Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Rachel Carson Center

London, England

The Rachel Carson Center launched its new website today. A joint initiative of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich and the Deutsches Museum, the Center is an international think tank whose goal is to ‘further research and discussion in the field of international environmental studies and to strengthen the role of the humanities in the current political and scientific debates about the environment.’ In mid-January, I will be joining 14 others fellows who are taking international, comparative and historical perspectives on topics such as agrarian and post-agrarian landscapes, natural disasters, cultures of risk, and knowledge societies.

I am particularly pleased to be a Fellow at an academic centre named in memory of Rachel Carson. Silent Spring, which I read almost forty years ago, influenced my choice of a career that blends academia, applied research and social awareness. In a few pages in the middle of the book, Dr. Carson evoked the consequences of pesticide use on the biodiversity of a small community in Michigan. East Lansing, my hometown, was the focus of a DDT spraying program initiated in 1954 against the elm bark beetle that was destroying our boulevard trees. By 1959, Prof. Emerson, ornithologist of nearby Michigan State University, discovered a dramatic drop in the robin population. This story, just one of the compelling case studies that Carson evoked, had a particular impact on me as it hit so close to home.

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