History: Stefania Barca

This is the second 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 the Renmin University’s Center for Ecological History.


“On ‘The Political’ in Environmental History”

By Stefania Barca

“Only mass social movements can save us now.”

Naomi Klein makes this point in This Changes Everything, and I couldn’t agree more. Since their emergence in the global political arena in the 1960s and 1970s, mainstream environmental organizations have devoted more attention in the past three decades to governmental politics, corporate greenwashing, and lobbying, and less to popular pressure and coalition building from below. But it’s time to realize that this strategy has failed and that a new, stronger wave of popular mobilization based on a solid articulation between environmental and social justice claims is badly needed to produce radical ecological politics.

Environmental historians have been part and parcel of this story. Even when they have practiced this field of inquiry with politically detached attitudes, rejecting the idea of environmental history as an environmental-ist approach, they have in fact participated in the broader counter-movement of the 1980s and 1990s, shifting scholars’ attention away from “the political” and towards environmental “policy,” “governance” or “management.” In other words, it is impossible for environmental historians to be left alone in their academic ivory towers (or even in their favorite fields): they are inevitably involved in what is going on in society. Like all history writing—and much of science making itself—environmental history cannot help but be political. Continue reading

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COP21: How We Make the Weather

by Dominic Kotas, Copywriter at ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability and alumnus RCC editor.

So, after all the planning, speculation, and nervous anticipation, COP21 happened—and was generally seen as a qualified success. I was lucky enough to be in the “Climate Generations” areas (just next door to the negotiating zone) for the two weeks of the summit. When the agreement was announced, I took a break from my own wrap-up work to message my friends: “THEY GOT AN AGREEMENT!” It was hard not to feel, at least to some extent, that we had witnessed a significant moment in our planet’s history, and hard not to share the delight of the negotiators and the wider sustainability community.

For the first time, 185 nations committed to curbing the trajectory of current and future global greenhouse gas emissions and to limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, with the aim of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees. That in itself is something to be celebrated. The agreement shows that the entire world now recognizes climate change as a major issue, requiring a unified response, and it lays the foundations for making our societies greener, cleaner, and more sustainable.

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Flags over COP21 in Paris. Photograph: ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability.

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Colloquia Videos Roundup

The RCC Lunchtime Colloquium series allows fellows of the Rachel Carson Center to present their research to other fellows, to staff, and to the general public. Over the last month we have been trialling a livestream of the talks to make them available to a wider audience. The videos are subsequently uploaded to our youtube channel. Below are three of the talks from July.

If you are interested in watching more of this series (which will restart later this year), please keep an eye on our facebook and twitter pages for information on the streams and uploads. We are always looking to improve the process, so if you have any feedback, please let us know in the comments. Continue reading