spring 2013                               volume 24, issue 1
in this issue (right columns)
president's column: crossings
the profession: teaching transnational u.s. environmental history in a study abroad program
2013 election results
2013 awards
member news
film review: "waking the green tiger"
attention: graduate students
San Francisco conference 2014


Our conference in San Francisco (March 12-16, 2014), will include the following:
  • plenary session on international environmental history
  • plenary session featuring Gary Snyder and Robert Hass
  • 100 sessions
  • digital history workshop 
  • workshop for grad students
  • field trips, including visits to Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods, and a local winery

Click here for info on our 2014 conference, including Call for Papers - deadline July 1, 2013

future conferences
San Francisco
March 12-16, 2014
Washington, DC March 18-22, 2015
March 30-April 3, 2016
Toronto conference photos
A sample of photos from our conference in Toronto, April 2013:
forest field trip
viewing posters
exhibit area
exhibit area
meeting friends
poster presenters Alan
MacEachern (right)
and Josh MacFadyen
(left) and their winning
entry "Time Flies"
President John McNeill
John McNeill (center)
thanks John Soluri,
program committee chair
 (left) and Colin Coates,
local arrangements chair
Niagara Falls field trip

Thank You
ASEH is grateful to the Toronto local arrangements and program committees, especially Colin Coates (local arrangements chair), Andrew Watson (volunteer coordinator), Ken Cruikshank (organizer for the field trips), and John Soluri (program committee chair). And thank you to all the volunteers who helped with registration, field trips, and more!
Toronto volunteers
quick links to Toronto conference events
Click here for more info. on "Time Flies," the winning poster.

Click here to read the first ever environmental history/basketball quiz, which incoming president Gregg Mitman presented to John McNeill at his presidential address, along with a basketball signed by Chicago Bulls players.
Hal Rothman Fun(d) run in Toronto
The 4th annual Hal Rothman Fun(d) Run was held during the recent ASEH conference to benefit ASEH's Hal Rothman Dissertation Fellowship. Eight runners and one walker turned out on Saturday morning and were treated to a spectacular sunrise over the water on the route. Several folks have participated all four years.

Under the new "Pay and Don't Go" plan, 20 others contributed to the fund but did not run or walk. The total collected so far this year is $430, but that is expected to grow as others who have pledged to contribute under the new plan send in their donations. You can join them by sending your donation directly to ASEH treasurer Mark Madison at 698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown, WV 25443. Make all checks payable to "ASEH-Hal Rothman Fund."

The Hal Rothman Fellowship was created in honor of Hal Rothman to recognize graduate student achievements in environmental history research.

Run organizer Jamie Lewis would like to thank all who contributed and participated this year. He's looking forward to running the hilly terrain of San Francisco, host city for ASEH 2014.

Rothman runners in Toronto
photo courtesy Jamie Lewis
The current issue of Environmental History (April 2013) features articles on forest change in South Africa, China, Spain - and more.
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 director@aseh.net
by June 14, 2013.
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president's column: crossings

Toronto and San Francisco, cities that are hosts, respectively, to the 2013 and 2014 ASEH annual meetings, have long been important entrepôts in the history of global trade. Confluences and crossings characterize the dynamic movements that have made these port cities rich sites of economic and cultural exchange. It is fitting, then, that confluences and crossings mark the themes of the recent Toronto and upcoming San Francisco meeting. At the same time, these ideas point to the vibrancy of environmental history as an interdisciplinary field undergoing rapid global expansion.
It is an exciting time to be the incoming president of ASEH. It is an exciting time to be an environmental historian. The 2012 ASEH meeting in Madison, Wisconsin broke all previous attendance records. In addition, in 2012, for the first time since the founding of the American Historical Association in 1884, an environmental historian, Bill Cronon, served as the organization's president.
Evidence of the vitality of environmental history is also visible across the globe. Last summer, 270 people gathered in Villa de Leyva, Colombia, a record for the Sociedad Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Historia Ambiental. This summer's meeting of the European Society for Environmental History in Munich will similarly be the largest in ESEH's history. New research centers that have sprung up in the last six years, including the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich; the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Stockholm; the Center for Ecological History in Beijing; the Centre for Environmental History in Tallinn; and the Center for Culture, History, and Environment in Madison, to name a few, are devoted to the study of environmental history, broadly construed. Environmental history is, in short, on the move. 

In a field in which place matters, the distinctiveness and exchange of historiographic traditions, approaches, and questions advanced by environmental historians in different parts of the globe is, in my view, what keeps the field surprising and alive. I am reminded, in this regard, of what I take to be a seminal volume in the intellectual origins of our field, the 1955 publication of Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth. Seventy participants from ten different countries and from across the biological sciences, earth sciences, social sciences, and humanities gathered to come to grips with humans as the major ecological and evolutionary force on the planet.  It is a volume breathtaking in its reach and one well worth revisiting. Some contemporary readers may be surprised to realize that others had long been contemplating the Anthropocene, even if the term was not a part of their 1950s vocabulary. More importantly, however, Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth is a reminder of the international and interdisciplinary scope of issues that became central to our field. 

