mark your calendars
ASEH annual conference
March 28-31, 2012
Hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Culture, History and Environment, our 2012 conference will include trips to the Leopold Shack, Taliesin, Forest Products lab, and UW arboretum - and a plenary session featuring Jennifer Price.
The deadline for proposing panels, roundtables, and papers is July 8, 2011. Click here for more info.
Outgoing editor Mark Cioc, associated editor Char Miller, and book review editor Melissa Wiedenfeld were honored at the awards ceremony at ASEH's 2011 conference in Phoenix. Thank you, Mark, Char, and Melissa for your service! Click here for more info. on our journal.
donations benefit Hal Rothman Fellowship Fund
Authors of the recently published Encyclopedia of American Environmental History
(edited by Kathleen Brosnan, University of Houston, and published by Facts on File
) agreed to donate their honoraria to ASEH's Hal Rothman Fellowship Fund. The contributions amounting to $4,000 were made possible by the generosity of the individuals listed below.
G. Terry Sharrer
photo courtesy Jamie Lewis
The 2nd annual Hal Rothman Fun(d) Run to benefit the Hal Rothman Fellowship was held in April at the ASEH conference in Phoenix and proved quite successful. Around 20 people gathered on a sunny Saturday morning to walk or run three miles through the historic downtown district. Afterward, several runners gathered for conversation over coffee provided courtesy of race organizers Jamie Lewis and Kim Little. Thanks also to Mary Braun for her assistance in planning the event. In all, $400 was raised by this event for the fund, and plans are already underway for next year's fun(d) run in Madison.
Note: Those wishing to contribute to the Hal Rothman Fellowship Fund may send donations directly to ASEH treasurer Mark Madison at 698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown, WV 25443 - or click here to donate online.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
by September 9, 2011.
summer 2011 volume 22, issue 2
president's column: aseh's annual conference
The most important thing we do collectively as members of ASEH is to gather annually to talk, think, eat, drink, and laugh together. In 2011 the gathering of the tribe, otherwise known as the annual meeting of the ASEH, took place in Phoenix, Arizona. Approximately 580 scholars took part, making this our second best-attended conference.
Far in advance of the meeting, the Program Committee (chaired by Richard Tucker) and the Local Arrangements Committee (chaired by Paul Hirt), had settled on a theme of "sustainability." This fit well with the identity of the official host of the meeting, Arizona State University, which has created a School of Sustainability - a radical new departure in higher education to which environmental history ought to have much to offer. And it fit well with the location in Phoenix, a fascinating model of unsustainable development if ever there was one.
Months before the scheduled meeting, the Arizona state legislature passed an immigration bill - the famous S.B. 1070 - that many ASEH members found deeply objectionable. That bill is apparently destined for a long career in the courts, where so far federal judges have found it unconstitutional. But many ASEH members had to think twice about going to Arizona, and the Program, Local Arrangements, and Diversity Committees had to think about how to adjust to the new situation. They proved light on their feet and in short order had organized special events, including a half-day workshop on "Environmental Justice in Arizona and Beyond," and a plenary discussion on immigration, borderlands, and the environment.
In effect, the conference acquired a second theme to go along with sustainability. The Arizona law, if it becomes that, occasioned a principled debate within ASEH and a practical (and principled) response that I regard as a good reflection upon our organization. ASEH members turned crisis into educational opportunity.
The program in Phoenix included panels on tried and true topics such as national parks and 1960s environmentalism. It probably broke new ground for ASEH with panels on subjects such as cruelty to animals and the politics of molecular biology. Arizona and the borderlands region were well represented. It seemed to me that there were fewer panels and presentations dealing with Africa or Latin America than in recent years, which I hope will prove a blip rather than a trend.
As usual, field trips proved a highlight. I found the smorgasbord of options enticing but my choice easy: in my 56 years I had never seen the Grand Canyon. So I joined the convivial contingent northbound to the South Rim, eager to admire the views and listen to old Grand Canyon hands such as Don Hughes and Steve Pyne. Many of the famous wonders of the world cannot live up to their billing.This is emphatically not true of the Grand Canyon. Pictures, even if worth a thousand words, do not do it justice, making it an arithmetical impossibility for me to describe it verbally within the space of this column.
top 10 things to know before starting an oral history project
by Mark Madison
National Conservation Training Center, US Fish and Wildlife Service
I should begin by professing my ignorance about this topic. After many years as an environmental historian, I became convinced that oral histories would add life and texture to our existing narratives. Yet in overseeing more than 600 oral histories I also made many mistakes - sins of omission and commission - which I am here to confess in the hopes that you can be more immediately successful.
