From: Lisa Mighetto <>
Subject: ASEH News Spring 2011
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in this issue:
president's column: earthquakes and aftershocks
the profession: visiting the exhibit hall
member news
film reviews: Tar Creek and Wild vs Wall
for students: 2011 conference activities, funding opportunities, new websites, and more
our 2011 conference is just weeks away...




special event:


plenary session and discussion on immigration, borderlands, and the environment

Friday, April 15, 6:00-7:15 p.m. [immediately following field trips]

historic Orpheum Theater, next to conference hotel


No charge; made possible by the Arizona Humanities Council and donations from ASEH members


click here for more info. on 2011 conference events





new website for aseh:


Check out our new website:
Environmental History has been named the #2 journal in history.

aseh receives new travel grant funds:
This month, the National Science Foundation awarded ASEH funds for student travel to our conferences. During the summer and fall, our website ( will post details about how to apply for these grants, which will augment funding for our 2012 and 2013 meetings.
2012 conference:

Call for Presentations now available. 


aseh news:
Published quarterly by the American Society for Environmental History. If you have an article, announcement, or an item for the "member news" section of our next newsletter, send to
by June 10, 2011.



aseh news

spring 2011            volume 22, issue 1

president's column:
earthquakes and aftershocks


In the finest tradition of columnists, I will write about current events from a position of near-total ignorance.  But first I want to use this space to recognize the excellent service of my predecessor as president of ASEH, Harriet Ritvo. Sane presidents of scholarly societies hope for dull terms in office. Harriet was not so fortunate.  The last two years have been significant for our organization, as we investigated possibilities for the future of our journal - signing a contract with Oxford University Press - while facing a difficult decision about moving forward with our annual meeting in Arizona. Through it all I was impressed with Harriet's grace under pressure. ASEH was fortunate to have her at the helm.


A much more serious crisis recently befell communities on the island of Honshu beginning on March 11, as the Pacific plate lurched a bit in its ongoing slide beneath Honshu's. The earthquake, centered about 130 kilometers offshore, measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, the largest recorded one in Japanese history. A resulting tsunami washed over the coasts of northeast Honshu, sloshing inland by as much as 10 kilometers, carrying boats and buildings along with it. The death toll quickly surpassed that of the Kobe-Hanshin earthquake of 1995, which killed over 6,000 people. It seemed at the time of writing (19 March) that the toll would fall far short of the 1923 earthquake that shook and ignited Tokyo. On that occasion over 100,000 died, many incinerated in an inferno fueled by the oxygen of typhoon winds.


Earthquakes typically are followed by aftershocks in the literal geophysical sense, but also in the metaphorical social sense. In 1923, Japanese acting on rumors that Korean immigrants had set fires and poisoned wells in Tokyo killed some 6,000 Koreans.


In 2011 the social aftershocks are of an entirely different kind. In contrast to the nationalistic chauvinism of 1923, in 2011 rescue teams from a dozen countries and relief aid from several more instantly headed to Japan (international disaster assistance is a spotty tradition that dates at least to a Jamaica hurricane of 1780).


This hopeful turn of events was overshadowed by foreboding: the earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant, built in 1971 and one of the 15 largest nuclear power plants in the world. After three explosions and worries of more to come, combined with evidence of small amounts of radiation leakage to the environment, Japanese (and everyone else) wondered when this crisis would end. "The past is never dead.  It's not even past," Faulkner has a character say. Thanks to the combination of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plants, it will be a very long time before this past is anywhere near dead.   


-John McNeill
Incoming president, ASEH
[Note: John McNeill will assume office after our 2011 meeting in mid-April. The results of ASEH's recent election will be announced at the 2011 conference and will be reported in the summer issue of this newsletter.]
the profession:
visiting the exhibit hall

by Christine R. Szuter
Arizona State University

The ASEH annual conference is a time to see colleagues, meet new ones, present papers, attend sessions, talk with publishers, buy books, attend field trips, and learn about the latest research and work in environmental history. Make sure one of your first stops is the exhibit hall in the Phoenix Wyndham Hotel Grand Ballroom, which opens on Thursday, April 14 at 9:00 am.


Twenty-one publishers and organizations will be exhibiting their products - all with a strong interest in environmental history. Three exhibits will be on display: Continental Divide: Borderlands, Wildlife, People, and the WALL; Moving Waters: The Colorado River and the West; and National Park Service Trail Signage.


These exhibitors want to offer you the best scholarship and information on environmental history and publish the next great books in the field.


Finding the Books You Need
The exhibit hall is the perfect place to browse for new scholarship in your field. Read the ASEH conference program in advance to see the list of publishers who will be attending. Many publishers have ads in the program highlighting their new books. Scholar's Choice, which is an academic book exhibit company, will display books published by many other publishers who do not have their own exhibit table.


The best time to see the full range of books available is on the first day of the conference. Plan to spend time visiting all the publishers so you can find the latest books needed for your research, courses, library, or reading pleasure.


