From: Lisa Mighetto <>
Subject: ASEH News Summer 2014
aseh news
summer 2014                       volume 25, issue 2
in this issue
president's column: revisiting the two cultures
the profession: path to sustainability
member news
announcements: award and fellowship deadlines, and more
for graduate students
turning protest into policy: environmental values and governance in changing societies

update on washington, dc conference 2015

Proposals for panels, roundtables, and posters are due July 20, 2014. Click here for more info., including instructions and a link to the submission form.

The conference hotel is the Washington Marriott in the Georgetown area - a walkable location near many restaurants, Metro stops, and other attractions. To reserve a room at the hotel, and for additional conference info., click here.

Our 2015 conference will include the following events:
  • workshop on environmental history records at the National Archives, March 18
  • workshop on environmental films, March 17-18
  • lunch talk by ASEH President Gregg Mitman, March 19 
  • evening plenary session, March 19 
  • walking tour exploring the mall and monuments, March 20
  • field trips to Civil War battlefield, Patuxent Research Refuge, national zoo, and more, March 20
  • 100 sessions  

postcards courtesy Melissa Wiedenfeld


Mark Your Calendars

Our 2015 conference will take place during the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Environmental Film Festival

March 2015 is a great time to be in DC!

travel grants
A limited number of travel grants will be available for students and low-income scholars presenting at our 2015 conference. Once the program committee selects the sessions and creates the program, we will contact presenters will more info., including how to apply.

World Congress in Portugal

The International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations (which includes ASEH) will hold a world congress in Portugal from July 8-12, 2014. Click here for more info.

If you plan to attend, don't miss the reception on Friday evening, July 11. All are welcome - see ASEH booth in the exhibit area for details. Reception sponsored by ASEH, Forest History Society, and Oxford University Press.

future conferences
Guimar„es, Portugal 
July 8-12, 2014
Washington, DC March 18-22, 2015
March 30-April 3, 2016

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to host a future ASEH conference, contact for guidelines. ASEH will be selecting our 2017 conference site this fall.


Click here for info. on the current issue of our journal Environmental History
have you signed up for aseh's member directory?
ASEH's Digital Communications Committee has created an online directory of members. Any member can register on this new site, which is publicly available to anyone searching for contact info. on environmental historians and their research. The site is open for registration and viewing.
We encourage all ASEH members to register. If you have questions or comments, contact
Click here to register. Thank you for your participation!
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 September 12, 2014. 
photo courtesy Laura Watt
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president's column: revisiting the two cultures


I opened my Facebook page this past week to see a post by a history of science colleague with the tag line, "Here we go again!!!" The subject was an unfortunate article that appeared in the May 27th issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. In a rather select sampling of the field, the reporter Paul Voosen argues that history of science, a "field suspended between the two cultures," has drifted from its intellectual origins as "science's explanatory sidekick," and, in so doing, has severed its ties from science, eroding its authority in the process.


Voosen's article conjures up visions of the "science wars" of the 1990s. I remember those days vividly.  As a young scholar, I was thrilled to be invited by the Wenner-Gren Foundation to be part of a weeklong workshop in 1996 on the history of primatology.  Twenty-three scholars at various stages in their careers from across the fields of primatology, anthropology, history of science and science studies met in a mountain resort above Rio de Janeiro to debate and discuss why scientific understanding about primate societies had changed so drastically over the course of the twentieth century. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. In the large group setting, a fault line divided the scientists from the humanists in the room. Did relativists really believe that gravity was a social construct," one primatologist quipped, caricaturing the state of the field. In one-on-one interactions, over shared drinks and walks, barriers were broken down, and productive exchanges were had. But as someone trained in ecology, with a deep love for biological science and its history, it offered a painful reminder of the kind of damage done by cultural misunderstanding and the kind of work that needs to happen to build trust and interaction across disciplines.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with environmental history? As an ecologist, turned historian of science, who came into environmental history through an interest in the history of ecology, my scholarship has long been motivated by an interest in how questions of knowledge have shaped interactions between people and environments over time. Science has been a significant cultural force in mediating relationships between humans and the natural world in Western societies since the so-called Scientific Revolution.


