Tag Archives: Environmental History

Earth Day 2017: Climate Change Is Real

A lot has changed ahead of this year’s Earth Day, so in addition to featuring new titles in our distinguished environmental science and history lists, including books in the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books, Weyerhaeuser Environmental Classics, and Culture, Place, and Nature series, this year we are offering a short reading list on climate change history and politics.

The University of Washington is also celebrating Earth Day 2017 across the Seattle, Tacoma, Bothell campuses, and beyond. Check out the UW Earth Day events page for more information. Follow #EarthDay and #EarthDay2017 for other events and activities near you!

Making Climate Change History: Documents from Global Warming’s Past
Edited by Joshua P. Howe
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter
Weyerhaeuser Environmental Classics

This collection pulls together key documents from the scientific and political history of climate change, including congressional testimony, scientific papers, newspaper editorials, court cases, and international declarations. Far more than just a compendium of source materials, the book uses these documents as a way to think about history, while at the same time using history as a way to approach the politics of climate change from a new perspective.

“Howe has done a huge service in bringing together, in one concise volume, many of the key documents related to the growing understanding of climate change from the nineteenth-century to the present. A must-have for anyone teaching or researching this crucial topic.”
—Naomi Oreskes, co-author of Merchants of Doubt and author of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

Read a commentary by the author about the March for Science on Process, the blog of the Organization of American Historians.

Other books for your climate change history reading list:

Behind the Curve: Science and the Politics of Global Warming
By Joshua P. Howe

Nuclear Reactions: Documenting American Encounters with Nuclear Energy
Edited by James W. Feldman

The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964
By James Morton Turner

The Carbon Efficient City
By A-P Hurd and Al Hurd

Continue reading

American Society for Environmental History Conference Preview

2017 marks the 40th anniversary meeting of the American Society for Environmental History (#ASEH2017), and we look forward to commemorating the special anniversary conference from March 29 through April 2 in downtown Chicago.

Editor in chief Larin McLaughlin and senior acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks are representing the press. Join us and UBC Press at our booth as we celebrate 40 years of environmental history and debut new titles across environmental studies, and in the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books and Culture, Place, and Nature series.

Author Darren Speece will sign copies of Defending Giants at the booth on Thursday, March 30th at 3 p.m.

New and Featured in Environmental Studies

New from Weyerhaeuser Environmental Classics

Culture, Place, and Nature

Understanding the Redwood Wars: An Environmental History Lesson

Very few conservation battles have endured longer—from the 1970s until the first decade of the twenty-first century—or with more violence than the fight over logging on the North Coast of California, behind the Redwood Curtain. In his new book, Defending Giants: The Redwood Wars and the Transformation of American Environmental Politics, Darren F. Speece fills an important gap in American environmental politics with a long history of the Redwood Wars that focuses on the ways small groups of Americans struggled for control over both North Coast society and its forests.

The Redwood Wars pitted workers and environmental activists against the rising tide of globalization and industrial logging in a complex conflict over endangered species, sustainable forestry, and environmental politics. Activists used both direct and legal action, while the timber industry, led by Pacific Lumber, fought the lawsuits and lobbied to halt reform efforts. Ultimately, the Clinton Administration sidestepped Congress and the courts to negotiate an innovative compromise with activists and industry. In the process, the Redwood Wars transformed American environmental politics by shifting the balance of power away from Congress and into the hands of the Executive Branch.

The text excerpted below provides a brief introduction to the Redwood Wars:

The Redwood Wars were conflicts over massive, magnificent trees. That was their primary importance. Indeed, the trees initially drew me to the North Coast and interested me in the fights over logging, as they had compelled people in the past to try to protect them. Americans have tended to most value the oldest and largest redwoods, and stands of those trees garnered the most attention and sparked the critical conflicts during the Redwood Wars. But the actors in this drama had invested the trees with conflicting meanings. Timber companies prized the oldest trees because they were worth the most in the timber market. Earlier scientists revered them as specimens of evolutionary magnificence. Hikers, picnickers, and sojourners sought out the stands of the oldest trees as refuges and sanctuaries where they could escape industrial society and breathe the forest air. Modern environmentalists and ecologists valued the larger ecosystems inhabited, and in some senses constituted, by the oldest redwoods because they were rich with biodiversity and housed rare species. The various values placed on the redwoods and differing conceptions of how to best utilize the forest were central to the conflicts among North Coast residents during the twentieth century. Continue reading

Earth Day 2016: Events, Excerpts, and Books for Your TBR Pile

This Earth Day, we’re featuring a number of events, excerpts, and recent and forthcoming titles that span the University of Washington Press’s leading lists in environmental science and history, including books in the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books and Culture, Place, and Nature series.

