Edge Effects

Things have been pretty quiet lately around Porous Places. That’s because for the last six months all of my blogging energies have been devoted to developing Edge Effects, the official blog of UW-Madison’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE).

Sanqing Mountain, China. One of many banners from the new Edge Effects blog. Photo by William Cronon.

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Watery Bodies

Porous Places is, for the most part, a blog about watery landscapes. Some detours into neurobiology, epigeneticsanimal friendships, and children’s literature aside, I usually manage to stay focused on the soggier entanglements of society and environment.

Water content in the body

Water content in the body. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.

But one kind of watery place that I’ve largely neglected here is the body.

And while this post will mostly be about human bodies, there’s no reason not to be inclusive of plant and animal bodies as well. Water and whatever may be suspended in it flows in and out of our bodies—whether human or non-human, animal or plant—with all sorts of consequences for both ecological health and the ways we understand our relationship to the environment. Re-imagining all of our bodies as watery landscapes can be revealing.

Let me tell you three stories. . . . Continue reading

California’s Water Nightmare

It’s been a horrendous winter as far as unusually extreme weather goes. The UK has been drowning for weeks and the Upper Midwest has been utterly frozen. Life in Madison this season has felt almost as if the mile-thick ice sheets of 20,000 years ago had stopped by to check on their old stomping grounds. California, meanwhile, has experienced its driest year in over a century, dramatically compounding an already unbearable drought.

The Atlantic Cities blog just posted some great images of Folsom Lake illustrating the severity of the situation.

California's water nightmare

Folsom Lake reservoir on July 20, 2011 (left) and January 16, 2014 (right). Image from the Atlantic Cities blog, 2014. Click to enlarge.

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DredgeFest Louisiana

I spent one of the first few weeks of 2014 in the fantastic company of what I’m affectionately calling “sediment nerds.” From January 11th to the 17th, we converged on New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and points in between for a two-day symposium, film screening, mini-tour, series of student workshops, and a concluding second tour. It was exhausting and fascinating.

Yes. Sediment. Fascinating.

USACE dredging to create marshland

The US Army Corps of Engineers dredging to create marshland somewhere on the Louisiana coast. Image courtesy of USACE. Click to enlarge.

Allow me to explain. Continue reading

2013: The Year in Watery Places

2013 was mostly a pretty quiet year around Porous Places. Aside from a lone neurobiology post in February, things were pretty dead until I managed to commit to a twice-monthly (or so) schedule in August. Unlike my poor, neglected blog, however, my twitter and RSS feeds were full of remarkable stuff when it came to the porous and the waterlogged. For this final post of 2013, I present a roundup of the year in watery places. Continue reading

Memory and the Material World

Update: Virginia Hughes, whose original story about a new study in mice epigenetics inspired this post, has updated her coverage of that research. Find the link at the bottom of this page.

Over the last few decades, scholars from across the social sciences and humanities have been hard at work building an interdisciplinary field around the study of memory. Historians, anthropologists, psychologists, and many, many more have produced some fascinating conversations about the ways people remember and forget, and all the consequences cascading from those two phenomena. It’s a fascinating body of work and includes research devoted to everything from the study of technology and emotion to the multi-generational impacts of trauma. Continue reading