Yet, the place of scientific knowledge and its history has had a rather ambiguous relationship in environmental history. In the past, environmental historians have looked to the environmental sciences to give voice to nature as actor. Others have dismissed scientific ideas of the past when they do not conform to contemporary understanding. Such approaches, however, risk neglecting the important material histories of long-forgotten ideas, like miasmatic theories of disease, in shaping human-environment relationships. We need, I suggest, a much more rigorous and engaged discussion about the relationship of environmental history to past and present knowledge, be it science, or other forms of knowing in the Western and non-Western worlds.


At the same time, the lessons of the science wars, as the most recent article in The Chronicle for Higher Education attests, should offer a cautionary tale about the place of science in the historical narratives we write. Shedding light on the economic, material, and social relationships at play in the historical production of scientific knowledge can be a great asset in understanding how particular forms of knowledge have been instrumental in mediating human interactions with the nonhuman world. Such narratives gain strength when they are respectful of, seek to discern, and comprehend the epistemologies and past worlds of the historical actors with whom we are engaged. Jacob Hamblin's recent book, Arming Mother Nature, is just one among a number of examples I could cite in which a history of science, deeply informed by the technical content of science, has been mobilized to good effect in the writing of environmental history. In it, he offers a far-reaching and provocative account of just how dependent narratives of global climate change are upon the military support, apocalyptic scenarios, and political ideology that shaped the growth of the modern environmental sciences during the Cold War. It is a history that both scientists and humanists would do well to understand if we are to comprehend the current political, scientific, and social contours of the climate change debate within the United States.

As environmental historians join arms in solidarity with our colleagues in literary studies, philosophy, and anthropology, among other disciplines, to affirm the importance of the environmental humanities, my recollections of the "science wars" of the 1990s prompts me to ask what place, if any, the environmental sciences have to play in this new intellectual commons. Or are we in danger of reaffirming the two cultures divide that history of science was long ago supposed to heal?  The politics of disciplines appear petty compared to the environmental issues faced by the diversity of people and other living beings on this planet.  More than ever, the sciences and humanities need each other in helping to build more equitable and just environmental futures across the globe.

Gregg Mitman, ASEH President

the profession: path to sustainability

Teresa Sabol Spezio, Colby College


Sustainability as a concept and practice has become a key touchstone in solving global environmental issues. Corporations, governments and non-profit institutions use its concepts to develop goals to address global climate change, water shortages, natural resources damage and myriad other issues. Its reliance on concepts relating to people, profit and planet meshed well with my interests in both engineering and history. As an engineer, I was trained to solve the problem in front of me. If groundwater became contaminated, I needed to create a system to remove the contamination.


Sustainability has changed this paradigm for every profession interested in environmental policy. Governments and corporations now need interdisciplinary teams to consider how to solve problems.


No longer could the engineer or scientist focus only on cleaning up the groundwater; she needed to consider how and why the groundwater first became contaminated. Of course, corporations knew they would need engineers, scientists and economists to consider solutions but now they also require historians, sociologists and others. I came to realize that my academic history training would assist in problem-solving and my colleagues began to look at my academic history training as an asset. I was able to bring to the conversation and the analysis an understanding of how past activities, including the history of environmental policy and science policy helped create the environmental problems we have today. I became actively involved in creating sustainability plans for corporations and government agencies. For the the Los Angeles World Airports, for example, I used historical records associated with the airport and the city as well as Federal Aviation Administration databases to help prepare a sustainability plan.


With my academic training in history, particularly my training in environmental protection policy and science policy, I was able to enhance these teams. With the completion of my PhD, I now concentrate on training undergraduate history majors and others to understand the concepts of sustainability so they can become part of the solution to global environmental issues, including global climate change.


