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|President's Column: Environmental History Outside North America|
The "American" in ASEH has long been figurative - either synecdoche or understatement or maybe both. It does not begin to describe the provenance of ASEH members. At our recent Portland conference, for example, the numerous presenters from the United States and Canada were joined by colleagues from India, Czechoslovakia, and Italy, among other places. And the society's title was never intended as a geographical limit on members' research. The directory of experts on the ASEH does not offer a precise account, since both participation and updating are voluntary, but the fact that members have designated themselves as experts on the environmental history of every continent including Antarctica is certainly suggestive.
Nevertheless, there is a predictably American (or North American) flavor to our membership and our meetings. A majority of ASEH conference papers deal with American topics, as does most of the work on display in the book exhibit. A closer look at the on-line directory reveals that 315 people list the United States as the focus of their expertise, in comparison with 66 for Europe, 65 for Canada, 51 for Latin America, 47 for Asia, and 20 for Africa.
From the perspective of another continent, however, environmental history can look rather different. The many ASEH members who attended the 2009 WCEH meeting in Copenhagen, will remember that the topics of the papers presented there had a more evenly global distribution. The United States also loomed much smaller at the very lively and interesting Anglo-American Conference on "Environments" this past July. The Anglo-American Conference is sponsored annually by the Institute of Historical Research at University College, London-this year's conference was the 79th. Each year it is organized around a large theme: next summer's conference will focus on "health," and recent topics have included "cities" and "communication." "Environments" attracted several hundred historians, mostly from Great Britain. The books on display similarly reflected the location, and the majority of conference papers dealt with Britain, Europe, or the former British empire.
The difference was methodological as well as topical; for example, many papers demonstrated the connection of European environmental history with rural studies and historical geography. (This is not to say that America was absent, only that it was not central. Some panelists discussed American topics; Environmental History occupied a prominent position on the Oxford University Press table; and four of the five plenary speakers were both US residents and ASEH members, although only one of them works primarily on US topics.)
Of course there is nothing surprising about this alternative geographical emphasis. The inclination of historians to explore the past of their own place and culture is both natural and convenient. (For years I have envied my colonialist colleague, whose sources lie across the Charles River, not the Atlantic Ocean.) And even though its subject suggests that environmental history should be less bounded by language and culture than other historical subdisciplines, a quick glance at the notes in any issue of Environmental History demonstrates the contrary, which is also not surprising - otherwise we would be paleontologists or palynologists or geologists. For these reasons, it is good to be reminded, as we are to some extent at ASEH meetings, but much more strongly at meetings held outside North America, how much is happening both in and with regard to other places.
|The Profession: Working for the EPA|
By Karl Brooks, Region 7 Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Summer for most environmental historians means a little teaching and a lot of quiet archival work and writing. Until 1 February, that would have been my drill. On that date, I was sworn in as Region 7 Administrator in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As President Obama's appointee, reporting to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, I am responsible for managing all EPA work in the region that encompasses Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Fourteen hundred miles of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers flow through a vast region linking the gates of the Delta, in southeast Missouri's Bootheel, to the flanks of the Rockies in northwest Nebraska. In a region boasting some of the nation's leading industrial centers as well as its most productive farm and rangeland, EPA faces a bucketful of challenging tasks.
While on public-service leave from the University of Kansas faculty, I am learning fast about the differences between academe and the executive branch. So far, the experience has been exhilarating, inspiring, and demanding. Kind of like starting as a brand-new assistant professor, with a much bigger audience.
The EPA vests substantial authority in its ten regions. Congress wanted that sort of local focus, the nation's environmental-protection statutes vest broad powers in the regional administrators. My boss, Lisa Jackson, has encouraged us RAs to act decisively and creatively to carry out our legal duties. Last summer, I was teaching fifteen KU undergrads about the American Revolution and leisurely planning my next book in my little faculty office.
This summer, I have been working sixty-hour weeks and traveling thousands of miles while supervising 550 agency employees who, along with their state-agency counterparts, issue air and water discharge permits. I sign off on the initiation and settlement of enforcement lawsuits against polluters. And I brief sometimes skeptical members of Congress, state elected officials, and local leaders about EPA initiatives. Some change!
To this exciting new job, I try to bring some of the sensibility of a historian (and some of the horse sense of the former politician and trial lawyer). In my first week on the job, I urged my new colleagues who work in Region 7 headquarters, above the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers in Kansas City, to understand our region as a distinctive place on earth. We at EPA, along with our tribal, state, and local government partners, serve as the "thin green line" protecting environmental quality for 14 million people inhabiting over 450,000 square miles.
