Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

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Making Tracks: Franklin Ginn

In the “Making Tracks” series, RCC fellows and alumni present their experiences in environmental humanities, retracing the paths that led them to the Rachel Carson Center. For more information, please click here.

By Franklin Ginn

Failure lies behind the trappings of academic success: words unwritten, words sunk without trace, applications rejected, snubs both subtle and large.

The tracks I have left: my biography. Like many a small child, a small boy, I killed a lot of bugs. Warm afternoons swatting flies against windows; damp afternoons hunting for slugs, snails, whatever, doused in salt or crushed with bricks. Spiders, centipedes, or— my favorite—millipedes, trapped in empty plastic containers; let’s see who outlives who? I had a graveyard where I buried these dead. Twigs or sticks as memorials. I never killed birds or mammals. But I longed to find dead birds so I could bury them and mark their graves with lollipop sticks. Continue reading

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Gardening for Gardening’s Sake

Post by Jennifer Hamilton

(This post is the latest in a series of reflections on Jeffrey Hou’s recent talk, “Urban Gardening as Insurgent Placemaking.” For the first piece in this series, please click here.)

It “started with the park, but it has become bigger than the park” declared Turkish scholar and activist Nazan Ustundag on Democracy Now early last week. While it is clear that the demonstrations in Turkey are now about far more than the preservation of a single park in Istanbul, it is important not to forget the catalyst. Consider the fact that it is the potential loss of a park that sparked nationwide protests.

Taksim Gezi Park

Taksim Square – Gezi Park Protests, İstanbul. Source: Alan Hilditch via Flickr.

There is something exceptional about the potential loss of green space within cities. Try to turn an old industrial port contaminated with asbestos into a 65-storey casino with four sister skyscrapers, as is happening on the Australian site of Barangaroo in Syndey, and you get years of controversy, several well-written criticisms in the local papers (as in the recent piece by Elizabeth Farrelly) and reams of signed petitions. However, try to turn a small urban park into a shopping centre and you sow the seeds of revolution.

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Urban Gardening, “Treibstoff,” and The Desire for Community

What would you get if you mixed together “Treibstoff,” the Viennese countercultural group that parks converted trucks in disused urban spaces, and the community gardening scene described by Jeffrey Hou in his recent lecture? Both movements have attracted considerable interest of late: The members of “Treibstoff” were profiled in a documentary screened at the DOK.fest in Munich, while the urban gardening movement in Seattle (“P-Patch“) has grown from 10 gardens in 1970 to over 90 in 2013.

The Treibstoff group at one proposed site. Source:

The Treibstoff group at one proposed site. Source:

It’s hard to imagine a peaceful coexistence. The “Treibstoff” group is composed of young, loud, uncompromising individuals, while the urban gardens are quietly developed by a wide range of city residents. Community garden projects seek to improve urban life, reintegrating elements of self-subsistence and communal living, while “Treibstoff” take issue with private property itself. Urban gardens change the city from the inside out; “Treibstoff” expresses dissatisfaction and disaffection with cities and development in general.

Offer one piece of land, and the two groups would probably clash. Community gardeners would patiently seek the support of city planners for their project; “Treibstoff” would drive in, park their trucks, distribute flyers, and ask why anyone should have the right to evict them.

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