Environmental historian Verena Winiwarter received the Austrian Scientist of the Year Award for 2014 and became the first in her field to be given this honor. On October 27 she gave a lecture on her research at the Embassy of Austria in Washington DC to discuss her research on the Danube River and how the mistakes of environmental history can be turned into lessons for a sustainable future.
Verena Winiwarter's evening talk, hosted by OSTA, focused on how the most important lessons of environmental history is human intervention with nature often results in unintentional impacts on the environment, economy, and social conditions. To avoid repeating mistakes of the past, environmental historians tell stories of success and failure to contribute to sustainable futures. Such stories include the regulation of the Danube River, and the management of forests in pre-modern Salzburg. To Verena Winiwarter, neither are stories of collapse. Five hundred years of regulating the Danube in Vienna leaves Austria with profoundly transformed river, and irreversible consequences. As many plans did not turn out as intended, looking at environmental history leaves historians with valuable lessons from the past.
The lecture was followed by an evening reception in the embassy's main hall, where guests continued to discuss the points brought up in the presentation. Winiwarter is known for being an environmental historian and Rachel Carson Center Board Member. She was named the 2013 Austrian Scientist of the Year and since 2010 has been dean of the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Alpen-Adria- Universitaet Klagenfurt. In 2013, the Austrian Club of Education and Science Journalists elected Winiwarter as Austrian Scientist of the Year for her exceptional research and her ability and dedication to explaining her research to the non- scientific public.