1. Technology is your friend (and your enemy).
In just over decade of conducting oral histories we have moved from microcassettes to Sony Minidisks, to mini-DV tapes, and now digital audio files. Each transition has allowed better fidelity and accessibility, but it has also tested our ability to convert audio files and to master new machines. Many of our oral histories begin with the immortal words: "Is this thing on?"
2. Nobody wants to hear you!
The oral history is about the subject, not the interviewer. And nobody wants to hear a dishwasher, phone, or dog in the background.
3. An hour of tape is worth a month of work.
Conducting and recording the interview is relatively easy and fun. Then comes the hard work of transcribing, editing, reviewing, and posting online. This can take much longer and test resources, patience, and lifespan of reviewers.
4. Make a list and check it twice.
We have about 3000 retirees in our database [at the National Conservation Training Center] and that only includes a fraction of our employees. We also have a huge network of collaborators/affiliated scientists/partners we should interview. Prioritization is a key to marking progress; without a roadmap we are lost.
5. Actuarial tables matter.
I cannot count the number of oral histories we conducted less than a year before the subject died.
6. "The older I get, the more clearly I remember things that never happened."
In the words of that other great historian, Ronald Reagan, we should "trust but verify" any information that comes exclusively from memories.
7. The majority of history is not written.
This can be understood two ways. First, we need to do oral histories because the written record is a thin slice of our history. Second, we are documenting a new history as we compile these oral histories.
8. If an oral history falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it - why did you do it?
It is useless to do these oral histories if historians cannot find them. Don't waste the time, money, or effort. At NCTC, we have moved all our oral history transcripts online (http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/) and the increase in use has been exponential.
9. "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
We have many imperfect oral histories - most of my transcripts are imperfect - and I have not had a chance to update my oral history guide in 10 years. Yet overall, there are some important elements in these oral histories that I would never give up. We have captured co-workers of Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold, behind the scenes debates on endangered species, and memories of segregated Civilian Conservation Corps camps. They are imperfect - like many historical records - but also invaluable.
10. The future belongs to historians!
If we don't do oral histories today we will be in the same boat regretting that no one did an oral history with Thoreau, George Perkins Marsh, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, etc. We all chase historical records - both written and oral. By expanding the available documentation we explicitly shape the history that is preserved. In that way we control the future of history every day by what we choose to record and save and, alternately, by what we choose to ignore.
The author interviewed Aldo Leopold's student Art Hawkins, pictured here, for NCTC's oral history collection.
Sara B. Pritchard's book, Confluence: The Nature of Technology and the Remaking of the Rhone, was recently published by Harvard University Press.
Michael Rawson, who earned his Ph.D. in urban and environmental history from UW-Madison in 2005, was named one of three finalists for this year's Pulitzer Prize in History for the book based on his dissertation,
Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston, published last year by Harvard University Press. The Pulitzer Committee said of Mike's book that it was "an impressive selection of case studies that reveal how Boston helped shape the remarkable growth of American cities in the 19th century."
Marsha Weisiger has been appointed as the first holder of the Rocky and Julie Dixon Chair for the History of the American West at the University of Oregon.
The American Council of Learned Societies recently awarded fellowships to the following ASEH members:
Melanie A. Kiechle - Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Doctoral Candidate, History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
"The Air We Breathe": Nineteenth-Century Americans and the Search for Fresh Air
Kristoffer Whitney - Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Doctoral Candidate, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
A Knot in Common: Science, Politics, and Values in Crowded Nature
Amrys O. Williams - Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Doctoral Candidate, History of Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Cultivating Modern America: 4-H Clubs and Rural Development in the Twentieth Century
Congratulations to all!
ASEH award recipients
ASEH presented the following awards at the annual conference in April:
Distinguished Service Award: Jeffrey K. Stine
George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book: Brett Walker, Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan, University of Washington Press.
Alice Hamilton Prize for best article outside Environmental History: Paul Sutter, "What Gullies Mean: Georgia's 'Little Grand Canyon' and Southern Environmental History," The Journal of Southern History (August 2010).
Leopold-Hidy Prize for best article in Environmental History: Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert and David Schecter, "The Environmental Dynamics of a Colonial Fuel-Rush: Silver Mining and Deforestation in New Spain, 1522 to 1810." (January 2010 issue).
Rachel Carson Prize for best dissertation: Chris Manganiello, "Dam Crazy with Wild Consequences: Artificial Lakes and Natural Rivers in the America South, 1845-1990," University of Georgia.
Click here to view comments on this year's awards.
