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|President's Column: Lessons of History|
|Environmental histories are not just academic exercises; they are political acts. Historians tend to be reluctant to work with policymakers for fear that we might be accused of the historian's cardinal sin: presentism, or the error of judging past actors by the standards of the present. But we can and should learn from the experiences of the past. Policymaking is often based on arguments about the past, although rarely are those arguments explicit. Foresters, for example, make a set of observations about how forests have responded to particular ecological disturbances or silivicultural treatments in the past. They use those observations to derive hypotheses about how today's forests might respond to various manipulations, including logging, climate change, and suburban development. Hospital review boards examine past medical mistakes to avoid repeating those mistakes.|
But environmental policymakers rarely take a formal or structured approach to examining historical case studies to learn when evidence emerged about potential risks, and when implementation of policies might have saved lives or suppressed innovation. Policymakers could benefit from working with environmental historians to help frame coherent historical arguments, rather than simply using anecdotes as evidence (Robert E. Neustadt, and Ernest R May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers, New York: The Free Press, 1986).
A crucial lesson from my own research on the history of toxic chemicals is that more science alone cannot solve our environmental policy conflicts. Calls for "more research!" become a way of delaying action, keeping profitable drugs and chemicals on the market as long as possible while scientists duel it out in labs and courts.Historian of science Naomi Oreskes argues that industry lobbyists manipulate scientific uncertainty, often manufacturing a fake debate to dispute emerging scientific consensus.
Denialists first argue that the science is uncertain. Then they argue that concerns are exaggerated and the true risks are small, particularly compared to natural risks already existing in the environment. Finally, they state that technology will solve the problem, so there's no need for regulation. The campaigns against environmental and public health regulation involve the same institutions, run by the same people, and funded by the same sources (Naomi Oreskes, "The American Denial of Global Warming," online lecture at http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.asp?showID=13459 - accessed Nov. 29, 2008).
Another key lesson from my own research on endocrine disrupting chemicals is the need for intelligent regulation to protect public health and the environment. Among the free market enthusiastics of George W. Bush's presidential administration, regulation was a dirty word. During the eight years of anti-regulatory fervor between 2000 and 2008, environmental and health agencies were eviscerated. Political appointees chosen to head the agencies were often people who had spent their careers battling regulation, rather than trying to make it smarter. Little wonder that the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are both in chaos. While it is impossible to say what changes President Obama's administration might bring to environmental policy, I hope that a respect for scientific evidence and a pragmatic understanding of the need for careful regulation and oversight will be among the highest priorities.
The financial chaos of fall 2008 illustrates the perils of ideologically-driven deregulation. After years of deregulation and the abdication of oversight responsibilities, financial systems are falling apart. Advocates of deregulation insisted that financial systems were resilient, able to absorb whatever was tossed at them, yet the chaos of 2008 is finally making pundits rediscover the virtues of regulation. Why were so many powerful groups able to ignore the growing signs of instability and stress?
As the historian Peter Perdue writes, "Governing elites resist looking too closely into historical roots of current crises; they suppress evidence and manipulate historical narratives to legitimate themselves. The fact that financial crises, or environmental crises, have reoccurred repeatedly even in recent memory doesn't guarantee that anyone will really want to address the fundamental causes. Historians have to recognize, and tell their readers, that impulses to denial, willful blindness, and ideological distortion are just as powerful as rational analysis in causing social change" (Peter Perdue, "AHR Conversation: Environmental Historians and Environmental Crisis." American Historical Review, in press).
Environmental historians have exactly this role to play. We might not be able to prevent the powerful from willfully manipulating historical narratives to keep themselves in power. But we can and should provide counternarratives that push back against these manipulations.
ASEH would not exist without the generosity, hard work, and dedication of many volunteers. I am grateful to our members who have served on various committees, including the executive, nominating, prize, program, local arrangements, conference sites, ASEH website, H-Environment listserve, and education committees. Our members have been generous as well with donations, which make possible our travel grants, research fellowships, and awards. Without the extraordinary talents and dedication of our executive director, Lisa Mighetto, none of this would be possible. We are deeply indebted to all of you.
On Finding a Publisher: Some Cautions and Advice
By Marianne Keddington-Lang, University of Washington Press
Finding the right publisher for your manuscript can be a challenge. We have all heard stories of authors who are disappointed in their presses and editors who swear they will never work with an author again. Often, those stories are the result of a manuscript-and an author-just being with the wrong publisher. So, be sure to look at publishers' Web sites, study their publication lists and series, and talk to colleagues. And then think about what you want from a publisher and what your manuscript might need to become a good book. As you begin your search, here are some cautions and advice.