Teresa Sabol Spezio is the chair of ASEH's Sustainability Committee and can be reached at


member news


Lincoln Bramwell has published Wilderburbs: Communities on Nature's Edge (University of Washington Press). 


Gregory T. Cushman's book Guano & the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological History was awarded the Henry A. Wallace Award for best book on agricultural history outside the United States published in 2013 by the Agricultural History Society. A review of his and David Igler's new books was featured on the cover of the 6 Dec. 2013 issue of The Times Literary Supplement.
Stephen A. Laubach has published Living a Land Ethic: A History of Cooperative Conservation on the Leopold Memorial Reserve (University of Wisconsin Press).

Robert Lifset, University of Oklahoma, was recently promoted to Associate Professor. Look for his book, Power on the Hudson: Storm King Mountain and The Emergence of Modern American Environmentalism (to be published by Pittsburgh University Press this summer).

On May 16, 2014, at the U.S. Supreme Court, more than 200 people gathered to celebrate the 75th anniversary of William O. Douglas's appointment to the Court. His widow, Cathleen Douglas Stone, invited Adam Sowards to speak about his environmental legacy, based on his book The Environmental Justice: William O. Douglas and American Conservation. Other panelists included Laurence Tribe (Harvard Law) and George Frampton (former president of the Wilderness Society and CEQ head under Clinton). 



Final Notice - Call for Proposals for ASEH's 2015 Conference in DC


Join our 2015 conference in DC - proposals for panels, roundtables, and posters are due July 20, 2014. Click here for more info.


Second Notice - ASEH Awards Submissions for 2014
ASEH presents awards for scholarship, service, and achievement. The deadline for this year's award submissions is November 14, 2014. For a list of awards and instructions on how to submit, click here.

ASEH Samuel P. Hays Fellowship Applications

This fellowship is open to practicing historians (either academic, public, or independent). Graduate students are ineligible. A Ph.D. is not required. Submissions will be accepted between June and October 1, 2014, and the recipient will be notified in December 2014 for $1,000 USD in funding in January 2015.
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 two pages in length.
All items for the Samuel P. Hays Research Fellowship must be submitted electronically by October 1, 2014 to Barry Muchnick, committee chair, at


ASEH Hal Rothman Fellowship Applications

Students enrolled in any Ph.D. program worldwide are eligible to apply. Applications will be accepted from June through October 1, 2014, and the recipient will be notified in December 2014 for $1,000 USD in funding in January 2015.
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. no more than two pages in length.
  • A letter of recommendation from your graduate advisor
All items for the Hal Rothman Research Fellowship must be submitted electronically to by October 1, 2014. Use subject line "Hal Rothman Fellowship Application."

Call for Papers

2014 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, 19-22 October 2014 - Vancouver, BC Canada at the Vancouver Convention Centre,

Abstract deadline:   29 July 2014
Registration Deadline:  15 September 2014

for graduate students


Attending the World Congress in Portugal?

Margot Higgins and Adam Sundberg have volunteered to co-organize an informal student get-together in Portugal this July. Please contact them if you're interested in participating: and 


Invitation to Join Graduate Student Caucus


The ASEH grad student caucus organizes events, conference sessions, workshops, career seminars, and more. If you would like to join and participate, e-mail ASEH Graduate Student Liaison Bathsheba Demuth

aseh news is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History


Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison, President 
Kathleen Brosnan, University of Oklahoma, Vice President/President Elect
Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
Jay Taylor, Simon Fraser University, Secretary

Executive Committee:

Sarah Elkind, San Diego State University 
Sterling Evans, University of Oklahoma
Sara Gregg, University of Kansas
Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College 
Paul Sutter, University of Colorado
Louis Warren, University of California-Davis
Graeme Wynn, University of British Columbia
Ex Officio, Past Presidents:

Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
John McNeill, Georgetown University
Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History
Lisa Brady, Boise State University

Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, aseh news:
Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma

Graduate Student Liaison: Bathsheba Demuth, University of California-Berkeley
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