ASEH award submissions - 2nd notice
This year ASEH's prize committees will evaluate submissions (published books and articles and completed dissertations) that appear between November 1, 2010 and October 31, 2011.
Please send three copies of each submission (these must be hard copies, or paper copies) by November 10, 2011 to:
ASEH, UW Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program
University of Washington
1900 Commerce Street
Tacoma, WA 98402
Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship
ASEH created this fellowship to recognize the contributions of Samuel P. Hays, the inaugural recipient of the society's Distinguished Scholar Award, and to advance the field of environmental history, broadly conceived. The fellowship provides a single payment of $1,000 to help fund travel to and use of an archive or manuscript repository. It is open to practicing historians (either academic, public, or independent). Graduate students are ineligible. A Ph.D. is not required. Submissions will be accepted June 17 - September 30, 2011, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2011 for funding in January 2012.
To apply, please submit the following items:
- A two-page statement (500 words) explaining your project and how you intend to use the research funds.
- A c.v. no more than three pages in length.
All items for the Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship must be submitted electronically to Phil
Garone, chair of the committee,
by September 30, 2011 at email@example.com
Hal Rothman Research Fellowship
The Hal Rothman Research Fellowship was created to recognize graduate student achievements in environmental history research in honor of Hal Rothman, recipient of ASEH's Distinguished Service award in 2006 and editor of Environmental History for many years. The fellowship provides a single payment of $1,000 for Ph.D. graduate student research and travel in the field of environmental history, without geographical restriction. The funds must be used to support archival research and travel during 2011.
Students enrolled in any Ph.D. program worldwide are eligible to apply. Applications will be accepted June 17 - September 30, 2011, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2011, for funding in January 2012.
To apply, please submit the following three items:
- two-page statement (500 words) explaining your project and how you intend to use the research funds.
- A c.v.
- A letter of recommendation from your graduate advisor.
All items for the Hal Rothman Research Fellowship must be submitted electronically to Kim Little, chair of the committee,
by September 30, 2011 at firstname.lastname@example.org
call for proposals to host ASEH cnference
ASEH's site selection committee is now soliciting proposals from individuals or groups who are interested in hosting our annual meeting in 2015. Those interested should contact the chair of the site selection committee, Sarah S. Elkind
for a copy of the ASEH's conference guidelines and other information. The deadline for submission of proposals for the 2015 meeting is December 31, 2011. Please keep in mind that hosting a conference requires substantial effort and time as well as significant institutional support, and that the proposed local arrangement chair must reside in the city proposed.
ASEH held an election before our annual conference, and the results were announced at the meeting. New officers and executive committee members are listed at the end of this newsletter. We are grateful to Paul Hirt, Nancy Jacobs, Mark Stoll, and Doug Weiner, who are rotating off the executive committee, for their service.
Environment, Culture & Place in a Rapidly Changing North: ASLE off-year symposium
June 14-17, 2012
University of Alaska Southeast
The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment invites proposals for its off-year symposium in Juneau, Alaska. Proposals related to the field of literature and environment broadly, or to the symposium theme specifically, should include a 250-word abstract, paper title, your name, and affiliation. Proposals for pre-organized panels and interdisciplinary work are encouraged. Submit proposals to Sarah Jaquette Ray (email@example.com) and Kevin Maier
(firstname.lastname@example.org) by November 5, 2011.
American Masters: John Muir and Aldo Leopold
by Bruce Thompson, University of California-Santa Cruz
It is a remarkable feature of the history of the American environmental movement that several of its greatest leaders and most innovative thinkers also made distinctive contributions to our literature. Two new documentaries, one on John Muir, another on Aldo Leopold, have the merit of showing not only how these men became leaders of the environmental movements of their respective eras - Muir during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Leopold during the first half of the twentieth - but also extraordinary writers who produced classic works of American literature.
"John Muir in the New World,"
a superb film in the PBS American Masters series by Catherine Tatge, shows how Muir performed these feats without much in the way of a formal education. All of the decisive events of Muir's life are here: his migration from Scotland to Wisconsin in 1849; his rejection of the stern Calvinism of his father in favor of a view of nature as the revelation of the mind of God; his decision, after an eye accident in 1867 nearly cost him his sight, to walk from Wisconsin to Mexico, botanizing along the way; his realization that all forms of life, including the fiercest predators and the humblest parasites, have their place in what he regarded as the divine harmony of nature; his discovery of "mountain glory" in California, and of the earth-shaping role of glaciers in Alaska and Yosemite Valley; his marriage to Louise Strentzel and his career as a family farmer; his campaign to save the glacial Hetch Hetchy valley and to shift government policy from exploitation to preservation of wilderness areas.