In these challenging days, we celebrate the agency's 40th birthday by pursuing some of this country's most ambitious objectives. Read the preamble of the Clean Water Act or the National Environmental Policy Act, and consider the intense political debates these laws still provoke.
Amid the blur of conference calls, briefings, and emails, I try to reflect for a moment, every day, on the signal honor that the President of the United States asked me to serve this country I cherish. And I remember all the teachers, from all my previous careers, who advised me to be curious, bold, and useful.
Positions Open ASEH Fellowships - Deadlines Fast Approaching
Travel Grants for 2011 Meeting 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 1 - September 30, 2010, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2010 for funding in January 2011.
To apply, please submit the following items:
1. A two-page statement (500 words) explaining your project and how you intend to use the research funds.
2. 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, 2010 at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 1 - September 30, 2010, and the recipient will be selected and notified in December 2010, for funding in January 2011.
To apply, please submit the following three items:
A two-page statement (500 words) explaining your project and how you intend to use the research funds.
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, 2010 at email@example.com
Travel grants are available for students and low-income scholars presenting in Phoenix, Arizona; click here for more information.
Nominations for ASEH's Distinguished Scholar and Distinguished Service Awards
ASEH presents Distinguished Scholar
and Distinguished Service
awards. The Distinguished Scholar Award is given every two years to an individual who has contributed significantly to environmental history scholarship; membership in ASEH is not required. The Distinguished Service Award is given every year to an individual who has contributed significantly to the development of ASEH as an organization; membership in ASEH is required. Anyone can nominate candidates for these awards, and ASEH's executive committee selects the recipients. [Current members of ASEH's executive committee
are not eligible for consideration.] If you would like to nominate someone for next year's awards, please send your suggestions, along with a brief explanation, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fordham University, New York:
The Department of History at Fordham University invites applications for a tenure-track appointment at the assistant or associate level in the history of the North American environment. We seek an active scholar capable of teaching transnational and global environmental history as well as the history of the urban environment. Candidates should also be able to teach the US history core course. Candidates must have the Ph.D. in hand by September 1, 2011, and should have experience teaching environmental history at the college level. Send letter of application, c.v., and three letters of recommendation to Dr. Daniel Soyer, chair, History Department, Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458, by December 1, 2010. Fordham is an independent, Catholic University in the Jesuit tradition that welcomes applications from men and women of all backgrounds. Fordham is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer" (an EO/AA Employer).
Southwestern University, Texas:
Program in Environmental Studies, seeks a tenure-track assistant professor of environmental studies to begin fall 2011. Candidates should be broadly trained in environmental studies, with a research and teaching emphasis in some area(s) of environmental policy and/or politics, with an international approach preferred. This faculty person will help anchor and refine our core environmental studies curriculum, so a broad knowledge and appreciation of environmental studies as a developing interdisciplinary field, an understanding of current environmental concerns, an ability to work and communicate across disciplinary boundaries, and a commitment to undergraduate education are essential.
We also seek a colleague with an interest in global issues of environmental justice, to build upon a focus of our program. We are especially interested in candidates committed to advancing diversity in academia. Candidates must have completed a Ph.D. in environmental studies, environmental policy, or related field by date of appointment.
Interested candidates should send application letter, Curriculum Vitae, brief statement of research program, teaching portfolio (including a statement of teaching philosophy, sample syllabi and assignments, and teaching evaluations if available), three letters of reference and a writing sample to:
Maria Trevino, Faculty Secretary, Environmental Studies Program, Southwestern University, P.O. Box 770, Georgetown, TX 78627
Application packets must be post-marked by October 1, 2010
. All offers of employment are contingent on successful completion of the University's Background Check Policy process. SouthwesternUniversity is an equal opportunity employer. EOE/M/F
University of Michigan:
The Department of History at the University of Michigan seeks qualified applicants for a tenure-track university-year (9-month) position to begin September 2011 in modern environmental history. The ideal candidate will focus on modern historical interactions between Africa and Asia, but we will also consider candidates in African or Asian environmental history who envisage including such interactions in their future research. This position is part of a "cluster hire" in Environment, Information, and Sustainable Development. The cluster consists of the Department of History and three partner units: the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the School of Information, and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies. We seek someone who-in addition to offering a range of courses in modern environmental history-can work productively within the cluster to offer a historical dimension to contemporary issues surrounding environmental change and development, and who will be open to having his/her own research informed by interdisciplinary approaches. Applicants for the History position should review the cluster description at http://sitemaker.umich.edu/clusterhire/home
. Letters of application should discuss the relevance of the candidate's work to the cluster. Candidates should also furnish a placement dossier that includes a CV, a writing sample, at least three letters of recommendation, a statement of teaching philosophy and experience, evidence of teaching excellence, and a statement of current and future research plans. Review of applications will begin November 1, 2010
, with plans to conduct interviews at the American Historical Association annual meeting in January 2011, and will continue until an appointment is made. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. The University of Michigan is supportive of the needs of dual career couples and is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Applications should be sent to Chair, Environmental History Search Committee, c/o Connie Hamlin, Department of History, 1029 Tisch Hall, The University of Michigan, 435 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003, or by email to email@example.com
|ASEH Members Respond to the Gulf Oil Spill|
Several articles by ASEH members on the Gulf oil spill have been posted on our website
. This section of the newsletter includes two summaries of additional activities that reveal how environmental history can inform current issues.
