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Graduate programs

Cultural perspectives on environmental issues

München, 03/19/2015

The social repercussions of climate change, problems of environmental justice: these are among the topics dealt with in the new doctoral program designed by LMU’s Rachel Carson Center – in collaboration with institutions in the UK and Sweden.

Foto: Sunny Forest / fotolia.com

Water shortage, climate change, species loss – the range of environmental problems now threatening habitats all over the world confronts our globalized society with questions that extend far beyond ecological and technological issues. The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC) at LMU Munich was set up to study the nexus between humanity’s relationship with its natural environment and the consequences of that interaction for social life. Using a humanities and social sciences approach, the RCC’s goal is enrich debates on and responses to current environmental issues by taking account of their historical and cultural dimensions.

The RCC now offers a new graduate program for doctoral students – in collaboration with the University of Leeds (UK) and the Environmental Humanities Lab at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The network will give twelve suitably qualified graduate students the opportunity to become intimately acquainted with all facets of the environmental humanities. Research and teaching will concentrate on the influence of cultural factors on the assessment of risk and on responses to natural disasters, the status of science and technology in society and the role of environmental ethics. The topics at the centre of the training program include issues relating to the social impacts of climate change and loss of biodiversity, the domination and destruction of natural resources and habitats and questions of environmental justice. In addition, exchange programs, practical applications, and the planning and organization of presentations for the public at large serve to underline the program’s pan-European character.

The project “Environmental Humanities for a Concerned Europe (ENHANCE for short) is therefore the first distinctively transnational and multidisciplinary educational and research endeavor of its kind in this area,” says LMU professor Christof Mauch, co-director of the RCC. The program is made possible by a grant from the European Commission‘s Marie Curie Actions Initiative, which is primarily intended to benefit junior researchers. The fact that the project was selected for funding in the face of tough competition from all over Europe is a tribute to the work of the partners responsible for its design. The EU will provide 3 million euros over the coming four years to fund posts for the participating doctoral students and to support the network as a whole. The recruitment process for the four posts available at each of the partner institutions is already underway.

“What is really new is the partnership with agencies that are directly involved with environmental issues at ground level,” says Christof Mauch. These partners include the Alliance for Animal Welfare (Stiftung Bündnis Mensch und Tier), the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Swedish Radio, the Deutsches Museum in Munich and the Capannori Research Center for Zero Waste. “Our graduate students will not only be trained in all aspects of theory and research, but will also gain practical experience in selected fields in three different countries. The skills they learn in the course of the program will qualify them for positions of responsibility in the area of environmental policy and its implementation.”