Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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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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Snapshot: View from the Top

“Environment and Society Doctoral Students Explore the Bavarian Forest National Park”

by Annka Liepold

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Group shot on top of the Lusen.

On 4 July 2016 the members of the Doctoral Program Environment and Society took a field trip to the Bavarian Forest National Park. Marco Heurich, deputy head of the Park’s Department of Conservation and Research, gave the group an introduction to the history of the Bavarian Forest NP and pointed out some of its unique features. Founded in 1970, the Bavarian Forest NP is Germany’s oldest national park and has a sister national park in the Czech Republic—the Šumava National Park—which shares its ecosphere. Continue reading


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Bavarian Beavers Remind Us of Lent

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A tree felled by beavers next to the Isar in Munich. Photograph: Robin Aschoff.

Walking along the Isar and Würm rivers in Munich you can see the remnants of trees that have been felled by the resident, nonhuman “ecological engineers.” Conservationists are delighted by the success of beaver reintroduction programs, but residents on the receiving end of beaver-related damage and safety hazards are beginning to find cause for complaint. Even the Deutsches Museum has been affected—the leveling of shores surrounding the museum, necessary for vital restoration work, caused concern given the protected status of resident beavers. However, it seems that the landscaping did little harm, and the animals remain a popular feature of city tours of the area. Where the construction and feeding activity of beavers meets human spaces and agriculture, problems are bound to arise. Scientists in northwest Germany, with the help of ecotourists, are analyzing the expanding beaver populations in the hope of understanding how best to mitigate future conflicts.

There is also another especially timely reason to turn our attention to beavers right now—in the meat-free forty days of Lent, beaver is (historically) fair game. Apparently—along with other “amphibious” animals like otter, and barnacle geese (a whole other story)—beaver is aquatic enough to constitute a non-meat addition to the Lent menu. We once hunted them to near-extinction, but could beavers again become so numerous that they reappear on our menus? If you want to know a bit more about the fascinating history of beavers at lent (and what beaver tastes like), take a look at former RCC Board member Dolly Jørgensen’s  2014 blog post!