From Craig Colten, Louisiana State University:
Shortly after the calamitous failure of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April, I received a call from Gary Machlis, Science Advisor to the Director of the National Park Service. He was assembling a team to consider the impacts of what was still an unfolding event to the ecology, economy, and people of the Gulf Coast. Although titled the Department of Interior Strategic Sciences Working Group, there was a place at the table for environmental history.
The group assembled in Mobile, Alabama in the same sprawling convention center where the hundreds of state and federal employees engaged in that regional Incident Command were actively monitoring and responding to the oil release. Our group was independent of both the Incident Command or the National Resource Damage Assessment team. Our mission, during an intense week of 12-hour days, was to rapidly review scientific and historical information on the impacts of comparable events and to use that information to develop scenarios of the multiple and complex cascading impacts of the Deepwater Horizon release.
Our project differed from the emergency response taking place throughout the gulf coast, which sought to control and contain the release and its immediate ecological impacts. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 created a structure that emphasized the natural resources dimension of oil spills and the massive emergency operations under the command of the Coast Guard followed that mandate. Our goal was to step back, to consider how orders to close fishing areas might impact coastal resource-based communities and also the implications of fishing interruptions to marine populations.
Our horizon was not restricted to the immediate, unfolding event. Also with an objective that included considering impacts to the economy and people, environmental history figured into the specialities assembled in Mobile (and as a historical geographer with strong ties to environmental history I received an invitation to participate).
The team included a leader with a strong commitment to an interdisciplinary approach that considered natural and human systems as thoroughly intertwined. There was a sociologist/geographer, a wetlands biologist, a marine biologist with deep-sea diving experience, a forester with geospatial expertise, and aquatic biologist. Graduate students with backgrounds in biology and geography participated as well. We came from both university and federal agencies.
In a compressed time period we crafted a methodology for developing scenarios that reveal potential outcomes based on a host of different circumstances. For each scenario we considered the potential volume of oil released, the projected time to containment, time horizons for the emergency, restoration, and recovery periods, and the specific geographic/ecological setting impacted.
As we worked through multiple combinations, we identified (and researched on the fly) the potential impacts - often based on past events such as the Exxon Valdez or the Santa Barbara oil spill. The methods is described in greater detail in G. Machlis and M. NcNutt, "Scenario Building for the Deepwater Horizon Spill" Science 239 (27 August 2010): 1018-19). History was fundamental to our efforts.
We meet again this September to continue our scenario building, now in the post-containment - recovery period. We feel that this methodology will help decision makers think beyond the immediate emergency activities and to identify possible intervention strategies, to reveal unexpected surprises as an emergency progresses, to highlight possible monitoring needs for the future, and to expand our capabilities for contending with massive disruptive events. Tracing historical responses is a key component to this approach and presents a new opportunity for environmental historians.
