Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Snapshot: Human Evolution Workshop

By Christian Schnurr

The evolution of the genus Homo was influenced in part by the landscape in which early hominins lived. Important archaeological sites are often located in areas with very rough terrain and a rich supply of nutrients and trace elements. These two features could have led wandering animals on paths where early hominins could track them down and hunt them. Furthermore, the rough terrain made it easier for our ancestors to find shelter from predators.

The Lonetal area in the Swabian Alb is famous for its many artifacts from the Aurignacian culture (ca. 40,000–30,000 years ago). Among the discoveries are the oldest sculptures ever found, including a mammoth as well as a lion sculpture, both made out of mammoth ivory. Other findings include fragments of flutes that belong to the oldest humankind has made.

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The workshop group: (from left to right) Christian Schnurr, Simon Kübler, Frank Brown, Geoffrey King, Geoff Bailey, and Anke Friedrich.

These photos were taken during a workshop held by the Rachel Carson Center and LMU’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences for students of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program. The field trip to the Swabian Alb included talks by Frank Brown (University of Utah), Geoffrey King (IPG Paris), Simon Kübler (LMU), Geoff Bailey (University of York), and Anke Friedrich (LMU).


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The Future of Wild Europe

Conference Report (The University of Leeds, UK, 12–14 September 2016)

By Roger Norum

A version of this report was first published  17 October 2016 on ENHANCE ITN.


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This three-day conference was the first of three large events for the ENHANCE ITN (The Environmental Humanities for a Concerned Europe Innovative Training Network), a three-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral research program convened by the University of Leeds, the Rachel Carson Center at LMU Munich, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Because ENHANCE is an inherently interdisciplinary project, we decided to organize the conference around a theme that would not just appeal to both social scientists and humanities scholars, but that would also showcase current research by young and emerging scholars across disparate fields, while also questioning the configurations of the very categories and concepts we use to talk about the environment in the context of a changing Europe—and beyond. Continue reading


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Worldview: Antarctica

by Ingo Heidbrink

Antarctica is the only continent with a permanent population of zero, and it has a strong international regulation system governing human activities from research to tourism. One might question whether an environmental history of Antarctica, beyond natural history, could therefore even be possible. While I am no native or citizen of Antarctica—these categories do simply not exist—having traveled more than once to the frozen continent and performed historical research I think I can provide some idea of its environmental history. Continue reading


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Photo of the Week: Anna Rühl

Ger district on the outskirts of Ulaanbataar, the capital of Mongolia. Photography by Anna Rühl.

Ger district on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Photograph: Anna Rühl.

With over 250 days of sunshine a year, Mongolians call their country the Land of the Blue Sky. Except sometimes it’s not. On a winter’s day in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar—home to approximately half of the country’s population of three million—air pollution can be so bad that the weather forecast reads “smoke,” and it feels and smells as if you could cure meat just by leaving it outdoors.

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