Don't try to find an editor who will agree with everything you say or think. You want someone who will work with you to make your manuscript as strong and smart as possible. Look for a press whose publications you admire, but don't assume that it didn't take a lot of work and time for them to be as polished as they are.
Don't send anything to an editor that is not well written or proofread. Presses tend to think that if you can't write an effective letter or proposal, then it's unlikely you can write a good manuscript. Call on a mentor, colleagues, former English teachers as reviewers, and listen to them.
Don't diminish the work of others who have come before you. You may have a new interpretation or a new theory, but it's not impressive if you have to rely on disparaging another scholar's work to make yours look important.
Don't act as if you're tired of your manuscript. Presses need to know that you have passion for your work. Editors and publicists won't get excited about your work if you're not.
Don't be afraid. Take some risks. You may be tempted to submit to your home university press or to the same press all of your colleagues publish with. Talk with several presses to see whose eyes light up.
With some thoughtful attention, you'll find the right publisher-along with some challenging conversations, long-lasting friendships, and, in the end, a great book.
Editor's note: Marianne Keddington-Lang will be one of the speakers at our workshop on publishing, offered at ASEH's annual conference in Portland, Oregon in March 2010.
|Election 2009 - It's Time to Vote|
Deadline: January 16, 2009. Successful candidates will take office March 1, 2009.
Vice President/President Elect
Executive Committee (ASEH members can vote for FOUR):
Nominating Committee (ASEH members can vote for TWO):
|Call for Nominations for ASEH's Distinguished Service Award -2009|
ASEH's Executive Committee is considering nominations for our Distinguished Service Award. Previous recipients of this award have included John Opie, J. Donald Hughes, Susan Flader, and Hal Rothman. ASEH members can suggest candidates that have demonstrated exemplary service to ASEH. Current members of ASEH's Executive Committee are not eligible for consideration as candidates this year. If you are interested, please send your suggestions to email@example.com by January 16, 2009.
|Workshops at ASEH's Tallahassee Conference|
ASEH's Tallahassee conference will include two workshops. Information is provided below.
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 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, near a biomass plant, to map an area. Saturday morning we will visit Florida A&M University's Center for Environmental Justice and Equity.
Lunch will be provided. Admission is free but you must sign up ahead of time - See ASEH's online conference registration form to sign up.
Friday morning speakers:
Richard Gragg, Director, Center for Environmental Justice and Equity, Florida A&M University
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
Peggy Shepard, Executive Director, We Act for Environmental Justice, New York; recipient of MacArthur Genius Grant and recipient of Rockefeller Award for community activism
Sacoby Wilson, Institute for Families and Society, University of South Carolina
Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Director, Center for Environmental Justice and Children's Health, Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Philosophy, University of Notre-Dame
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. Admission is free for conference registrants. If you have questions, please feel free to contact the workshop organizer, Paul Hirt, at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Thank You to ASEH's Donors|
We are very grateful for the generosity of ASEH members, and wish to thank the following contributors for their support in 2008:
Mary Elizabeth Braun
Hugh R. Davidson
Susan L. Flader
Kristine Harper and Ronald Doel
John P. Hussmann
Frank and Patricia Mighetto
Frank (Char) Miller
Steven A. Scott
Thomas G. Smith
Kendra D. Smith-Howard
Jeffrey K. Stine
Joseph Taylor III
Petra J. E. M. van Dam
We are also grateful for support from the National Conservation Training Center (US Fish & Wildlife Service); US Forest Service; Joint Fire Science Program; and Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.
ASEH received a record number of submissions this year for our travel grants, fellowships, and prizes for best book, dissertation, and articles. We depend on donations for our travel grants, fellowships, awards, and workshops. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Mark Madison, ASEH Treasurer, at:
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
Travel Grant Recipients - Tallahassee and Copenhagen Conferences
Congratulations to the following individuals, who received grants to attend ASEH's Tallahassee conference and the World Congress for Environmental History in Copenhagen.
