From: Lisa Mighetto <>
Subject: ASEH News Fall Issue
Fall 2008
Volume 19, Issue 3
See the Table of Contents below ("In This Issue") and click on the article that you wish to read. When you finish an article, scroll back up to the Table of Contents and click on the next article that you wish to read.
In This Issue
Column: From the President's Desk (Sustainability and the Presidential Election)
Column: The Profession (Becoming Involved in Environmental Justice Projects)
Member News
Tallahassee Workshops, Including Environmental Justice, Sustainability, and Grant-Writing
ASEH Awards Submissions for 2008 - Final Notice
Attention Graduate Students
New Discussion Board on Sustainability
From the President's Desk
Sustainability and the Presidential Election
With the American presidential election fast approaching, I struggle with my own dual roles as citizen and environmental historian. As a professor at a public university, I am required by law to keep my own political partisanship out of the classroom. I urge my students to work for the candidate they think is best, but I'm careful never to advise them on which candidate that might be.
Wisconsin is once again a swing state. Each student's individual actions - each door they knock on, each voter they register, each leaflet they post, each conversation they have with one of those mythical (and puzzling) undecided voters - can indeed make an enormous difference in the election. Four years ago, just over eleven thousand votes decided the outcome of Wisconsin's election; four years before that, even fewer votes made the difference. I encourage each one of my 250 students to get outside and do something to change the course of history.  When I run into them at the campaign offices downtown, I feel like maybe we are indeed doing something useful.
But fundamentally, in this electoral season, the task of an academic seems more daunting than ever. Historians traffic in nuanced complexities, but that's not what decides elections. The more absurd the campaign rhetoric gets, the less persuasive seems our work as academic humanists.
Historians are good at complicating things. We excel at problematizing assumptions. But if we only offer critiques, we let ourselves be marginalized. We need to show how our critiques lead to viable alternatives for more sustainable futures, however we define sustainability. William Cronon's critique of the idea of wilderness gained its power not just because he problematized wilderness, but  he offered an alternative to the pristine ideal, an ethic of valuing the landscapes of home. Critiques of the elitism so common in conservation history are most compelling when they suggest ways that community-based conservation can engage more diverse voices in decisions about natural resources. Complicating the discourses of global warming can easily become little more than another academic exercise. But it can also help us understand why global warming, and the environment in general, has largely vanished from media interest and campaign rhetoric during this election.
I am sure that each of us, as environmental historians, shares ASEH's vision: to advance a greater understanding of the history of human interaction with the rest of the natural world. Now, more than ever, we need to engage in conversations, with friends, family, neighbors, students, and strangers, about our critiques and our visions for a more sustainable world.

Nancy Langston, ASEH President
Becoming Involved in Environmental Justice Projects

By Sylvia Hood Washington, Editor, Environmental Justice
When I was working on my Ph.D. in the history of technology and science, I developed an interest in environmental history because it seemed to me that a large cohort of environmental historians were engaged in scholarship that elucidated the role of humans in transforming nature through technology and engineering systems. Just as important to me at this time, however, was the growing interest and focus of environmental historians like Hurley, Melosi, Steinberg, Tarr, Merchant, and Stein on how human environments and public health were being affected by technologies and public policies.


Environmental history struck a responsive chord in me because its intent was to elucidate our past with the objective of understanding a pressing and perennial global issue for present and future generations - environmental pollution.  The work of environmental historians today will continue to be an asset to academicians, environmental policy makers, and lay communities alike. The scholarship of environmental historians, as the founder of modern environmental justice (EJ) research  sociologist Robert Bullard has alluded to in his previous publications, can be an asset to EJ communities who have borne a disproportionate burden of having environmental waste dumped into their backyards.
Through their archival research and analytical skills, environmental historians can help unravel the persistent environmental and legal "chicken and egg" question for EJ communities. Who came first:  the people or the polluters?  This question is at the heart of many EJ struggles. Are EJ communities responsible for their own environmental problems? Today there are a significant number of scholars and legal opponents of EJ who argue that individuals chose to live in EJ geographies for economic gain or increased opportunities.  Or are EJ community residents the victims of long-term patterns and practices of unjust or uncaring environmental and planning policies?


