From:                                                                            Lisa Mighetto <>

Sent:                                                                             Friday, December 15, 2017 1:42 PM


Subject:                                                                        ASEH News Winter 2017



'Tis the week before Christmas

And all round the earth

Environmental historians discover their worth

As an ASEH Newsletter lands on their hearth

-Graeme Wynn

aseh news

winter 2017                       volume 28, issue 4


thank you for your contributions

Click here to make an end-of-the-year donation to support students or awards and fellowship programs, including the Samuel P. Hays Fellowship.


2018 conference quick links


Riverside conference update

Spring is a perfect time to visit Southern California - and ASEH's 2018 conference features many events that highlight this appealing location. This will be our first meeting in Southern California since the initial conference in Irvine in 1982. The conference will include the following events:

Theme - Environment, Power, and Justice


Our conference will be located in downtown Riverside. Pictured above: Mission Inn and History Museum, which will be featured in the walking tour on Friday afternoon.


Our field trips will include a tour of the Huntington Library and Joshua Tree National Park (pictured above) and an exploration of the citrus industry so important to the development of Riverside and Southern California (pictured below).

The conference will include several trips to the coast.


The fire history field trip to Cajon Pass (above) is especially timely, given the recent fires that have raged through Southern California.


For more information on the field trips (not all of which are listed here), click here.


photos courtesy RIverside Convention & Visitors Bureau, Huntington Library, and Lisa Mighetto

Click here to register for the conference.


childcare at conferences


In the last few years, several ASEH members with young families have petitioned our Society to provide childcare during the annual meeting. We cannot do this, for financial and liability reasons. Our standard practice has been to facilitate, by providing conference goers with information about childcare providers and family activities near the conference venue (see links under "In and Around Riverside").


Recognizing the limitations on what we can do as a Society, we are nonetheless responding to changing needs and expectations surrounding this question, and implementing the following experiment in Riverside. ASEH has set aside limited funds to underwrite some of the costs that young families may incur in securing childcare. Rates for this service vary widely but average about $15 per hour per child. ASEH will attempt to reimburse individuals/ families at a rate of $10 per hour for a total of up to ten hours of childcare per family during the conference. Requests - with appropriate detailed receipts - should be submitted to the ASEH Executive Director Lisa Mighetto as a single PDF file by 31 March 2018. We will establish a committee to allocate such funds as are available. Should the demand exceed our capacity to meet all requests, partial payments may be necessary.


We will review the results of this experiment in the latter part of 2018, assess its costs and utility, and move forward accordingly.


-Graeme Wynn, ASEH President

-Lisa Mighetto, ASEH Executive Director

-Julie Cohn, Women's EH Network President


women's environmental history network


The women's environmental history network will hold its 3rd reception at our conference in Riverside on Thursday evening, March 15, 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Admission is free for conference attendees.


future conferences



March 14-18, 2018


Columbus, Ohio

April 10-13, 2019




International Consortium

of EH Organizations

July 22-26 , 2019


Ottawa, Canada

March 25-29 , 2020


it's time to renew your membership


Several years ago ASEH activated a new membership system, which is easy to navigate. Our memberships run on a calendar year, from January - December. Have you renewed for 2018? Click here to join or renew.


We celebrate our life members:

Charles Closmann

Sarah Elkind

Christof Mauch

Linda Nash

Sara Pritchard

Paul Rich

Ed Russell

Julia Adeney Thomas

Christopher Jones

Donald Jackson

Adam Rome

Victor Seow


The life membership option is available at the membership link.




The January issue of Environmental History will be shipped to members soon. This issue includes articles on climate change and fire in South Africa, forest conservation in Mexico, and more. Click here for more information.


reminder: sign up for aseh member directory


Any member can register on this 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 March 23, 2018. 





Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!




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president's column: on generosity

Last month I attended a celebration to mark the life of a former student. This was not as distressing an occasion as that characterisation might imply. The student returned to graduate school some forty years ago as a mature adult and was a decade and a half older than me. She lived a full life, and the gathering was well-attended. Many and varied contributions were warmly recounted and lovingly honoured. Most striking, however, were the accumulating references to her generosity, of spirit and deed. Speaker after speaker recounted instances of emotional support offered, meals and bed provided (sometimes to virtual strangers), visits encouraged, and encouragements extended. Many of these stories seemed to have a humorous twist. Help was given when it could help, when it was least expected, and sometimes even when it was superfluous. The world, I thought, would be a better place if such big-heartedness were more common.  