From Tyler Priest, University of Houston:
As someone who has long studied the history of oil in South Louisiana and offshore Gulf of Mexico, I have felt an obligation to try to help make sense of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and explain the larger context. I spent most of my spring and summer thinking and talking through the issues with journalists, community groups, business people, and academics (http://www.aseh.net/resources/environmental-historians-respond-to-gulf-oil-spill
Many folks were simply grasping to understand how this industry had come to operate in 5,000-10,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Having written a book on this very topic (http://www.tamupress.com/product/Offshore-Imperative,1716.aspx
), I was in a position to provide some answers. In early August, I was contacted by a friend and colleague, Jay Hakes, research director of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. An expert on energy policy as former advisor to Secretary of Interior Cecil Andrus during the Carter Administration and head of the Energy Information Administration at the Department of Energy during the 1990s, Jay is on loan to the commission from his position as Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. He invited me to come to Washington to brief the commissioners on aspects of the history of offshore drilling and testify at the second meeting of the commission on the history of federal oversight of offshore oil, alongside three former directors of the Minerals Management Service (http://www.c-spanarchives.org/program/295170-3
The investigative work conducted by the commission is essentially historical, looking at how technology, federal regulation, and environmental impacts have evolved over time in order to identify what kind of changes need to be made in managing offshore oil going forward. The staff concluded that they could use the services of a historian who has thought systematically about these problems, so I have now joined the commission as a senior policy analyst. I hesitate to call this an "opportunity," because there are so many people here along the Gulf Coast who have seen their opportunity destroyed by this spill. But I am grateful for the chance to use history to inform our national response to it.
|ASEH Awards Submissions
for 2010 - Final Notice
This year ASEH's prize committees will evaluate submissions (published books and articles and completed dissertations) that appear between November 1, 2009 and October 31, 2010. Please send three copies of each submission (these must be hard copies, or paper copies) by November 12, 2010 to:
ASEH, UW Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program
University of Washington
1900 Commerce Street
Tacoma, WA 98402
|Help Choose a New Logo for ASEH|
ASEH's website committee (Lincoln Bramwell, Dave Louter, Lisa Mighetto, and Linda Nash) is designing a new website, which ASEH will launch late this year. The process of creating new web pages led us to consider the possibility of a new logo that would match our new electronic resources. While ASEH's current logo (visible in the masthead, at the top of this newsletter) has served our organization well for more than a decade, its design works best on white paper stationery - and ASEH now communicates more online than on paper. We propose to use one of the following logos as part of our new look (see below).
If you have comments or suggestions about these options, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 15, 2010
. After receiving your comments we will recommend a new logo for a vote by ASEH's executive committee.
|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, SecretaryExecutive 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, Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News:
Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma Ex Officio, H-Environment Representative:
Melissa WiedenfeldEx Officio, Editor, Environmental History:
Mark Cioc, University of California-Santa Cruz
ASEH Annual Conference,
Phoenix, Arizona, April 12-16, 2011
Travel grants are available for students and low-income scholars presenting at the conference - click here to learn more. The conference hotel is the Phoenix Wyndham, which was the 1st union hotel in the state and is a member member of Unite Here. For reservations, click here.
- Sustainability Workshop, sponsored by ASU's School of Sustainability and the Decision Center for a Desert City, April 13.
- William Cronon will serve as our plenary session speaker in Phoenix on April 14. Topic: "The Riddle of Sustainability: A Surprisingly Short History of the Future."
2 special borderlands exhibits: "Continental Divide: People, Wildlife, Borderlands, and the WALL," with commentary by photographer Krista Schlyer - and Historical Maps, US-Mexico Border.
Special plenary session and discussion on immigration, borderlands, and the environment, April 15 at the historic Orpheum Theater. Confirmed speakers include Carlos de la Parra, editor, A Barrier to our Shared Environment: The Border Fence between the United States and Mexico, and current Minister of Environmental Affairs in the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC - and Roberto Rodriguez, human rights activist, Department of Mexican American and Raza Studies, University of Arizona. We have also invited Congressman Raśl M. Grijalva, Arizona's 7th District.
Field trips, April 15, will include a walking tour of historic Phoenix; a bicycle ride along canalscapes; a trip to a national forest; horseback riding at Fort McDowell-Yavapai Nation facility; and a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. Whenever possible, we will make use of Phoenix's public transportation system.
for more info. on our 2011 conference. The online registration form will be available this fall, once we know all the expenses for events.
The conference will include a trip to the Fort McDowell-Yavapai Nation's facility outside Phoenix.
ASEH's 2011 conference will include an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon National Park and a seminar on national parks in North America.
Journal: Environmental History
|Oxford University Press now publishes Environmental History and manages ASEH memberships. This means that when you join ASEH or renew your membership, which includes a subscription to the journal, you will be taken to the Oxford Journals subscription page. Here you will be guided through the process of creating an account with Oxford Journals that will allow you to subscribe to the journal and become an ASEH member. Click here for more information.
to learn more about our July 2010 issue.
If you do not know your subscriber number (which is also found on the carrier sheet with the hard copy journal), contact Oxford Journals at: email@example.com
|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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for the winter issue is December 10, 2010.