Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Toxic Floods: Let’s Talk about the Weather

By Simone M. Müller

We’ve probably all been thinking about the weather lately. Our officemates are sneezing, others are coughing, the first one is turning in a sick note. It’s the time of year when weather-related topics start dominating our everyday conversation: the change of the season, the turning of the leaves from deep green to ruby-red, tangerine, or a sun-soaked yellow. Fall is reigning. And let’s not forget, fall is also hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere. As the difference in temperatures between the North Pole and, let’s say, the South of Italy grows, storms and even hurricanes become an everyday weather phenomenon across Europe and the Atlantic. With the storms, we usually get it all: wind, flood, and destruction—and if we’re not immediately affected by these events ourselves, they are neatly brought to us via our daily news feeds in easily digestible news snippets and images from the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, or Northern Germany.

Yet when, in recent weeks, those of us lucky enough to be watching from our cozy armchair at home, from our office, or while squeezed up close to our fellow commuters on the metro saw images of, for instance, Americans wading waist-deep in mud-brown water, few of us realized, perhaps, that some of these people trying to save their life and livelihood had also been in there waste-deep.

There is more to these floods than meets the unsuspecting eye. These mud-brown waters are not solely the result of an everyday weather phenomenon in the fall in the Northern hemisphere gone a little out of control. Beneath the surface, these waters harbor a story of unresolved toxicity and waste management. Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading


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Photo of the Week: Annka Liepold

Seventeen-year periodical cicadas hatch in Kansas. Photograph: Annka Liepold.

Seventeen-year periodical cicadas hatch in Kansas. Photograph: Annka Liepold.

RCC Communications Associate and PhD candidate Annka Liepold recently witnessed the hatching of seventeen-year periodical cicadas on her six-month PhD research exchange at the University of Kansas: “The cycle of their reproduction doesn’t match up with that of their predators . . . Pretty cool . . . I don’t know how they know it’s time, but it definitely seems to work. And they are all over the place right now. I watched some hatch—they hatch white and then brown within a day.”


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Learning to Love Pesticides: A Look at Popular American Attitudes

Post by Michelle Mart

Since the publication of Silent Spring in 1962, there have been numerous popular and scholarly studies of pesticide use in the United States. Environmentalists and others have credited Rachel Carson with awakening people to the dangers of overuse of these chemicals. Such praise is warranted, and it is clear that Silent Spring did change the course of modern American history, changing people’s understanding of the environment and the human role in it.

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Barry Commoner and the Bridge between the Lab and the Ghetto

Post by Robert Gioielli

With Barry Commoner’s death last week, the American environmental movement lost one of its most underappreciated leaders and voices. This may seem like an overstatement, considering the robust obituaries offered up in the days after his passing, but Commoner is not as well known as he should be. He is deserving of this attention not only because of a career of research, activism and advocacy that lasted for more than fifty years, but also because of his understanding of the radical implications of environmental activism, and his willingness to connect ecological thinking to the social conflicts of postwar America.

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