Environmental historians can help answer why pollution was allowed to be disproportionately concentrated in particular communities (versus others) and whether race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status were critical factors in environmental and public policy decisions that shaped these environmental geographies.  Oral histories can be used to elucidate the historical "bottom up" or on-the-ground perspectives of EJ community members, who witnessed their landscapes change and evolve over time to become places of environmental inequalities rife with health problems.
We have much to offer to the EJ communities as environmental historians, but we must also be careful how we interface and interact. Since the EJ movement began in 1982, numerous EJ communities have become reticent and leery of working with scholars and academicians. Many leaders in EJ communities today believe that they have been used and exploited by outsiders, particularly academics.  They are now all too familiar with dissertation, thesis, and book projects, which disproportionately benefit academics and their graduate students.  They also point out these academics do not believe in the "trickle down" theory, since they and their students rarely, if ever, come from these communities. They see us graduate, get tenure or the new job, and publish the book based on our study of their communities, but all too frequently the research rarely alleviates their struggle in a significant way.
As EJ scholars and environmental historians, we need to focus our efforts on developing studies that yield outcomes that could potentially change the course of these communities. One approach is the development of spatial temporal analyses based upon a cogent historical research of EJ geographies using GIS (Geographic Information Systems). GIS models of EJ communities can help residents understand in a concrete way how their communities have changed environmentally, bringing many potential benefits - legal as well as psychological. Training EJ communities how to use GIS from a historical perspective is even more empowering and would have long term benefits for members who chose to stay in the community and fight for environmental justice.
These potential benefits for GIS in EJ scholarship and for EJ communities will be explored in a workshop at ASEH's upcoming Tallahassee conference.  Activities of the workshop will include a hands-on GIS project involving EJ communities selected in advance by Florida A&M's Center for Environmental Justice and Equity. The workshop will bring together environmental historians and EJ activists to discuss the past environmental issues that these communities have faced, and how historians can effectively participate and work with them to affect their future environmental experiences. Click here for more information.

Tallahassee conference online registration now available.
  Click here for more information.
Final Announcement for ASEH's New Fellowships
The Sept. 30 deadlines are fast approaching for ASEH's new  fellowships:
Additional donations would make these fellowships more secure. If you are interested in donating to either of these fellowships, please send your contribution to:
Dr. Mark Madison, Chief Historian
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
Travel Grants for 2009 Meetings
Travel grants are available for those presenting in Tallahassee (deadline Oct. 1) and Copenhagen (deadline has been extended to Nov. 1). Click here for more information.
Non-ASEH Announcements:

ASEH's Tallahassee conference will include field trips to Tall Timbers and Goodwood Museum and Gardens. We will also offer a kayaking and a birding trip.



Member News
Mansel Blackford of the Ohio State University History Department announces the publication of "A Tale of Two Fisheries: Fishing and Over-Fishing in American Waters" in the September 2008 issue of Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective. Origins is a publication from the Public History Initiative and eHistory in the History Department at Ohio State University. Origins can be found at [the podcast is found at]
Fritz Davis, Florida State University, recently received a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) for his second book: Pesticides and Toxicology: A Century of Environmental Health. 
Joel Tarr has been awarded the Leonardo da Vinci
medal for 2008 by the Society for the History of Technology. As SHOT's highest award, the Leonardo da Vinci Medal is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the history of technology through research, teaching, publications, and other activities.

Tallahassee Workshops
ASEH's Tallahassee conference will include the following workshops, all of which are free to registrants.
History and Sustainability Workshop: Making Environmental History Relevant Inside the Academy, Thursday, February 26, 2009
Sponsor: Network in Canadian History & Environment (NiCHE)
Additional information will be available in the conference program, mailed to members and available on ASEH's website in November 2008.

Environmental Justice Workshop, Friday-Saturday, February 27-28, 2009

  •  Environmental Justice, the journal
  • Center for Environmental Justice and Equity, Florida A&M University
  • Department of Geography, Florida State University
  • Anonymous donation to ASEH
The Friday morning session, titled "The State of Environmental Justice in America: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in the New Millennium," will include a roundtable discussion led by environmental justice scholars and activists, and Friday afternoon will be devoted to a hands-on demonstration of GIS applications.  We will then visit an off-site location to map an area. Saturday morning we will visit Florida A&M University's Center for Environmental Justice.
Lunch will be provided. Admission is free but you must sign up ahead of time - See ASEH's online conference registration form.  
Friday morning speakers:
Richard Gragg, Director, Center for Environmental Justice and Equity, Florida A&M University. For more information, see:

Sylvia Hood Washington, UIC School of Public Health, author of Packing Them In: An Archaeology of Environmental Racism in Chicago, 1865-1954 and other publications; editor-in-chief of Environmental Justice
For more information, see:
Peggy Shepard,
Executive Director, We Act for Environmental Justice, New York; recipient of MacArthur Genius Grant and recipient of Rockefeller Award for community activism. For more information, see:
Sacoby Wilson, Institute for Families and Society, University of South Carolina
For more information, see:
Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Director, Center for Environmental Justice and Children's Health, Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Philosophy, University of Notre-Dame
For more information, see:
Grant-Writing Workshop, Saturday, February 28, 2009  
The speakers for this workshop will include Paul Hirt, Arizona State University; Jacqueline Corn, Professor Emeritus-Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Martin Melosi, University of Houston; and Linda Sargent Wood, Arizona State University
The workshop will include feedback for participants on specific proposals.  If you are interested in a particular grant and you want advice, please bring an RFP (Request for Proposal) with you, or a draft of your proposal, or a completed proposal that was not funded that you wish to revise and resubmit. You are also encouraged to bring your laptop. We have asked for a room with wireless Internet access.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact the workshop organizer, Paul Hirt, at
The Summer  2008 issue of ASEH News includes Paul's article on writing grant proposals. Click here to view the article.
ASEH Awards Submissions for 2008 - Final Notice