So too would ASEH. Now don't get me wrong. In my experience, ours is a remarkably friendly and generous organization. Over the last few years, my efforts at staffing our many committees have only confirmed my sense of ASEHers as helpful, obliging, and giving colleagues. At year's end and on the eve of the holidays, I am delighted to acknowledge as much, and to thank you, one and all.


Yet our Society needs your munificence -- now more than ever, and in ways beyond the usual commitments of time, energy, enthusiasm, and wisdom. Our organization is in reasonable financial shape, and has been sailing for some years on an even keel. But there are clouds on the horizon. An expanding membership, changing expectations, rising "external" costs, and the growing sense, generated by the expansion of our field, that we need to do more to exercise leadership and maintain our lustre, signal a change in the weather. In addition, we face the logistical challenges that are bound to follow the retirement of our long-time, dedicated, and accomplished Executive Director in 2018. Over twenty years, Lisa Mighetto has contributed an enormous amount to the current state and stature of ASEH. Her successor will face a sharp learning curve, not least in becoming familiar with the various avenues that Lisa has worked so assiduously, especially to fund opportunities for our student members. 


More robust funding will help us to bridge the transition gap, and build potential for the implementation of exciting and important new initiatives that will benefit both the society and individual members. Among them, I number only half a dozen: (i) supplementing and supporting internship-type arrangements for students (ii) encouraging local environmental history clusters by providing seed money for activities (iii) assisting with the provision of daycare arrangements at the annual conference (iv) acquiring means to support outreach activities, by webinar and podcast for example (v) increasing funds available for student travel and prizes (vi) assisting with office set-up, as may be necessary, for the new Executive Director.


Building a pattern of consistent giving (however small the individual $ amounts) from the membership will also help the Society's efforts to attract donations from external foundations.


To these ends, I ask that you commit to making a regular monthly donation to ASEH as soon as possible. Please give what you can. If half our members donated $10 a month we could raise $50,000 a year. Remember the words of Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world..." Be in that half.


Donating Is Simple. Go to  Alight on "Support ASEH" and under "donations to aseh can be made online through Pay Pal" select the option of choice (Operations/ general fund; Prizes; Grad Student and recent PhD support; Digital Improvements) and follow the instructions.


ASEH could not operate without the generosity of its members. THANK YOU for all you do to make our organization vibrant and strong - and Happy Holidays!


Graeme Wynn, ASEH President

the profession: when history is now - some challenges and rewards of local environmental history in nicaragua

by Michael Smith, Ithaca College


I first came to Sabana Grande, Nicaragua, nearly 5 years ago, drawn by the opportunity to spend a sabbatical semester observing and participating in the sustainable development projects here that have garnered international recognition (a United Nations SEED prize). I have a dual appointment in both history and environmental studies at my institution, but for that semester I was mostly wearing my environmental studies hat, focusing on the present and future as I learned about grass-roots alternative energy development, natural construction, climate change adaptation efforts, and agro-ecological restoration from community members and the Nicaragua NGO based in the community, Grupo Fénix.


But I am by inclination and training an environmental historian first, and I found that many of the questions I was asking during that first sojourn here focused on the past. I wondered what things were like here before these development initiatives began in the 1990s, especially the ways people generated energy, cultivated food crops, and collected and used water. As I heard people lament less predictable rainfall, I wondered how the climate had changed more generally in a place where, as in many parts of the world, precipitation in the best of times falls only during the rainy season (May-October). I pondered the historical impact of the Pan-American Highway, the stretch running right through the community built in the 1960s (with Alliance for Progress funding).

If trees could speak: the author standing next to the ceiba tree that has witnessed more than 500 years of history in the community.


These questions lurked in my consciousness, demanding attention long after I had returned to the U.S.  With the support of a Fulbright Core Scholar research grant I was finally able to return this semester and begin the quest for answers (as an aside, it took 3 tries before I was awarded a Fulbright, so for those of you considering a Fulbright, be persistent!). My project blends microhistory, the community history model developed in Great Britain, and environmental history. As R.W. Sandwell writes, "because the most commonly recognized kind of microhistory is the community-based study . . . its advantages to environmental history are both extensive and generally unacknowledged" [R.W. Sandwell, "History as Experiment: Microhistory and Environmental History," in Method and Meaning in Canadian Environmental HistoryAlan MacEachern and William J. Turkel, eds. (Nelson: Toronto, 2009), 124-38].