As we ride a new international wave of interest and activity, I look forward to contemplating how an infusion of ideas and perspectives across different geographic areas, intellectual traditions and disciplines will further enliven and enrich a dynamic and growing field. In what ways, for example, might the tradition of historical climatology in Europe take new form in the United States, where collaborations across the humanities and sciences have been, perhaps, less common in the pursuit of environmental history? What new perspectives might emerge in the exchange of different agrarian historical traditions at the basis of certain strands of environmental history in Latin America and the United States? Or, how might a visual turn evident in recent American environmental history be taken up in other parts of the world with quite different visual aesthetic traditions?
Key to exploring such questions, I think, is a greater appreciation and understanding of the different intellectual genealogies and environmental issues that have given meaning and shape to environmental history across the globe.  While serving as president of ASEH over the next two years, I look forward to working with you and with other international partner organizations and centers in advancing conversations appreciative of the intellectual diversity and global reach of our field.
Gregg Mitman, ASEH President
the profession: teaching transnational u.s. environmental history in a study abroad program
by Mart Stewart, Western Washington University

One of the more important recent developments in the field of environmental history has been the scholarly discussions - accentuated during the recent ASEH conference in Toronto -- that are organized around the term "transnational." Environmental historians have never been as attentive to national boundaries nor to political boundaries in general as other historians, but transnational environmental history is more active and deliberate in how it ignores political borders at the same time in how it takes them seriously.

Teaching transnational history without the ready containers of nation-states and their regions to structure course content is a challenge, though, that requires an attention to the interaction of processes and places that can be confusing to those students like the mostly first-generation students I teach at Western Washington University - who have had limited experience with places far away from home.

To meet this challenge, I have developed a study abroad course, "America and Vietnam," that requires students to enroll in an on-campus course about the transnational history of the U.S. by way of its relationship with a place that in the 20th century most prominently tested and shaped U.S. hegemony in the world. This is followed by a 20-day study abroad program that includes site visits and interview opportunities - where students can do field research to deepen (or up-end) the conventional research they have accomplished during the on-campus course.

Several students in this program have completed research projects on transnational environmental issues or developments: on the global flow of Vietnamese catfish and ensuing trade controversies with the U.S.; on the relationship between the gendered effects of Agent Orange and political controversies about these effects; and on the hybrid environmentalisms that are built into the management of the Can Gio mangrove preserve (also a Unesco Biosphere Preserve), for example - all of which have culminated in publications.

Students could have completed these projects through traditional library and online research, but taking them abroad to do field research enriched the projects, and gave students a tangible experience with a transnational research space at the same time that they conducted their research. Study abroad courses require an enormous investment of faculty time for a relatively small number of students. But the blend of opportunity and the strengths of the students who were attracted to it also meant that when students returned they explained their research in ways that in some cases made them campus leaders, too.

Additional info. is available in the March issue of the AHA's Perspectives.

2013 election results 

The following people were elected:



Kathleen Brosnan, vice president/president elect

Mark Madison, treasurer

Jay Taylor, secretary


executive committee:

Sarah Elkind

Ellen Stroud

Paul Sutter


nominating committee:

Brian Black

Robert Wilson


Gregory Rosenthal was appointed this year's graduate student liaison.


Thank you to all candidates that stood for election.


ASEH thanks the following individuals for their service, as they rotated off the executive committee this year:


Stephen Pyne, Marcus Hall, Tina Loo, Linda Nash, and Kara Schlichting

2013 awards
The following awards were presented in Toronto:

Distinguished Scholar
Richard White

Distinguished Service
Kathleen Brosnan

George Perkins Marsh Prize for best book
Daniel Schneider, Hybrid Nature: Sewage Treatment and the Contradictions of the Industrial Ecosystem, MIT Press.

Alice Hamilton Prize for best article outside Environmental History
Edward D. Melillo, "The First Green Revolution: Debt Peonage and the Making of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Trade, 1840-1930," American Historical Review (October 2012).

Leopold-Hidy Prize for best article in Environmental History
Cynthia Radding, "The Children of Mayahuel: Agaves, Human Cultures, and Desert Landscapes in Northern Mexico" (January 2012).

Rachel Carson Prize for best dissertation
Catherine McNeur, "The 'Swinish Multitude' and Fashionable Promenades: Battles over Public Space in New York City, 1815-1865," Yale University.

Click here for comments on the awards presented in Toronto.

