What I love is reading culture in light of nature and nature in light of culture!
I am Director of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Chair in American Cultural History at LMU Munich, and an Honorary Professor and Fellow at the Center for Ecological History at Renmin University in China. Over the years I have written books on such diverse topics as Pacifism in Imperial Germany, Swiss Poetry, the Resistance to Hitler and US Secret Intelligence. Twenty years ago I discovered my passion for the environment. Ever since then I have dedicated most of my time to understanding nature-culture relations through research, lectures, and seminars, and through the organization of conferences, exhibitions, and place-based workshops.
I am fascinated with integrating a variety of impulses from outside academia into research and teaching: from conservationists and bureaucrats to politicians and activists.
Personal research interests
I just finished a book titled “Paradise Blues: Reisen in die Natur und die Geschichte der USA” – a combination of travel and nature writing and Environmental History. I see the starting point for future research projects in the insights that human activity has engraved itself deeply in the earth’s surface and into atmospheric processes, that landscapes are co-created by more-than-human bodies, and that the molecular composition of human bodies resembles that of our galaxy. I am asking myself how we (Westerners) can rethink human relations with the more-than-human world while writing clear and engaged histories for the 21st Century.
At the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (RCC), I am involved in many of the RCC’s research projects such as: “Catastrophes and Heritage Preservation”; “Resourceful and Resilient Communities”; “Worldmaking from a Global Perspective: A Dialogue with China”; “Communicating Planetary Health”; “Strengthening the Environmental Humanities”; and others.
I have published articles and books about environmentalism around the globe; rivers in history; landscapes and roads; the history of sustainability; China’s eco-environments, comparative German and US environmental history; natural catastrophes and cultural responses; hazards, risks and uncertainty; waste in environment and society; gardens and parks; sustainable cities; and the history of animals. Most recently I co-wrote an essay about teaching the environmental humanities and I worked on a project about Germany’s first National Park (Urwald der Bayern: Natur, Geschichte und Politik im Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald, 2020). Together with students at the Carson Center I worked on an exhibition and catalogue titled Ecopolis: Environmental Stories of Discovery (2019)
I am currently editor or co-editor of several book series and journals including Environmental History – International Perspectives (Berghahn Books), Umwelt und Gesellschaft (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), and Global Environment (Whitehorse Press).