Through mid-May we are partnering on a few big book launch events and hope you will join us! Looking for more in the meantime? The University of Washington is celebrating Earth Day 2016 across Seattle, Tacoma, Bothell, and beyond. Check out the UW Earth Day events page for more information. Follow #EarthDay and #EarthDay2016 for other events and activities near you!

reese-jacketOnce and Future River: Reclaiming the Duwamish
Photographs by Tom Reese
Essay by Eric Wagner
Afterword by James Rasmussen
Northwest Writers Fund

Join us for the launch event presented by Town Hall and University Book Store, as part of the Science series and Town Green:

Tuesday, May 3, 7:30 p.m. // Great Hall, 1119 Eighth Avenue (enter on Eighth Avenue), Seattle, WA 98101 // Panelists include James Rasmussen, Duwamish Tribal member and director of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, and moderator Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times environmental reporter. // BUY TICKETS

The Nature of California: Race, Citizenship, and Farming since the Dust Bowl
By Sarah D. Wald

Join for the book release celebration in Portland, Oregon hosted by Bark:

Sunday, May 15, 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. // Bark, 351 NE 18th Ave., Portland, OR 97232 // Light refreshments provided

Pre-order books at 30% off using discount code WSH2275

Read an excerpt from the book about the history of the United Farm Workers and the modern environmental movement Continue reading

American Studies Association Conference Preview

The American Studies Association annual meeting takes place in Toronto, Canada this week and we’re looking forward to another exciting conference. We hope you can join us for a book signing with author Deborah Elizabeth Whaley for Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime. Editor in Chief Larin McLaughlin and Senior Acquisitions Editor Ranjit Arab will be representing the Press—be sure to stop by booth #404 to say hello and to check out our latest American studies offerings.

Here is a sampling of new and recent titles we will be featuring at the conference as well as the book signing details.

Book Signing with Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

Saturday, October 10 at 3:00 p.m.

Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime
By Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

This groundbreaking study of Black women’s participation in comic art includes interviews with artists and writers and suggests that the treatment of the Black female subject in sequential art says much about the place of people of African descent in national ideology in the United States and abroad.

For more information visit the author’s website: http://www.deborahelizabethwhaley.com/#!black-women-in-sequence/c65q

Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice
By Lorraine K. Bannai

Bannai brings an insider’s knowledge to the famous legal case of Fred Korematsu, a man interned by the government under Executive Order 9066, whose conviction was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court.



Robert Cantwell and the Literary Left: A Northwest Writer Reworks American Fiction
New in Paperback
By T. V. Reed

The first full critical study of Northwest-born novelist and critic Robert Cantwell, best known for his novel The Land of Plenty, who found himself at the center of the radical literary and cultural politics of 1930s New York. 


The Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements across the Pacific
New in Paperback
Edited by Moon-Ho Jung

Featuring a wide range of scholars specializing in American history and ethnic studies, this powerful collection of essays highlights historical moments and movements on the Pacific Coast and across the Pacific to reveal a different story of race and politics.


Fall 2015 Events Preview

This fall the University of Washington Press is thrilled to celebrate the publication of the first two books made possible by the Northwest Writers Fund: Reclaimers by Ana Maria Spagna and Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography by David B. Williams

The Northwest Writers Fund promotes the work of some of the region’s most talented nonfiction writers. We extend a special thanks to all of the fund’s establishing donors including Linda and Peter Capell, Janet and John Creighton, Michael J. Repass, Robert Wack, and others. To contribute to the fund or for more information, please contact Beth Fuget at (206) 616-818 or bfuget@uw.edu.

Below please find a preview of some of the exciting local book talks and signings we have planned for Too High and Too Steep and Reclaimers. We hope you will join us.

Check out our full events calendar for more opportunities to meet our authors in Seattle and beyond!

Too High and Too Steep by David Williams

TooHigh-WilliamsResidents and visitors in today’s Seattle would barely recognize the landscape that its founding settlers first encountered. As the city grew, its leaders and inhabitants dramatically altered its topography to accommodate their changing visions. In Too High and Too Steep, David B. Williams uses his deep knowledge of Seattle, scientific background, and extensive research and interviews to illuminate the physical challenges and sometimes startling hubris of these large-scale transformations, from the filling in of the Duwamish tideflats to the massive regrading project that pared down Denny Hill.

In the course of telling this fascinating story, Williams helps readers find visible traces of the city’s former landscape and better understand Seattle as a place that has been radically reshaped.

Watch the trailer:

More information here.