Kathleen Brosnan
Richard White
left to right: John McNeill, Catherine McNeur,
Richard White, and Daniel Schneider


member news


Adam Rome's book The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-in Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation and Aaron Sach's book Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition were featured recently in an article "When the Earth Moved: What Happened to the Environmental Movement?" in The New Yorker.  


Ellen Stroud's book Nature Next Door: Cities and Trees in the American Northeast (University of Washington Press) was listed  

in the History News Network as one of the best history books of 2012. 


Nancy Unger's book Beyond Nature's Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History was recently published by Oxford University Press.




Call for Papers



Call for Manuscripts


The California Historical Society seeks manuscripts for its $5,000 book prize. Deadline: July 1, 2013. Click here for more info. 


Grey Towers Scholar-in-Resident Fellowship


The US Forest Service and the Grey Towers Heritage Association
welcome applications for a one- to four-week writing retreat and
residency at Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, PA. Deadline: September 15, 2013. Contact Lincoln Bramwell at lbramwell@fs.fed.us for more info. 

film review: "waking the green tiger"
 by David Biggs, University of California-Riverside


"Waking the Green Tiger" is really an ideal film for courses on global environmental history that seek to examine what environmentalism means "in translation" far beyond the United States and Europe. This film is one of three directed by Gary Marcuse for the CBC series "The Nature of Things." It draws extensively on Judith Shapiro's 2001 book Mao's War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China and is really three or four stories wrapped into one. It begins with the story of Beijing-based journalists visiting the Nu (Salween) River in the highlands of Yunnan Province. The journalists, drawing upon a recently passed Environmental Impact Assessment Law, interview villagers in a valley where a large hydropower dam is planned, reporting their views on to a national audience. The central story underlying this account in the Nu Valley and others is the deep political crisis in China around environmental protection and participatory democracy.

For environmental historians, the film is especially teachable as it splices in rare archival footage of revolutionary China (1949-1980), showing the origin's of the Chinese state's hyper-development platform in the first years after the revolution. China's iconic leader Mao Tse Tung led mass movements from 1950 on to rapidly develop and industrialize rural areas. Particularly poignant is one segment in the film on the Four Pests Campaign (1958-1962) where the Eurasian Tree Sparrow was almost eradicated into extinction. A Chinese couple who were youths in this campaign remark in an interview on their shock in participating as young children in this mass killing of the tiny sparrows.  Archival footage shows dump trucks leaving villages with heaping mounds of the dead birds. The scene of so many dead songbirds recalls Rachel Carson's lament of a "silent spring" without birdsong.

Besides the historical documentary, the film introduces foreign viewers to some of the leading environmental activists and journalists. Ma Jun, author of China's Water Crisis (2004), offers critiques on the dam projects detailed in the film. His book is one of the first widely read, environmentalist works to be published inside China. Wang Yongchen, another journalist working with China's National Public Radio, is featured in several segments. Her reporting on the threatened, bio-diverse valleys on the Nu River in 2004 led China's Premier, Wen Jiabao, to suspend work on the river pending more investigations. The film is a virtual who's-who of China's environmental movement.

While the film ends on an upbeat note, events since it's airing on CBC television in 2011 reveal the fragility of these environmental victories against a state still oriented to development-at-all-costs. The government lifted the ban on dam construction in the Nu River Valley in late January 2013. Many villages like the one depicted in the film have already been razed with villagers relocated. Time Magazine in 2009 listed the Nu Valley as one of the top places to visit "before it disappears." Thus "Waking the Green Tiger" is provocative because it shows not only how an environmentalist consciousness has emerged in China but also, like the sparrows in the Four Pests Campaign, how fragile are the few environmental victories.


[David Biggs is the program committee chair for ASEH's 2014 conference.]

attention: graduate students


On April 5, the Graduate Student Caucus held its first meeting of the year. Twenty-three students attended. At the meeting, we discussed the expanding role and influence of the caucus (established in 2011) and brainstormed ideas for future graduate student programming and activities at the 2014 conference in San Francisco and beyond. The graduate student caucus will next meet, via online conference call technology, in late May. The exact date, time, and access information will be announced in coming weeks.
If you are not on the graduate caucus email listserv, I encourage you to join us! Please contact me at rosenthal.gregory@gmail.com to be added to the listserv. As of this spring, the graduate student caucus includes over 35 active members. We meet at least three times per year. We have a lot of great plans for 2014, and I invite you to join in the conversation to help make these plans a reality.
Gregory Rosenthal
ASEH Graduate Student Liaison  

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:
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lisa Brady, Boise State University [incoming editor]

Ex Officio, Executive Director and Editor, aseh news:
Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma
Graduate Student Liaison:
Gregory Rosenthal, Stony Brook University

This email was sent to director@aseh.net by director@aseh.net |  
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