Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Call for Candidates: Doctoral Program Environment and Society

You can download the pdf of this call here.

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The Doctoral Program in Environment and Society invites applications from graduates in
the humanities and social sciences who wish to research the complex relationships between environment and society within an interdisciplinary setting. Our program is based at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC), a joint initiative of LMU Munich and the Deutsches Museum. The RCC is an international center for research and education in the environmental humanities and social sciences: its mission is to advance research and discussion concerning the interrelationship between humans and nature.

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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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Uses of Environmental History: Sandra Swart

This is the final post in the uses of environmental history series. 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.


“Feral Historians?”

By Sandra Swart

The greatest strength we have as historians—our secret superpower—is the ability to take an apparently immutable existing status quo and show that “it was not always so.” We can look at the present and expose the seemingly “natural order” for just how “unnatural” (how anthropogenically constructed) it really is. For example, gender historians have exploded the static, apparently unchanging, and ostensibly biological dualism between men and women—thereby opening up new ways of understanding the social order. After all, a key value of learning about the past is to defamiliarize the present. To simply know that “it was not always so” is amazingly potent. It can empower humans to challenge the existing order that we are otherwise taught to believe is “natural,” “biological,” “incontrovertible.” If it has changed before, it can be changed further.

Yet if this ability to complicate the seemingly natural is our superpower, it is also our kryptonite. Many historians have been effectively self-silenced in today’s debate over critical environmental issues simply because we do not think or communicate in soundbites. We’re trained to understand nuance, uncover complexity, and eschew partisanship. These are some of our fundamental values as a discipline and I am not suggesting we jettison them—but I do think we leave too much of our research to be interpreted by interlocutors and politicians. Instead, we need to insert ourselves into those public debates. The role of professional historians in the making of public policy is a contested terrain. We need to extend our home ranges and escape the safely domesticated university, where we feel at home and where there’s always a warm fire and a bowl of milk. We must run feral in the wilder public spaces. Continue reading


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Day 6. Danube Excursion: Vienna—Bratislava

by Laura Kuen


Vienna → Orth → Gabčíkovo → Bratislava


Traveling from Vienna to Bratislava, our day’s topics branched in quite different directions: water power and nature conservation. We first visited the Austrian National Park Donau-Auen in Orth and later the Gabčíkovo Dams, Slovakia’s biggest hydroelectric plant.

Conservation in the Donau-Auen

The national park, which spans the distance between Vienna and Bratislava, finds its roots in a story of resistance, years of struggle, and constant negotiations between opposing forces. Our guide, Manfred Rosenberger, whose personal biography is deeply interwoven with the park, vividly recounted the park’s history.

Karte_nationalpark_donau_auen

Map of the Donau-Auen National Park, reaching from Vienna to the Slovakian border near Bratislava.

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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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Day 2. Danube Excursion: Deggendorf—Passau

Written by Leon Gomoll


Deggendorf → Vilshofen → Jochenstein → Passau


Bridge-Building and Nature Conservation on the Donau

Early Modern Bridges and Politics in Bavaria

On the second day of our field trip, we learned about Early Modern bridge-building in Bavaria. Martin Keßler’s talk focused on the politics of bridges, using as an example the bridge of Vilshofen, a small town near Passau. In the Middle Ages, Passau was an autonomous bishopric, independent from the duchy of Bavaria and archbishopric of Salzburg. It maintained its autonomy from Bavaria until 1802. Early Modern Bavaria included the lands between the rivers Lech to the west, the Danube to the north, and the Inn to the east. Within the territory of Bavaria there were many other stand-alone territories, for example imperial free cities like Augsburg and Nuremberg.

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