Lacking an extensive archive of photographs, Tatge uses tactfully staged reenactments, filmed in high definition against the landscapes that exhilarated Muir, combined with voiceover narration, to illustrate the phases of her protagonist's life. And she has assembled an all-star team of Muir scholars to provide context and commentary: among them, Aaron Sachs underscores Muir's debt to the writings and career of the famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt; Bonnie Gisel and Donald Worster consider the role of Muir's female friend and mentor, the amateur botanist Jeanne Carr (wife of the geologist Ezra Carr), in sponsoring his early career; Patricia Limerick, Roderick Nash, and Paul Sutter illuminate the distinctive combination of ecstasy and humility that characterized Muir's relationship to the natural world; Char Miller shows how Muir developed a style of writing that enabled his readers to feel as if they were with him in his dramatic encounters with mountains and glaciers; the poet Gary Snyder examines Muir's response to the sublimity of Alaskan icescapes; and Catherine Albanese reconsiders Muir's romantic spirituality.
Just as Catherine Tatge has given us the first full-length portrait of John Muir on film, Steve and Ann Dunsky (who gave us "The Greatest Good: A Forest Service Centennial Film" a few years ago), and Buddy Huffaker have produced a long overdue film about Aldo Leopold: "Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time."
With biographer Curt Meine as the principal guide to Leopold's life and career, and contributions by a wonderful cast of commentators, including Susan Flader, J. Baird Callicott, M. Scott Momaday, Bill McKibben, Dave Foreman, and members of Aldo Leopold's family, the film treats the development of Leopold's land ethic as the outcome of a lifelong journey, culminating in the posthumous publication of A Sand County Almanac in 1949. And a fascinating set of interviews with ranchers, farmers, and educators shows how Leopold's legacy continues to inspire successive generations of conservationists, biologists, environmental restorationists, and citizen-activists.
The resonant voice of actor Peter Coyote gives us access to extracts from Leopold's published writings, as well as journals and his letters to his wife Estella. The quotations have a lapidary clarity, constantly reminding us that Leopold was not only a thinker of the highest caliber, but also a master of plain-spoken American prose:
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
"There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace."
"The destruction of soil is the most fundamental kind of economic loss which the human race can suffer."
"What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?"
"Our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides, but they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history, to live on a piece of land without spoiling it."
And: "Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
But perhaps the most famous of Leopold quotations is the one that gives this film its title: Leopold's account, in "Thinking Like a Mountain," of how "we reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes." This incident, which occurred only a few weeks after Leopold began his career with the Forest Service in Arizona in 1911, marked the start of his re-thinking of his complacent assumptions about the relationship between predators and their prey, and a radical change in his understanding of how "the biotic community" functions.
The film shows how that change unfolded and deepened over the course of a long career in practical conservation, land management, teaching, and writing.
One of the many delights of the film is Susan Flader's account of her recent discovery of a letter from Leopold to his wife that confirms that the incident really did occur. Did George Orwell, one of Leopold's few rivals as a master of the plain style, really shoot that elephant in Burma? We will never know. But thanks to this wonderful film, we now know that Leopold's journey toward his land ethic really did begin where he claimed it did.
"John Muir in the New World" and "Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time," are splendid gifts for teachers of environmental history. They will take their places among the relatively small number of films that are absolutely indispensable for classroom teaching in our field.
ASEH Graduate Student Caucus
In early April, the first meeting of ASEH's new graduate student caucus took place via Skype. The caucus is an informal group and it is open to any ASEH grad student member. Its goal is to mobilize grad students for projects of common interest that meet graduate student needs and foster a supportive community. The caucus is now planning a half-day graduate student workshop that will be delivered as part of next year's conference program in Madison. We want your input on workshop planning, so please visit our survey at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/25QZ255 to add your input.
You can also join the caucus or send comments about the workshop by e-mailing the current graduate student representative, Will Knight, at:
email@example.com. Will will also be sending the survey link and workshop news via e-mail and Facebook. The caucus has now held three meetings, including a face-to-face session in Phoenix, and uses Skype to keep in touch.
Note: thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation, additional travel grants will be available for ASEH's 2012 conference. Applications will be accepted in the fall of 2011, once the Madison program is established. Watch for details in the fall issue of this newsletter and on ASEH's website (www.aseh.net - awards and funding).
highlights of 2011 conference
fire and water: a century of cooperative forestry
by Silas Chamberlin and Dan Karalus, graduate student assistants
At this year's ASEH conference, the US Forest Service (USFS) convened leading forest history scholars and forestry practitioners to assess the centennial legacy of the 1911 Weeks Act and consider the future of cooperative forestry in America. The well-attended morning workshop was unique in the wide-ranging perspective and expertise of each panelist - not to mention the collective knowledge of the audience.