Nearly all publishers give a discount to conference attendees. Although the discount is usually good for a month after the conference, some publishers may offer additional incentives, such as free shipping, to entice you to leave your order with them. Publishers have their own discounts, timeframes for those discounts, and incentives, so check with each one as you order books.


Finding a Publisher
Presses send their director, acquisitions editor, or marketing manager to ASEH not only to sell books, but also to talk to potential authors. They expect to meet with their current authors and find potential new authors so they can publish the latest cutting-edge research in environmental history. They set up appointments prior to the meeting, attend sessions, and talk to attendees.


Acquisitions editors read the program before the meeting to determine the people they would like to meet. You may have already been contacted if you are giving a paper on a topic of interest to a particular press. If you have written a dissertation, have an idea for a book, or have a manuscript ready for review by a press, you should make plans to meet with the publishers best suited for your work. Here are some of the first steps:


Write your book proposal. Presses have guidelines on their websites, but a basic proposal includes a book description, table of contents, list of comparable books, length of the manuscript (in words or double-spaced pages), quantity and type of illustrations, description of the audience, and a sample chapter.


Then send your book proposal with a cover letter to the acquiring editors in environmental history at all of the best presses for your work. Ask the editor if she or he is interested in your project and would be able to meet with you during the conference to discuss it.

If you don't hear back, do not despair. Editors are particularly busy during the spring attending many academic meetings. Plan to bring copies of your book proposal with you and stop by the exhibit hall to meet editors in person. Be prepared to describe the argument, idea, or significance of your book in a few sentences. Be succinct and compelling in your presentation. The editor will ask you questions if he or she wants to know more.


Publishers expect you to approach them as much as they will be approaching you. Don't be timid; talk with enthusiasm about your research and why it is a significant work. You will be meeting new colleagues and creating friendships with publishers who value your work and want to make sure others read and know about it.


Enjoy your time in the exhibit hall-for the books, the publishers, the exhibits, and even the coffee and tea!


[Note: ASEH is grateful to Christine Szuter and ASU's Scholarly Publishing Program for taking charge of the exhibit area at our 2011 conference.]

member news


William Cronon was elected president of the American Historical Association and plans to help integrate environmental history into the AHA program at New Orleans in January 2013.


Michael R. Dove's book, The Banana Tree at the Gate: The History of Marginal Peoples and Global Markets in Borneo was just published by Yale University Press.


David Louter has been selected as Chief of the Cultural Resources Program for the National Park Service's Pacific West Region.
Incoming ASEH president John McNeill was awarded the American Historical Association's Beveridge Award for Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620-1914.
Char Miller's edited volume Cities and Nature in the American West was recently published by the University of Nevada Press, 2010. This collection, which honors Hal Rothman, will be featured at a roundtable at ASEH's 2011 conference - and royalties will benefit the Hal Rothman Dissertation Fellowship.
Bernard Mergen's book, Weather Matters: An American Cultural History Since 1900 (University Press of Kansas, 2008) received the 2011 Louis J. Batten Award from the American Meteorological Society.
Starting in the fall, Conevery Bolton Valencius is taking on a new position in 19th-century U.S./Civil War & Reconstruction History at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
film reviews
by April Summitt
Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus
In this 2009 documentary, filmmaker and author Matt Myers provides a moving analysis of the Tar Creek Superfund site in the tri-state area of northeast Oklahoma, southeast Kansas and northwest Missouri. This 40-square mile area was the site of the Quapaw Indian Reservation, and most productive lead and zinc mine during WW I. Picher Lead Company eventually sold more than 20 million dollars worth of ore between 1917 and 1947 and operated until 1970. In 1981, it was declared a Superfund site and the most dangerous area in the nation. More than 480 open mineshafts and thousands more drill holes make collapse and subsidence a constant danger. Piles of mine tailings dwarf the small town of Picher whose children played on these mounds. One test of exposed children revealed that 43% suffered neurological damage and learning disabilities resulting from high lead contamination. Water polluted with acid flows out of the mines and into Tar Creek and south toward Grand Lake.

Almost 30 years after being designated a Superfund site, Matt Myers documented efforts of the people of Picher to obtain some kind of help. First, there were attempts to clean up the water contamination, which all failed. Then there were attempts to remove contaminated dirt from people's yards in order to minimize lead exposure. Although many mounds of contaminated mine tailings were also removed, around 75 million tons of it remain. 


When houses and businesses started to fall into sink holes in 2006, the EPA finally agreed to a buy-out program to move the people out permanently. This film records the distress of those who eventually lost their homes, livelihoods, and health. It illustrates poignantly that, in Myer's words, "environmental problems are people problems...they aren't separate."


