Novel Ecosystems, Borderlands, and ‘Storied Wilderness’

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, European Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Zulu, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Organizers: David Havlick, Sonja Pieck
Chairs: David Havlick


In a 2003 essay, historian William Cronon called for protecting “stories of wild nature, [and] stories of human history” as surprising, compatible, and important goals when considering landscapes with complex or layered pasts. Cronon’s conception of “storied wilderness” offers a useful starting point for considering places with diverse ecological and cultural features: from central Europe’s Iron Curtain borderlands to industrial brownfields, these ruderal and transitional spaces can generate novel ecosystems with varied histories of disturbance, recovery, or “demilitarization” that invite critical examinations of human-environment hybridity.

In this session we seek to examine different contexts where changes in land use or land character may blur meanings and prompt new kinds of negotiations over ecological conservation, environmental governance, and the commemoration of natural and social histories. We are interested in papers that connect to particular places, while also making theoretical connections that address how and why our engagement with storied wilderness matters. For instance, what is at stake when the Iron Curtain’s death strip becomes rebranded as “The Green Belt of Europe”? Which lives are elevated or buried when celebrating nuclear exclusion zones as resurgent wilderness? What risks and opportunities arise if we embrace novel ecosystems and move beyond the strictures of historical fidelity in ecological restoration? What practical and theoretical commitments emerge from a genuine encounter between history, memory, ecology, and place?

Cronon, William. 2003. “The Riddle of the Apostle Islands,” Orion Magazine (May/June). Available online:


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Sonja Pieck*, Bates College, What Stories Can a “National Nature Monument” Tell? Lessons from the German Green Belt 20 1:20 PM
Presenter Astrid M. Eckert*, Emory University, Transboundary Natures: The Consequences of the Iron Curtain for Landscape 20 1:40 PM
Presenter David Havlick*, University of Colorado - Colorado Springs, CO, Beyond Hybridity: Novel Ecosystems and Layered Landscapes in Central Europe 20 2:00 PM
Presenter Joelle Salomon Cavin*, University of Lausanne Faculté Des Géosciences Et De L'environnement, Rewilding the peri-urban forest : how to cross the natural boundaries between the urban and the rural in Switzerland? 20 2:20 PM
Presenter Todd Lookingbill*, University of Richmond, Trajectories of Change for Civil War Battlefield Parks in Richmond, VA 20 2:40 PM

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