The research framework has proven durable, though as with any project I have had to adjust my vision of what's possible along the way. Written and photographic documentation of change and continuity over time is very hard to come by. In municipal and departmental archives I have found some limited source material for changes in population, land use practices, public health, and other categories of analysis of interest to environmental historians. The richest sources are the more than 30 oral history interviews (with community members ranging from 20-94 year's old) I and my collaborators here have conducted. It will take months of listening and re-listening upon my return, but the stories have converged around the theme of profound and rapid change over the past 20 years.

Oxen still provide traction for agriculture, even as the farmers have cell phones in their pockets.


Sabana Grande has followed a pattern of development similar to many places in Latin America without a valuable export commodity shaping its destiny (save for the ocote pine forests that were decimated by U.S. and Canadian logging interests in the 1960s and 1970s, something that every person over the age of 60 has told me changed the climate of the region perceptibly). It was settled rather late (late 1800s) by pastoral indigenous and mestizo families, the community's relationship to the land revolving around subsistence roza y quema agriculture supplemented by migratory labor to the coffee plantations of the Central Highlands of Nicaragua.


Twenty years ago, people have told me, things really began to change - when the first wells were drilled, when the limited electricity from the grid began to be supplemented by solar panels, when the diet began to expand to include more vegetables but more junk food too, when the population began to grow very quickly (from a few dozen families to more than 100), accelerating deforestation. I look forward to weaving my research into a story that both the community and other scholars will appreciate, recognizing that decades will need to pass to fully grasp the impact of more recent changes here, including climate change (for more on that, see the segment on Sabana Grande in Al Gore's 24 Hours of Reality program, Hour 22 at the 35 min. mark).


Michael Smith teaches history and environmental humanities at Ithaca College. He can be reached at He and his family have been blogging about their Fulbright experience in Nicaragua at



mentoring for the future: our program expands
by Graeme Wynn, University of British Columbia and ASEH President

To enhance inclusiveness and the value of membership in ASEH, we are moving to expand and invigorate the ASEH mentoring program. This program has run in a relatively small way for a few years now, thanks to the good offices of Lisa Mighetto who initiated it and has continued to facilitate it. Thanks are due Lisa for this valuable effort and to those who have participated as mentors thus far. 

Details of the program as it exists can be found at


After consultation and several conversations with interested parties, we wish to build upon this model.  Going forward, we envisage mentoring groups of three or four students (as per specifications on the webpage above) and one established scholar (or professional from beyond the academy). As now, groups will be established for a calendar year, although engagement may continue beyond this. Groups will be encouraged to "chat" electronically at least 3 or 4 times during the year, and to meet at the ASEH Annual meeting if possible. Mentoring conversations will focus on career advice, professional advancement, and facilitating contacts rather than reading student work.


What is new? Bringing several students together with a mentor should create a livelier dynamic and enhance the experience. Students will benefit from contact with peers in other institutions as well as their mentor.  Mentors and students will be provided with a set of guidelines on which to base their interactions. The matching of mentors and students will be done by an ad hoc committee (to be established). Mentors will be recognized in the Newsletter and elsewhere.


What we need?  Participants. Engagement is essential to success: we need mentors and we need mentees to identify themselves. If you are interested in either - which I hope you will be - please notify Lisa Mighetto at  asap but no later than 12 January 2018, and include a brief statement about yourself.  I will come chasing mentors if the response is insufficient, so please save me the task and stand as a volunteer rather than a conscript. Please let me ( or Lisa know if you are willing to serve on the ad hoc matching committee.



member news

Julie Cohn looks forward to the release of her book, 

The Grid: Biography of an American Technologyfrom the MIT Press this month.


Sarah Elkind's "Extracting Property Values and Oil: Los Angeles's Petroleum Booms and the Definition of Urban Space," has been awarded the "Preis für Wirtschaftsgeschichte", the prize for best article published in Economic History Yearbook in 2016. The article explores the impact of oil drilling on Los Angeles' residents' understanding of residential and industrial space and property rights from the 1920s to 1940s. It also describes Los Angeles city efforts to regulate drilling during economic depression and World War II. The article is an extension of Elkind's research on Los Angeles resource policies for How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy (2011).

Leif Fredrickson received a CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award for 2017.


John R. McNeill and George Vrtis (eds.) published Mining North America: An Environmental History since 1522 with University of California Press.


Jeffrey K. Stine and W. John Kress (eds.) published Living in the Anthropocene: Earth in the Age of Humans with Smithsonian Books. This book includes essays by several ASEH members, including John McNeill, Steve Pyne, Finis Dunaway, and Rob Nixon.




ASEH's Next Conference 

Click here to register.

Click here for general information on the conference.