Wednesday, September 9, 7:00 p.m. // University Book Store – Seattle

Wednesday, September 16, 7:00 p.m. // Village Books (Bellingham)

Saturday, September 26, 1:00-3:00 p.m. // A Book for All Seasons (Leavenworth)

Saturday, October 10, 2:00 p.m. // Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Book Company

Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Reclaimers by Ana Maria Spagna

Reclaimers-SpagnaAcclaimed literary writer Ana Maria Spagna drives an aging Buick up and down the long strip of West Coast mountain ranges–the Panamints, the Sierras, the Cascades–and alongside rivers to explore the ways and places in which people (mostly women) have worked to reclaim land that has been co-opted by outside, usually industrial, forces. In uncovering the heroic stories of those who persevered for decades, Spagna seeks a way for herself, and for all of us, to take back and to make right in a time of unsettling ecological change. Her wonderful first-person narrative opens readers up to the urgency of recognizing the place of the natural world and nudges us all to remember that it’s not too late to make a difference.

More information here.

Friday, September 25, 7:00 p.m. // Elliott Bay Book Company

Wednesday, October 7, 7:00 p.m. // Lopez Bookshop (Lopez Island)

Thursday, October 8, 7:00 p.m. // Village Books (Bellingham)

Friday, October 9, 3:00 p.m. // A Book for All Seasons (Leavenworth)

Friday, October 9, 6:30 p.m. // Leavenworth Library (Leavenworth)

Thursday, October 15, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Thursday, October 29, 7:30 p.m. // Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (Portland, OR)

Q&A with ‘Proving Grounds’ author Neil Oatsvall

Proving Grounds coverThe essays in Proving Grounds: Militarized Landscapes, Weapons Testing, and the Environmental Impact of U.S. Bases give us the most comprehensive examination to date of the environmental footprint of U.S. military bases both at home and abroad. Though critical of the military’s presence across the globe, the book does point to a few examples where the armed forces were actually ahead of the curve—at least compared to the private sector—in terms of self-regulation. Still, the majority of cases in Proving Grounds look at the damaging consequences—both intended and unintended—of building bases and testing weapons, from wiping out indigenous plant and wildlife to the contamination resulting from the disposal of Agent Orange after the Vietnam War.

In Chapter 2, historian Neil Oatsvall looks at how deeply policymakers engaged with environmental science at the dawn of the nuclear testing era. Contrary to popular belief, he finds, U.S. leaders actually did take scientific considerations seriously as they tried to take a lead in the burgeoning nuclear arms race. However, though their intentions may have been well-meant, given the limits of their environmental knowledge at the time, they were clearly in over their heads. We asked Neil to elaborate on this contradiction.

–Ranjit Arab, Senior Acquisitions Editor

Q: What led you to pursue your research? Who or what were some of your inspirations?

Neil Oatsvall: Two books made me want to be an environmental historian: Don Worster’s Dust Bowl and Ed Russell’s War and Nature. It’s a funny coincidence that I went to the University of Kansas to study with Don, and when he retired Ed replaced him. Russell’s work in particular sparked many questions in me. Nature and culture are frequently intertwined, as are technology and culture—but how has human culture mediated the interaction between the natural world and technology? And how has warfare served as an historical flashpoint where these relationships can be more easily examined?

These questions and others led me to research defoliation during the Vietnam War and then nuclear technologies and the environment.  You could say I’ve been drawn to the more charismatic technologies, if technology could ever be so described. And warfare to me was always one of those spectacles so horrifying that I couldn’t look away, like the Titanic sinking.

In addition, I grew up too late in the Cold War to be scared of nuclear weapons destroying the world and in Raleigh, North Carolina near the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant. This meant that nuclear technologies never seemed like the specter of death to me—they were just captivating pieces of technology. Thus this lifelong fascination with nuclear technologies combined with my coming of age as an historian right around the time Ed Russell and Richard Tucker started the historical subfield of war and environment. It was a logical topic in that way.


Historian and author Neil Oatsvall

Historian and author Neil Oatsvall

Q: What was one of the more surprising finds you came across along the way?

Neil Oatsvall: My most surprising find revolved around early plans to test nuclear weapons on Amchitka Island, further detailed in my chapter in Proving Grounds. I was shocked to find military planners talking seriously with administrators from the Department of the Interior about sea otters and how Amchitka being a successful breeding ground might derail testing plans. Ultimately it was geology, and not otters, that scuttled early testing plans on the island. But the mere fact that the 1950s U.S. military wrestled with how nuclear tests might affect vulnerable sea otter populations was truly unexpected.

