Flood-proof cities. The social costs of waste incineration. Water level changes in the Pearl River Delta. The environmental impact of nineteenth-century Chinese immigration across the Pacific. These are a sample of the topics discussed during the “Asia and the Pacific” workshop, hosted by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in early November.
In late July, students of the RCC’s Environmental Studies Certificate Program organized Ecopolis München: Umweltgeschichten einer Stadt. This interactive multimedia exhibition showcased Munich’s environmental histories through the students’ final projects, and was curated by doctoral candidate Sasha Gora, research assistant Raphaela Holzer, and the Deutsches Museum’s exhibitions curator Nina Möllers.
Over 200 people attended the special evening, among them prominent guests including professors from various universities, city representatives, journalists, Selbach Umwelt Stiftung founder Karl Heinrich Selbach, and Green party leader Margarete Bause.
The evening opened with an informal welcome from RCC director Christof Mauch and a number of students involved in the organization of the exhibition. President of LMU Munich Bernd Huber then gave the official opening address, remarking on the fantastic work the students had done. Continue reading “Ecopolis München: Ecopolis Night”
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.
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.
Research Channels, Sterlets, and the Danube Island of Vienna
With another early start, it was lucky that the memorable apricot jam, a local specialty, provided a good incentive to get up in time for breakfast. Only five minutes behind schedule, we departed from Krems, with its beautiful historic center and surrounding vineyards, for Vienna.
Nussdorfer Lock and Weir
Our first stop was the Nussdorfer Schleuse, a lock and weir where the Danube canal branches off from the Danube in the northern outskirts of Vienna. Between the canal and the main river lies an outdoor research channel that is used to investigate the flow dynamics of different riverbeds and flood plains. Here, we met with Christine Sindelar of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU), who conducts her research at the outdoor research channel. The building of the research channel was part of the DREAM project (Danube River Research and Management), which was cofinanced by the City of Vienna and the European Union. The slope between the Danube and the canal allows the scientists to experiment with flow rates of 10 cubic meters per second, and hence provides unique opportunities to make 1:1 scale simulations of river flow and sediment dynamics.
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.
Over the last three days, with a group of colleagues, I looked at the Rio Doce and asked myself how we could have done this to the river. Rio Doce has nurtured Brazilian history for hundreds of years, offering water, wealth, food, joy, and beauty. We repaid it by poisoning it with mercury in gold mining operations in the past, polluting it to critical levels with PET bottles and raw sewage, destroying its riparian vegetation and, finally, burying 600 km of it under tons of mining waste.