ASEH has two positions available:

ASEH Seeks Editor for Environmental History
ASEH and the Forest History Society seek applicants to serve as editor of the journal Environmental History for a 5-year term beginning July 2019. The successful applicant will serve as editor-elect for a transition period of 6 to 12 months. For information on qualifications, responsibilities, application materials, and search procedures click here. Interested parties may request further information from chair of the search committee by writing to Review of applications will begin on January 15, 2018; the final deadline for receipt of applications is February 1, 2018

ASEH Seeks Executive Director
This full-time position starts in October 2018. Deadline for application: December 20, 2017. Click here for details.



for graduate students


Free Registration at 2018 Conference
Graduate students can get free registration in exchange for volunteering at the conference. Click here for more information.


Events at 2018 Conference:

Click here for conference online registration form.


The grad student caucus is coordinating ride shares and room shares for the conference. For more information, click here.



in memoriam: samuel p. hays (1921-2017)
by Joel Tarr, Carnegie Mellon University, with Jeffrey K. Stine, Martin Melosi, and Edward K. Muller

Samuel P. Hays, a pioneer environmental, social, and political historian, passed away on November 22, 2017 in Boulder, Colorado. Sam, as his friends knew him, chaired the University of Pittsburgh's Department of History from 1960-1990, providing it with outstanding leadership. During these years he influenced the profession by training dozens of graduate students and serving as a model for many young historians. He served as president of the Urban History Association in 1992, received the first ASEH Distinguished Scholar award in 1997, and the Distinguished Service Award of the Organization of American Historians in 1999.


The roots of Sam's interest in conservation and environmental issues extended back to his upbringing on his family's dairy farm in Corydon, a small southern Indiana town. He was a conscientious objector in World War II and worked with different federal conservation agencies, developing an interest in forests and forest management. Sam completed his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College and did his graduate work at Harvard under the direction of Frederick Merk. He later recounted that Oscar Handlin's approach to social history strongly influenced him.


Two years after the 1957 release of his influential synthesis, The Response to Industrialism 1885-1914 (2nd. rev. edition, 1995), Sam published the seminal environmental study, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency, but then turned his attention to political and social analysis. A collection of his path-breaking articles from this period can be found in American Political History as Social Analysis (1980). In the 1980sand 1990s, Sam returned to environmental history and produced a number of articles, many of which are collected in Explorations in Environmental History (1998). Between 1987 and 2009, Sam published four more books: Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985 (with co-author Barbara D. Hays, 1987), A History of Environmental Politics since 1945 (2000), Wars in the Woods: The Rise of Ecological Forestry in America (2006), and The American People and the National Forests: The First Century of the U.S. Forest Service (2009), as well as the edited work, City at the Point: Essays on the Social History of Pittsburgh (1991).


Sam was an avid collector of environmental materials, such as the newsletters and reports that later formed the basis for some of his writings. He established the University of Pittsburgh Archives of Industrial Society, where he deposited hundreds of boxes of ephemeral environmental material, as well as other significant sources for Pittsburgh history. In addition to his academic work, Sam was an environmental activist, devoting long hours fighting to regulate environmental wrongs through the Sierra Club, testifying at hearings, and writing reports. His career was not without conflict, as he held strong beliefs about how history should be approached. Institutional analysis, he argued, was more significant to the understanding of environmental issues than biography and intellectual constructs. He also believed that environmental historians too often lacked hands-on experience with environmental affairs, which led them to become pre-occupied with such topics as "wilderness" and "nature."


Throughout his career, Sam pushed the boundaries of his field, striving for clarity and challenging his colleagues to sharpen their analyses. His sometimes vigorous and exacting style could produce impassioned disagreements. Because the common goal always remained the enrichment of our collective enterprise, Sam Hays will be remembered as a major pioneer and shaper of environmental history.



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


Graeme Wynn, University of British Columbia, President

Edmund Russell, Boston University, Vice President/President Elect
Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Treasurer
Sarah Elkind, San Diego State University, Secretary


Executive Committee:

Emily Greenwald, Historical Research Associates, Inc.-Missoula

Lynne Heasley, Western Michigan University

Kieko Matteson, Univeristy of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa

Christof Mauch, Rachel Carson Center-Munich

Kathryn Morse, Middlebury College
Cindy Ott, University of Delaware

Conevery Valencius, Boston College

Zachary Nowak, Harvard University, president of grad student caucus

Ex Officio, Past Presidents:

Kathleen Brosnan, University of Oklahoma

Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ex Officio, Editor, Environmental History
Lisa Brady, Boise State University

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



ASEH, UW Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program, 1900 Commerce Street, Tacoma, WA 98402



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