This year ASEH's prize committees will evaluate submissions (published books and articles and completed dissertations) that appear between November 1, 2007 and October 31, 2008. Please send three copies of each submission (these must be hard copies, or paper copies) by November 7, 2008 to:


Lisa Mighetto

ASEH, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program

University of Washington

1900 Commerce Street

Tacoma, WA  98402

Attention Graduate Students
Update on Proposal for Graduate Student Liaison Position 
Dear graduate students: After soliciting your feedback at the Boise conference, through various e-mails, and through our discussion board, we have drafted a proposal to formalize the graduate student liaison position - and it will soon be submitted to ASEH's Executive Committee.  If the proposal is accepted by the Executive Committee, we will be announcing the competition process via e-mail and the graduate discussion board ( Additional details will be available in the next newsletter.
Merritt McKinney,
Bradley Skopyk,
[Acting Graduate Student Liaisons]

Travel Grants Available
Click here
to learn more about travel grants available for the Tallahassee and Copenhagen conferences.
New Discussion Board on Sustainability
Many ASEH members have asked how we can continue to build our community of scholars in a way that supports the principles of sustainability. Michael Smith's article "Facing Some Inconvenient Truth Ourselves," which appeared in ASEH News (winter 2007), sparked much discussion over e-mail and at our conference in Boise about reducing our carbon footprint. Michael is now exploring models for virtual conferences and meetings for The Chronicle of Higher Education with the University of Minnesota's Mark Pedelty and others, and has agreed to monitor a discussion board on ASEH's website. If you are interested in participating, click here. To register as a member on ASEH's website (so that you can post on the discussion board), click here.
If this discussion generates enough interest, ASEH could develop a task force on sustainability, which could develop policies for our annual conference and other activities. For more information on scholars and their carbon footprint, see:

NiCHE (Network in Canadian History & Environment), is sponsoring a sustainability workshop at our conference in Tallahassee in February 2009. Details will appear in the Tallahassee conference program, which will available on our website ( and will be sent to all members in November 2008.
ASEH News is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History.


  • Nancy Langston, Department of Forest Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin-Madison, President
  • Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Vice President/President Elect
  • Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
  • Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College, Secretary

Executive Committee:

  • Kathleen Bronson, University of Houston
  • Peter Coates, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  • Paul Hirt, Arizona State University
  • Nancy Jacobs, Brown University
  • Katherine Morrissey, University of Arizona
  • Mark Stoll, Texas Tech University
  • Verena Winiwarter, University of Vienna, Austria 

Ex Officio, Past Presidents:

  • Carolyn Merchant, University of California-Berkeley
  • Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University
  • Douglas Weiner, University of Arizona 

Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News:

  • Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma 

Ex Officio, H-Environment Representative:

  • Melissa Wiedenfeld, Historian, Virginia

Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History:

  • Mark Cioc, University of California-Santa Cruz




ASEH Annual Conference,
Tallahassee, Feb. 25-March 1, 2009


Click here for online conference registration
Click here for information on conference hotel
Click here for information on Tallahassee workshops, including Environmental Justice, Grant Writing, and Sustainability
Click here for information on field trips
Click here for information on keynote and plenary speakers, including David Quammen and Daniel Simberloff
Click here for information on travel grants for Tallahassee - the Oct. 1 deadline is fast approaching
Click here for information on carbon credits 

2009 World Congress in Copenhagen

Click here for information on the World Congress in Denmark, 2009 
The deadline for ASEH travel grants for Copenhagen has been extended to Nov. 1, 2008. Click here more more information.

ASEH Fellowships - Deadlines Fast Approaching

The deadline for ASEH's new fellowships, the Samuel Hays Fellowship and Hal Rothman Fellowship, is Sept. 30, 2008. Click here for more information. 



This newsletter is a quarterly publication of the American Society for Environmental History. If you have questions, or if you would like to submit an article or announcement, contact Lisa Mighetto, editor, at
The deadline for the winter issue is December 12, 2008.

ASEH Website

Click here to add your info. to our Directory of Members and Experts

Click here to view our new poll

ASEH Future Conferences

Portland, Oregon
March 10-14 2010
Phoenix, Arizona
April 12-16, 2011
Click here for more information

Attention Book Publishers

ASEH's Tallahassee conference will include a book exhibit, and our program will include book advertisements.
Click here for information on reserving tables and placing ads. The deadline is November 1, 2008.
The deadline for submitting entries for ASEH's award for the best book in environmental history November 7, 2008Click here for details. 
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