UW Press Authors in the News
Gordon Hirabayashi famously challenged the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, before embarking on a long and distinguished academic career. His nephew Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, coauthor of A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States recently discussed his uncle’s battle–and eventual victory–on CSPAN’s BookTV. You can watch the discussion here.
The Wilderness Act turned fifty this month, but is it still working in Washington state and beyond? James Morton Turner, author of The Promise of Wilderness, examined the current state of wilderness legislation in this The Seattle Times editorial.
Wilderburbs: Communities on Nature’s Edge is the environmental history of a housing phenomenon that places human developments in close proximity to wild places: on the edges of forests, deserts, and mountain slopes of the American West. Author Lincoln Bramwell, chief historian for the USDA Forest Service, spoke with us recently about what drove his interest in this topic and some of the major challenges that can accompany life in wilderburbs.
Q: Are wilderburbs and the sort of human/nature encounters they introduce a new phenomenon?
Lincoln Bramwell: Wilderburbs are in no way a new phenomenon. People with means around the world have maintained country estates outside of the crowded metropolis for millennia. Wealthy Americans began imitating English country estates following the Revolution when cities like Philadelphia and Boston grew in population and density. While these spaces were definitely out of reach for all except the upper class, by the nineteenth century rail lines allowed the middle class to live in larger single occupant homes away from the city. The automobile further expanded how far Americans could live outside of town and maintain a job in the city, but the romantic suburb of the wealthy remained unattainable as the homes and development outside cities morphed into suburban sprawl.
Only in the mid- to late twentieth century did you see a confluence of factors that allowed the middle class to find their version of the romantic suburb in greater numbers. After the development of all-weather highways throughout the country, the affordability of all-wheel drive vehicles, the information and communication revolution that freed people and capital from the city center, and the availability of forested lands for sale and development did you start to see large numbers of Americans move beyond the suburban fringe and into wilderburbs. The trend really began to boom the last two decades of the twentieth century, but the desire to live in the woods but close enough to enjoy the amenities of the city is as old as our nation.
In 1943, Gordon Hirabayashi defied the curfew and mass removal of Japanese Americans and was subsequently convicted and imprisoned as a result. In A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States, Gordon’s brother James and nephew Lane brought together his prison diaries and voluminous wartime correspondence to tell the story of Hirabayashi v. United States, the Supreme Court case that ultimately vacated his conviction.
In this guest post, Lane Hirabayashi discusses why the first hand accounts written at the time of Gordon’s detention offer a powerful testament to his plight. Examining the nature of memory and oral history more broadly, Hirabayashi explores how diaries and letters provide a very different kind of evidence than recollections and testimony taken long after the fact.
In the mid-2000s my father, Jim, asked my aunt Susan if he could borrow the diaries and letters that Gordon had written during the war years. Jim simultaneously began to gather all of the materials that both he and Gordon had in their personal files about Gordon’s legal challenges during the 1940s and again during the 1980s. It was a large body of material—fifteen or so banker’s boxes, each of which was half- to three-quarters full—that sat for a number of years to one side of the living room in my father’s house in Mill Valley. Every time I’d visit from Southern California, typically during Christmas and summer vacations, Jim would have sets of files out and he say, “Take a look at this.” I’d sit down, read for a while, and then we’d talk about whatever Jim had put aside. Sometimes there were particular items that Jim wanted to talk about or, alternatively, specific facts or stories about our family that he wanted to relate to me. Continue reading
September marks the start of narwhal migration season, but this fragile species is facing new challenges posed by global warming, commercial fishing, and seismic testing. Here Todd McLeish, author of Narhwals: Arctic Whales in a Melting World details some of the perilous new threats this endangered marine mammal faces in its annual move to warmer waters.
Mid-September is the beginning of migration season for nearly the entire population of 80,000 narwhals that spend the summer in the bays and fjords of the High Arctic islands of eastern Canada and the west coast of Greenland. After spending the ice-free months of July, August, and early September traveling in large groups, raising their calves, and eating next to nothing, they are beginning their slow journey to the southern end of Baffin Bay. They will be forced south for several hundred miles, keeping ahead of the southward expansion of sea ice until November when they reach what will be the edge of the winter ice pack, which typically extends across the Davis Strait from southern Baffin Island to the central coast of Greenland. There they will repeatedly dive to the seafloor — nearly a mile below — to feed on abundant fish and squid. The 30-minute round trip feeding forays aren’t without risks, as they must not only find food but also an opening in the ice cover to breathe while avoiding Greenland sharks in the water column and waiting polar bears at the surface. Continue reading
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, a piece of legislation that now protects more than 100 million acres of American land from development. In this guest post, James Morton Turner, author of The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964, contends that the Wilderness Act gave us much more than millions of acreage of wild lands–it gave us a political process that engaged citizens can use to protect and advocate for the conservation of other lands, both wild and public.
The map of the National Wilderness Preservation System is the legacy of five decades of wilderness advocacy. From the shifting sands of Passage Key in Florida to the mountain highlands of the La Garita Wilderness in Colorado to the vast expanses of the Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska, one out of every twenty acres in the United States has been set aside in perpetuity as wilderness. Those areas are meant to be, as the Wilderness Act proclaimed, “an enduring resource for the American people.” Continue reading