Lucas Bessire’s Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plainsis the 2022 winner of the George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book in environmental history. In a frequently moving account of individual and collective responsibility and irresponsibility amidst global ecological transformation, Bessire’s book explores the ongoing depletion of the North American Ogllala Aquifer through an intersection of natural history, agricultural and institutional history, ethnography, and personal essay. Running Out utilizes extensive primary historical research to detail the technologies and political institutions – ever more powerful groundwater pumps and “democratic” water districts that limit public participation – that have depleted the Ogllala Aquifer almost to the point of non-existence. At the same time, it deploys deeply personal ethnographic research, at times interrogating his and his family’s generations-long participation in groundwater extraction in order to farm and ranch on the Great Plains. In so doing, it crafts a unique and affective analytical narrative of the stories and emotions that surround historical actors’ conscious participation in ecological depletion.
The American Society for Environmental History encourages scholarship on the interactions between humans and the natural world (or among humans and non-humans) through time. Membership of the Society is markedly interdisciplinary and international, and the work of ASEH members ranges across the ages, from crucial concerns of the present to the farthest reaches of human time.
As a non-profit scholarly organization, ASEH promotes research and teaching in environmental history, engages in public outreach, and supports its members’ professional needs. We offer a heartfelt welcome to all those with an interest in these activities, details of which can be found elsewhere on this website.
The Society holds a lively and well-attended annual conference, encourages local / regional activities in support of its mission, and publishes Environmental History, an excellent scholarly journal, jointly with the Forest History Society, under the auspices of University of Chicago Press.
Please explore this website for more details about our mission, our journal, and our newsletter, conferences and workshops, travel grants, fellowships, teaching resources, and more – as well as information about how to become a member of the Society.