Salt mountain at Salin-de-Giraud, spring 2019 © Joana Luz

Environmental History symposium

Climate, environment and human activity: shall we rethink History?

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Friday, Aug. 26

Conferences and discussions program

  • 10:30 a.m.: Tales of an Urban Forest: Multispecies Alliances in Morro de Babilônia, Rio de Janeiro, 1995-2020
    Lise Sedrez, Associate Professor, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, History Institute

    A traditional favela of Rio de Janeiro, Morro da Babilônia hosts a poor and mostly Black community with a view to one of the most striking postcards of Brazil, Copacabana Beach, which is very vulnerable to landslides. Since 1995, residents have worked on a reforestation project which has improved the area’s biodiversity, microclimate and fostered community building. Oral history shows how the experience of urban forestry has changed the identity and the memory of the residents as a community. Their response to environmental risk fits into a larger toolkit of strategies of survival to cope with inequality, violence and real estate speculation.
  • 11:00 a.m.: Writing the Environmental History of 18th Century Paris Through its Gardens
    Jan Synowiecki, Former student of the École Normale Supérieure Ulm; Historian; Doctor in Modern History

    Royal or princely, the gardens of Paris in the 18th century were supposed to offer the urban population salvation from the exhalations and miasmas of the city. Environmental history allows us to rethink the genesis of nature in the city, at a time when the Great Divide between Nature and Culture was largely inoperative, and sources reveal the delineation of micro-splits that were largely reserved for conflicts between jurisdictions, police regulations and tensions between the different social uses of the garden space.
  • 11:30 a.m.: Urban Micro-Climates
    Bas Smets, Landscape Architect, designer of the LUMA park

    Cities are an accumulation of artificial climates, modifying wind, sunlight, permeability, and humidity. A good understanding of these man-made climates allows us to transform them into micro-climates. For every urban condition, there is a natural condition. It is about using the logic of nature to produce a new, refreshing urban landscape.
  • 12:00 p.m.: Discussion: Gardens for Changing the City
    With Lise Sedrez, Bas Smets, Jan Synowiecki and Martin Guinard

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  • 12:30 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.: Break
  • 2:15 p.m.: Retrofutur: From the History of Energy Innovations to Retro-Tech
    Loic Rogard, Independent Interdisciplinary Researcher in Energy and Environment; Historian of Energy, Paris Diderot

    The history of energy is far from continuous. It is full of fantastic innovations, of precursory devices that were not considered relevant or reliable in their time. They either did not find interested users or lacked a technical fix to make the system efficient. However, these forgotten inventions are perhaps able, today, to respond in a more favorable and unexpected way to the challenges of the coming world. This new writing on the history of energy and history of the invisibilized margin calls for an overall vision which allows for further phases of analysis and creation.
  • 2:30 p.m.: Centre for Contemporary Nature: pyro-forensis

    Samaneh Moafi, Senior Researcher of Forensic Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London

    In recent years and through several ongoing caseworks, Forensic Architecture’s Centre for Contemporary Nature has developed new evidentiary techniques and methods for bringing accountability to casualties and destructions caused by fires. Moving from the domestic scale of the home to the territorial scale of the plantation, this talk sets out a framework of pyro-forensics whereby fire is investigated in its entanglement with colonial, military, and corporate forms of violence.

  • 3:00 p.m.: Hell on Earth  
    Timothy Morton, Professor, Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University, Texas; Director, Cool America Foundation (via Zoom)

    If there is a god, we can imagine them as a master whom it is impossible to obey perfectly. Hence religion. Now imagine a servant who does exactly what you tell them to do. A perfect servant. They do what you tell them, with all the unintended consequences. This is every story about the Devil, and it is also the reality of our physical existence in a biosphere. We are, in effect, living in Hell, whether or not it’s very hot in there right now, and everything we do has to be a deal with the Devil.
  • 3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.: Break
  • 4:00 p.m.: Of Bark and Lead, In Search of Stories to Embark on the Critical Zone
    Claire Dutrait, PhD candidate in practice and theory of literary and artistic creation, CIELAM Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Literature of Aix-Marseille

    Close to the urban mines of the outskirts of Dakar, Claire Dutrait is looking for ways to use tree bark to act as a sensor of the quality of the air, taking on the representation of a polluted territory, to contribute to making it breathable and habitable. Hybrid stories of materials, stories of territory… It's a question of embarkinging on the deployment of these sensors and the opportunity to design a creative narrative about ecological emergency.
  • 4:15 p.m.: Stop Saving the Planet!
    Jenny Price, Écrivain public, Artiste, Historienne, École Sam Fox, Université Washington de Saint-Louis

    We’ve been “saving the planet” for decades...and environmental crises just get worse. Jenny Price says, enough already!—with a fierce, fun call for an environmentalism that is fairer, less righteous, and a whole lot more effective.
  • 4:45 p.m.: Preparing for an Urban Exodus? 
    Sébastien Marot, PhD, Accreditation to supervise research (HDR), Professor of Environmental History at the School of Architecture of the city and territories of Paris (Éav&T) and at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL)

    Exactly fifty years ago, Rem Koolhaas launched his career as an architect with Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, a tale for a future of metropolitan congestion. Nowadays, environmental concerns might well lead us to reframe the inspiration of his tale into envisioning a rather different future or adventure of dispersion, applied to (re)building worlds.
  • 5:15 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.: Discussion: Why Has Everything Changed? The Future of Environmental History
    With Jenny Price, Sébastien MarotTimothy Morton, Maria Finders, Samaneh Moafi and Grégory Quenet

Book your tickets for Friday afternoon

Note: All conferences are simultaneously translated (FR > EN).

Environmental History symposium full program

Thursday, Aug. 25 conference program

Saturday, Aug. 27 conference program

Curators LUMA Arles: Maria Finders, Martin Guinard 
Scientific Advisor: Grégory Quenet, Environmental Historian


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