Myers grew up near Picher, Oklahoma and got to know the people he featured in the film. Because he gained their trust, his interviews give the film a gritty realism that makes it an emotional and sensitive portrayal. Although his bias is obvious throughout, he gives government officials a fair presentation, allowing viewers a look at both sides of the story. The film is intended to be an educational tool for communities interested in environmental justice issues. At 73 minutes, it is too long for a single class period, but would certainly be worth the time of two periods for an advanced-level course.


[This film will be shown at our 2011 conference in Phoenix, on Friday afternoon, April 15. See the registration desk in Phoenix for a list of films and times.]


Wild vs Wall 

In this short, 20-minute documentary, Tucson filmmaker Steev Hise examines the impact of security walls along the US-Mexico border. He and other scientists and activists believe that the wall damages a fragile and valuable desert ecosystem that is worth saving. Through the filming process, Hise traveled from one end of the dividing line to the other, asking questions about the wall's impact on area wildlife. The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club launched their Borderlands Campaign in 2009 in order to force the federal government to take down the border wall. As part of the awareness-raising effort, Hise's film gives clear view of what is at stake.

The basic assertion throughout the film is that a border wall cuts in half an important ecosystem and damages it irreparably, including landscape and its wildlife. While the wall seems to have a very limited impact on the very movements it is meant to prevent - illegal immigration - it in fact creates harm that is not worth the cost. The wall slices across animal migration routes, cuts mammals off from water supplies and potential mates of animals like the Northern Jaguar. Low-level helicopter flights and high voltage lighting along the wall disrupts nocturnal animals' ability to feed and mate. The wall and border access roads disrupt natural drainage, causing erosion and flooding.

Through this film, Hise asserts that established federal laws should have prevented the environmental degradation caused by the border wall. In the name of security, the Department of Homeland Security was given the authority to wave these laws. While this film provides an excellent examination of the impact of the border wall on the natural environment, it mostly neglects to ask questions about its impact on humans beyond its ineffectiveness in preventing illegal immigration.


The Sierra Club hopes that this film will help raise community awareness and bring pressure on government officials to rescue the border environment from disaster. Its short length also makes it perfect for the college classroom as an introduction to discussions about ecosystems crossed by political borders. Don't miss this compelling documentary, which will be included at ASEH's 2011 conference on Friday, April 15 during the afternoon film festival.


[Note: The next issue of ASEH News will include reviews of "Green Fire" and "John Muir in the New World."]

for students
message from our graduate student liaison

Graduate Student Reception, Phoenix Wyndham Hotel, Goldwater Room, Thursday, April 14, 9:00 p.m.


This is a great chance to meet fellow graduate students from across North America!


To register for the reception, please go to:


There will be light food available and a free book raffle -- and there is no charge to attend.


I am also looking for other students interested in organizing an informal grad student caucus to discuss collaboration and networking.


See you there!

Will Knight

ASEH graduate student liaison



mentoring at 2011 conference


ASEH conferences are known for their friendliness and collegiality - a characteristic enhanced by our mentoring/hosting program. Are you new to our conferences and would you like to meet with a senior scholar during the conference in Phoenix?

If you are interested in being a mentee, please contact by March 31. 


travel grants for future meetings


This month, the National Science Foundation awarded ASEH funds for student travel to our conferences. During the summer and fall, our website ( will post details about how to apply for these grants, which will augment funding for our 2012 and 2013 meetings.
call for proposals


Workshop for the History of the Environment, Agriculture, Technology, and Science (WHEATS) 2011


The Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS) at MIT is pleased to be hosting WHEATS in 2011. Now in its eighth year, the Workshop for the History of Environment, Agriculture, Technology, and Science (WHEATS) brings together graduate students studying topics contained under this heading. The Workshop will take place September 30-October 2, 2011. WHEATS welcomes submissions from any discipline with interests in these fields. Pre-circulated papers of 25-30 pages will be discussed by participants and senior scholars in roundtable format. This arrangement is well-suited for works in progress, and the workshop will have sessions on professional development as well as opportunities to meet and engage with members of the broader HASTS community at MIT.
Funding to defray travel costs will be provided, as will most meals. The option to stay with local students will be available, should participants wish to do so. Potential participants should submit a one-page abstract (200 words) and a short curriculum vitae by April 30, 2011. Applicants should note their year of graduate study or Ph.D. completion date. Accepted papers will be due August 31, 2011.
For further information, contact:

Or visit:
new websites
Visit ASEH's new website at
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), which is hosting our 2012 conference, recently created a new web page that shares reading lists that CHE students have explored and discussed for their prelim exams. You'll find this new resource at:
aseh news is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History.
Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President
John McNeill, Georgetown University, Vice President/President Elect
Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College, Secretary

Executive Committee:
Marcus Hall, University of Utah
Paul Hirt, Arizona State University
Nancy Jacobs, Brown University
Tina Loo, University of British Columbia
Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Linda Nash, University of Washington
Mark Stoll, Texas Tech University

Ex Officio, Past Presidents:
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University
Douglas Weiner, University of Arizona 

Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History:
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News:
Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma

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