This is the second in a series of blog posts chronicling research in the time of Covid19.In writing these pieces, we are exploring ways to try and use the pandemic restrictions as a means of thinking productively about our case study areas and the mobilities (and now immobilities) that are coming to bear on them. Stay tuned for the next piece in the series!
In his 2017 article ‘Predicting zoonoses’, the American science writer Karl Gruber notes that global pandemics are ‘wicked problems’ in so far as the planet is ‘riddled by invisible pathogens that could jump into humans at any time anywhere in the world.’ The article is prescient, but pandemics like COVID-19 are very much part of our world, and they have been for some time now. It’s easy enough to blame the germs – that malevolent host of invisible enemies that perversely spawn and spread within us – yet it is not the viruses that are the villains, nor the various animals that carry them, but rather we ourselves for having created and consolidated the conditions under which they emerge. As my ‘Corridor Talk’ colleagues have already pointed out, the ironies begin to multiply when a research project organized around the relationship between human/animal mobility and boundaries is stymied by a pandemic in which invisible creatures effortlessly breach one kind of protective boundary (the human epidermis) even as another (national borders) is pre-emptively closed. The question of access is central here – who has the right to move or not, and the extent to which unwanted movements are controllable – but equally important is the question of visibility itself.
This is the first in a series of blog posts chronicling research in the time of Covid19.In writing these pieces, we are exploring ways to try and use the pandemic restrictions as a means of thinking productively about our case study areas and the mobilities (and now immobilities) that are coming to bear on them. Stay turned for the next piece in the series!
When we received the news that our project proposal “Corridor Talk” had been successful and we would have funding to work on the Wadden Sea National Parks, the two of us were looking forward to getting our feet wet. However, just a few weeks after the project started, the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe and all travel plans had to be put on hold indefinitely. No fieldwork and no travelling to meet our project partners; along with many others, we were going to be starting our explorations of the national parks from the comfort of home office in two different places: Katie in Munich, Germany, and Eveline in Groningen, the Netherlands.
What seemed like such a great idea when we designed this project – to focus on national parks that lie across or abut national borders – is proving something of a headache today, as the spread of the corona virus has closed down borders and made travel almost impossible. All plans for fieldwork this summer are currently on hold while we await developments. Meanwhile, while we are stuck in Munich, Leeds, and Groningen respectively, the migrating birds are returning to their breeding grounds on the Wadden Sea, bears are perhaps enjoying the decrease in human visitors to the Pyrénées, and bark beetle in the Bavarian Forest remain oblivious of the closed border between the Czech Republic and Germany. It’s a reminder that mobilities are experienced and enacted very differently by different species – something we are hoping to look more into as this project proceeds.
The first official project meeting just took place, on 27th February at the University of Leeds. Lots of things to discuss—how to integrate the two new postdoc positions and fieldwork into the project timeline, how to collaborate in co-writing articles, when exactly to hold our first, exploratory workshop. We are looking forward to keeping this site updated as our plans progress!
Our project “Corridor Talk: Conservation Humanities and the Future of Europe’s National Parks,” funded jointly by the German Research Council (DFG) and the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), launches officially on 1 February 2020 and runs for the next three years. Featuring a team of six researchers, three based at the University of Leeds and three at LMU Munich, this project applies interdisciplinary perspectives derived from a new field partly pioneered at Leeds, conservation humanities, which examines the humanistic aspects of biodiversity loss. These perspectives will be used to consider the past, present, and future of four of Europe’s most iconic national parks: Wadden Sea National Parks, Pyrénées NationalPark, and the Bavarian Forest and Šumava National Parks.