Q: How did the military and the federal government conceive of environmental science, broadly, during the early Cold War?

Neil Oatsvall: Different historians might answer this in different ways, but I would say environmental science was just another tool in trying to improve the U.S. geopolitical position as much as possible. Understanding ocean currents and the ocean floor’s topography helped with submarine warfare. Knowledge of the atmosphere and air currents helped detect and interpret foreign nuclear tests. And Jake Hamblin has even shown in his recent book Arming Mother Nature how environmental science was factored into plans for potentially using catastrophic environmental disasters for military purposes. Learning about the environment was not necessarily a goal in and of itself, but it was a means to an end.

Q: Did you detect any sustained, strong pushback, even during the era of nuclear testing, against the idea that such testing was making America safer?

Neil Oatsvall: There certainly was resistance to the notion that testing was making the nation safer, and from a variety of sources. Linus Pauling was a particularly important scientist-activist, awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-nuclear activism. But the archives are littered with both formal and informal pushback. For example, a 1958 anti-nuclear weapons letter, signed by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Christian ethicists Albert Schweitzer and Martin Niemöller (among others), implored President Eisenhower, “We want you to feel that your job is to help make this planet safe and fit for human habitation.” As an informal example, journalists made sure to question Eisenhower frequently about nuclear weapons tests, their safety, and what the nation gained from such tests. And privately there are numerous examples of decision makers questioning each other about nuclear weapons policy and whether testing actually accomplished the goals laid out for it.

Now, can all that be considered “sustained” or “strong”? I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder. I would say that it was, even such criticism was frequently diffused. But it’s hard to discount people like Pauling, and his Nobel Peace Prize shows that it’s not just historians playing a trick on the past—his contemporaries found him influential too.

Q: What are two or three of the most enduring legacies of the 1945-58 period, in terms of both later and current federal and military environmental policy?

Neil Oatsvall: Am I taking comps again? Is this real life? In all seriousness, this is a difficult but worthwhile question.

I could say something specific: for example, Karl Brooks has argued for the modern-day implications of the 1946 amendment of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, which required consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service when development on a body of water might cause damage to wildlife resources. Instead I want to briefly talk about two broad trends: the U.S. military’s increasing dependence on environmental science and the understanding that the Earth may not be unbreakable.

Earlier I talked about how the military came to see environmental science as a tool for better protecting the nation and improving its military capabilities—environmental science became more important to achieving national security goals. Some of my previous research has also shown how nuclear technologies, agriculture, and the Green Revolution melded to influence what the U.S. government perceived as its role in the world. In that sense, scientific knowledge of the environment combined with technology to influence U.S. geopolitical policy. In general, the early postwar years saw the U.S. military (and by extension the federal government as a whole) increasingly integrate environmental science and environmental understandings into policymaking. (This is largely the subject of my book manuscript, under advanced contract with the University of Alabama Press.) That’s had a lasting legacy on governmental and military policy.

In addition, the country started to learn that the planet is not some gutter into which we can dump whatever we want without consequence. There are many examples, but one that has stuck out to me occurred in 1957 when testing showed that wheat samples from Minnesota contained much higher concentrations of radioactive strontium 90 fallout than expected or permitted. That raised questions about what nuclear tests were doing to the natural world and, by extension, human bodies. It hit home because policymakers realized that nuclear tests “over there” in the Pacific could affect people and environments “over here” in the United States. I won’t go so far as to say that a true environmentalist consciousness existed, but I think during this time period we see the beginnings of the shift away from the idea that the planet is some unbreakable, indefatigable sewer toward the idea that the planet is much more delicate and something in need of protection. Without that idea the Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Environmental Protection Agency—the bedrock of any modern governmental environmentalism that might exist—likely never would have come into being.

Q: What’s next for you, and with your research?

Neil Oatsvall: I’ve just taken a job as a history instructor at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, a residential high school for gifted 11th and 12th graders. The school is part of the University of Arkansas system and stresses an innovative curriculum based on interdisciplinary team teaching and concurrent university credit. The heavy teaching load means that researching in the near future will be more difficult, but I remain optimistic!

When I’m able, the next project will be an Envirotech examination of U.S. beer brewing. The Envirotech subfield of environmental history contends that environment and technology cannot be understood separately, and I think beer brewing is a great example of that. While brewing depends on natural entities and processes like grains, hops, and yeast-driven fermentation, humans attempt to dominate those beings and processes. To me, this ambivalent relationship between humans, technology, and the natural world says a lot about what it means to be a modern industrial human. It may seem like there’s a vast chasm between studying nuclear technologies and beer, but to me the projects have most of the same intellectual underpinnings.