In this episode of Cultures of Energy, Andrew Mathews, an anthropologist, speaks about his research on Mexican Forests, specifically his new book, Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise and Power in Mexican Forests (MIT Press, 2011). Mathews research speaks to both current and historical issues and crosses interdisciplinary boundaries. The hosts of the podcast summarise topics discussed well, and I will not reinvent the wheel. They state: “we discuss why states fear fire even as they frequently act to parasitize crises as opportunities for political intervention. We talk about how bureaucracies produce both knowledge and non-knowledge and about the gap between rhetorics of state power and the reality of disorder and transience within bureaucracies. We discuss the emotional landscape of patron-client relations and the political landscape of resource conservation. Then, we pivot toward Andrew’s new research on forest protection, biomass energy and climate change in Italy.”
Edge Effects officially launched their new podcast this past month. One of the episodes is an interview with Lauret Savoy. Her recent book, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Counterpoint Press, 2015), is another brilliant addition to growing scholarship and commentary that seeks to uncover the underdeveloped stories of the relationship between the outdoors and nature and minorities. Savoy’s writing represents an excellent example of bridging and intertwining our academic training with the personal. “Part of what…placing myself in time and space also means understanding how this country’s still unfolding history has marked me as a person—not only me, but society and the land itself,” she states.
In this post, Tora Holmberg looks at the way in which we, as a society, categorise animals, particularly urban animals. She asks: “How does one cross the boundaries between being integrated into urban ecologies and becoming disposable as waste?” Holmberg uses rats as the sample animal by which to explore this question and looks at some of the ways in which we use and abuse them. She also connects our treatment of rats to society’s waste management systems – the way in which society treats waste and those that work with waste.
In this Atlantic piece, Rebecca Altman traces the history of the 55-gallon drum. She writes that “over the course of the 20th century, with two world wars and the emergence of global markets, the 55-gallon drum has been one of the most well-traveled objects in human history.” She begins with a discussion of Nellie Bly, the woman that invented the modern steel drum prototype, discussed the way in which unregulated post-war industrialism embraced the steel drum, and ends by looking at the way in which the drum became the representative object of pollution, hazardous waste, and the death of industrialization. “Along with the landfill and the retention pond,” Altman argues, “the 55-gallon drum was the waste-management technology of the 20th Century.”
The 55-gallon drum takes centre-stage in the beginning of Ben Wilkie’s blog post about the dumping of chemical weapons on his Bombs and Biodiversity blog, which focuses on the environmental legacies of war and conflict. Wilkie opens the post by talking about the use of chemical weapons in World War I and the way in which Australia prepared to use chemical weapons in World War II by undertaking controversial test on Australian volunteers. After the war, Wilkie describes the way in which these chemical weapons, which were housed in steel drums, were dumped into the ocean. Wilkie concludes that “over one million tonnes of chemical weapons have been dumped in oceans since the end of the First World War. Whatever their environment impacts, it is well-established that chemical weapons pose a serious risk to human health. As the ocean is increasingly drawn upon as a source of both food and energy, and continues to play a central role in the world’s sprawling telecommunications infrastructure, these remnants of war continue to pose a risk.”