Tallahassee Conference (February 2009):
- Minority Travel Grant - Sara Fingal, Brown University
- John D. Wirth Travel Grant - Joseph Adelegan, Global Network for Environmental and Economic Development Research, Nigeria
- E.V. and Nancy Melosi Travel Grant - Thomas Anderson, Binghamton University
- Morgan and Jeanie Sherwood Travel Grant - Ulrike Plath, Tallinn University, Estonia
- Morgan and Jeanie Sherwood Travel Grant - Gina Rumore, University of Minnesota
- Ellen Swallow Richards Grant - Michelle Kleehammer, University of Illinois
- Donald Worster Travel Grant - Riin Magnus, University of Tartu, Estonia
- J. Donald Hughes Travel Grant - Jeff Filipiak, Marquette University
Copenhagen Conference (August 2009):
- Bart Elmore
- Amruth Mangalappalli Illam
ASEH is very grateful to Michael Lewis, Salisbury University, and Nancy Jacobs, Brown University, for their work evaluating the applications.
|Fellowship Recipients for 2009|
Congratulations to the following individuals, who received $1,000 research fellowships from ASEH.
Samuel Hays Fellowship
Connie Chiang, for her project, "Nature Behind Barbed Wire: An Environmental History of the Japanese Internment"
Hal Rothman Fellowship
Claire Breedlove, for her project, "Landscape and Livelihood in the Lake Chad Basin: Climate Change, Pastoral Production and the Politics of Groundwater Management on a Saharan Frontier"
ASEH received more than 80 applications for these fellowships, and we are grateful for the work of the following committees:
Samuel Hays Fellowship Committee
Jeffrey Stine, Smithsonian Institution, Chair
Scout Blum, Troy University
Michael Chiarappa, Western Michigan University
Hal Rothman Research Fellowship Committee
Dolly Jorgensen, Chair
David Biggs, University of California - Riverside
Kim Little, University of Arkansas
|NEH 2009 Summer Institute - Nature and History at the Nation's Edge
We invite applications for "Nature and History at the Nation's Edge: A Field Institute in Environmental and Borderlands History," a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute that will take place June 14 to July 11, 2009 at the University of Arizona.
We encourage applicants from Environmental History, Geography, Anthropology, American Studies, U.S. History, Latin American Studies, Mexican American Studies, English, and other related fields. Although designed primarily for teachers of American undergraduate students, qualified independent scholars and those employed by museums, libraries, historical societies, and other organizations may be eligible. An applicant need not have an advanced degree in order to qualify. Adjunct and part-time lecturers are eligible to apply.
The 25 selected participants will be awarded a $3,200 stipend to help cover travel costs, books and living expenses. Applications are due by March 2, 2009.
For more information check out the website -
Katherine Morrissey, Project Director
Department of History
University of Arizona
215 Social Sciences Bldg.
Tucson, AZ 85721 email@example.com
The Animals and Society (Australia) Study Group and The University of Newcastle present The 2009 International Academic and Community Conference on Animals and Society Minding Animals.
We invite you to join us between 13 and 18 July, 2009, at Civic Precinct, Newcastle, Australia. Deadline for panel submissions is January 15 , 2009
. For more information, see: http://www.mindinganimals.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
Diversity Initiative - Invitation to Participate in Tallahassee
A very generous, anonymous donor has made it possible for ASEH to launch a diversity initiative at our Tallahassee conference in February 2009. ASEH's diversity committee is developing this initiative, based on our interest in exploring environmental justice issues, supporting students, and encouraging connections with scholars from other disciplines. The objective is to integrate diversity into our conferences in a way that lays the groundwork for the future. To this end, we invited students and faculty from Florida A&M University to participate in our conference in Tallahassee. We would like to invite interested ASEH members to host new members attending our conference for the first time (by accompanying them to events and introducing them to people). This is the second announcement, and if you have questions or if you would like to participate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
ASEH News is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History.
- Nancy Langston, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, 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
- 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 Klagenfurt
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
Register for ASEH's Conference in Tallahassee, Florida, Feb. 25-March 1, 2009
For the online registration form, click here
The conference program was mailed to all members in December 2008. To view a pdf of the conference program, click here
Participate in ASEH's Member Survey
If you have not already done so, please take a moment to complete ASEH's survey, which will help us better serve our members. Click here for survey.
VOTE - ASEH's 2009 Election
Attention ASEH Members
Click here to add your info. to our Directory of Members and Experts.
for information on carbon credits.
for information on ASEH's discussion board on sustainability.
Several sessions at ASEH's Tallahassee conference will be devoted to sustainability. Click here
for conference program.