In the afternoon, two buses of workshop participants and conference attendees travelled 40 miles northeast of Phoenix to the Sears Kay archaeological site in Tonto National Forest. At three million acres, Tonto is the fifth largest National Forest in the nation. Braving temperatures in the mid-90s, the group made the short ascent to the hilltop Sears Kay Ruin - a Hohokum site first occupied around 1500 AD. As the group examined the remaining building foundations, the conversation continually returned to the remarkable ability of the Hohokum to transport such necessities as building materials, water, and food across the vast, arid expanses of the Tonto.
USFS staff spoke about the archaeological value of the site, the struggle to protect cultural resources from vandalism and over use, and the various strategies for managing a large forest on the edge of a sprawling urban center. The chance to see forest management in action very well complemented the morning workshop and discussion.
Note: The USFS plans to sponsor another field trip at our conference in Madison in 2012.
John McNeill's baseball quiz
As ASEH president, Harriet Ritvo earned all our gratitude - but before she could receive her well-deserved token of appreciation from the ASEH membership, incoming president John McNeill asked that she pass what might have been the first-ever baseball and environmental history pop quiz. The token of appreciation was a baseball signed by a Red Sox stalwart, chosen because Harriet is a lifelong fan of Boston's team. She had to identify that stalwart based on the following clues:
(a) he was born in the same year that a Swiss chemist discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT
(b) he made his major league debut the year before the publication of Silent Spring
(c) he hit 44 home runs in the year of the Torrey Canyon oil spill
(d) he entered the Hall of Fame in the year in which the Montreal Protocol was signed
At this point, Prof. Ritvo calmly and correctly announced the correct answer: Carl Yastrzemski. A meticulous scholar, she had formed her hypothesis (she later recounted) at the second clue, but patiently accumulated more data before committing herself irrevocably to the Yastrzemski position. Further clues, which she did not need, included:
(e) in the year in which the EPA was created, he batted .329, his career high
(f) he retired from the Red Sox in the same year as the publication of Changes in the Land
(g) the number on his Red Sox uniform was greater, by one, than the number of titles listed under the name Harriet Ritvo in the Library of Congress catalog
(h) his career home run total was within 5% of the total number of nuclear power plants currently in operation around the world
high school students learn about environmental history in Phoenix
ASEH's education committee organized a visit by Tempe High School to the conference, prompting the following thank-you note from their teacher:
Students from Tempe High School had an excellent educational experience when they attended the ASEH conference in Phoenix, AZ. They had to opportunity to view posters explaining research projects, check out many interesting books in the exhibit area, and listen to presentations by people in the field. The presentations were especially educational for the students as they learned about how Antarctica is managed, and many viewpoints on managing and visiting the National Parks. Some students were intrigued by the idea of ... a summer job in the great outdoors. From the students at THS, thanks so much for the insight into environmental history!
Mary Bridget, teacher
photos from ASEH's 2011 conference
More than 580 people attended our annual meeting in Phoenix in April. The weather was beautiful, and conference evaluations praised William Cronon's plenary session on sustainability, the special session on immigration, borderlands, and the environment - and the many field trips, including visits to the Grand Canyon and US/Mexico border.
photos courtsey Cody Ferguson, Leos Jelecek, and Lisa Mighetto
pictured above and below: post-conference field trip to the Grand Canyon
pictured left and below: poster session and exhibit area
pictured above: environmental justice workshop
Marty Melosi and Susan Flader, two past presidents, enjoy an outdoor reception, while incoming president John McNeill poses with outgoing president Harriet Ritvo (pictured below).
pictured above: dinner from sustainable food vendors before plenary session
Above: volunteers hard at work Below: Local arrangements committee chair Paul Hirt and Linda Jaske
Phoenix local arrangements team!
aseh news is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History.
John McNeill, Georgetown University, President
Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vice President/President Elect
Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College, Secretary
Sterling Evans, University of Oklahoma
Sara Gregg, University of Kansas
Marcus Hall, University of Utah
Tina Loo, University of British Columbia
Linda Nash, University of Washington
Louis Warren, University of California-Davis
Graeme Wynn, University of British Columbia
Ex Officio, Past Presidents:
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University
Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History:
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ex Officio, Graduate Student Liaison:
Will Knight, Carleton University
Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News:
Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma