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|President's Column: Report on World Congress in Copenhagen|
Harriet Ritvo, ASEH President
In the first week of August, environmental historians from all over the world-or at least from every continent inhabited by humans-gathered in Copenhagen for the first World Congress on Environmental History. Nearly 600 people registered, which was an encouraging turnout in period of unanticipated financial stringency for individuals and for academic institutions. Presumably this only represents the tip of the subdisciplinary iceberg, although it is hard to estimate the size of the submerged portion.
The program was very large and very diverse (it is impossible to characterize the hundreds of presentations more precisely-the program is still online at wceh2009.org). Like the programs of our annual ASEH meetings, it showed that environmental historians are not the only practitioners of environmental history. For me and, I assume, for most other participants, both the size of the program and the range of its topics had a small downside as well as a large upside. It was constantly necessary to make difficult choices-and especially to choose between learning more about familiar issues and learning something about issues that were completely new (that is, to paraphrase Prospero's words to Miranda, new to me). Nor was variety confined to subject matter. Even in our current condition of globalization, different countries and regions maintain distinctive scholarly traditions. This made the panels whose speakers converged on similar topics from divergent geographical perspectives particularly interesting.
The local hosts of the WCEH were the University of Roskilde, which is located just east of Copenhagen, and the University of Malmo, which lies across the Ǿresund that separates Denmark from Sweden. Organizing a conference is never easy, and this one presented special challenges in terms of size, spread (events happened at several location), and the fact that most participants were foreign. It is a tribute to the organizers, and especially to Bo Poulsen of the University of Roskilde, that things ran so smoothly. They got some help from forces beyond their control: the weather was good, and Copenhagen is both a wonderful city to visit and easy for non-Danish-speakers to navigate. But they can definitely take credit for the men in formal dress who played a fanfare on enormous curved horns, apparently replicas of pre-Viking instruments, to initiate the proceedings. And, less spectacularly but at least equally important, there was constant free wireless access; the projection technology worked in the presentation rooms; and many other potential causes of conference-related aggravation, with which we are all familiar, failed to materialize.
This first World Congress was always intended to be the beginning of a long series. It was sponsored by an umbrella group euphoniously entitled the International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations (ICEHO), and the meeting provided the occasion for representatives of its constituent societies to think about its structure and its future activities, especially the second World Congress. It was decided to hold future Congresses at five-year intervals; soon there will be a call for proposals to host the next one.
Pictured above are the delegates representing environmental history organizations and institutions from all over the world, Denmark, August 2009. A group shot of attendees appears below.
|The Profession: Preparing for a Career in the Humanities|
By Alexandra Lord, Branch Chief, National Historic Landmarks Program, National Park Service
Most of us assume, when we start grad school, that our career will be relatively straightforward. We will become tenure-track professors.
But something happens along the way. We have the unfortunate luck to fall in love with a fellow historian who needs a job, too. We find that while the idea of living across the country from our family was deeply appealing when we were entering grad school, it isn't so appealing as we complete grad school eight years later. We have children now and we're worried about college tuition. While we loved the idea of teaching when we were 23, we are no longer so eager to spend the next twenty years teaching 18 year olds. Our research has led us to become interested in broader policy issues and we want a job where we can apply our research.
Even as we struggle with these issues, we recognize that both the academic and non-academic job markets are depressed. Our choices, we fear, may be limited.
But not all is doom and gloom. You can better your odds of finding a job which fits your needs by preparing for a career both in and outside of academia. This approach is more likely to yield multiple offers, enabling you both to have a choice of options and to negotiate any offer from a position of strength. Planning for a career outside of academia can also better prepare you for a career in academia.
Why? Because planning for a career outside the academy expands the skill set you need for an academic job. More importantly, it forces you to think in new ways about the value of an education in the humanities. The job applicant who genuinely understands that an education in the humanities can lead to a variety of careers becomes the faculty member who can effectively argue for the relevance and importance of history in an era of declining budgets. That faculty member is also the best one to assist students in planning for careers in and outside the academy.
So, how can you prepare for a career that will fit your changing needs and desires? Here are five simple steps that can assist you to become a better teacher, a better scholar, and, yes, a better job applicant.
First, take an internship outside the academy. If your program is typical of most graduate programs, you have probably already held an internship (a teaching or research assistantship). These internships provided you with the skills you need to be a teacher and a scholar. Taking a second internship, paid or even unpaid, in a museum, a think tank, a parks department, the National Park Service, or even a state legislature will expand upon the skills needed both in and outside the academy. Helping to prepare a briefing paper on environmental policy will, for example, benefit your scholarship by providing you with a new, and different, understanding of how history informs federal or state policies. This work will also demonstrate to a non-academic employer that you have a broad range of job experience and that you can effectively accomplish the tasks he or she needs done. Finally, acquiring new skills such as the ability to curate an exhibit will improve your teaching by ensuring that you can provide your students with the skills they will need in the workplace.
Second, take the opportunity to speak to a local organization which deals with environmental issues. This not only ensures that historians' voices are heard in discussions about environmental issues, it also provides you with contacts in the environmental community which you can use to find a job outside the academy. These contacts are beneficial even if you remain in academia. A broadly based network can assist your students in finding internships and engaging in a dialogue with other professionals in the environmental community will benefit your scholarship by pushing you to consider not only new ideas but also the relevance of your scholarship to those working in the field.
Third, publish in a forum intended for the general public. Honing your skills as a writer will enable you to teach your students how to write in different styles and, of course, being a versatile writer means that you can easily market yourself as a writer to employers outside the academy. More importantly, the better your writing skills, the better your ability to market your dissertation to either an academic press or a trade press.
Fourth, promote your scholarship in new forums. Developing and hosting a web exhibit on environmental history will teach you not only how to write museum text but also how to work with web design programs such as Omeka or Dreamweaver. These skills will enable you to develop innovative assignments which encourage your students to reach a broader audience. And, if you do decide to leave academia, you will possess demonstrated experience as a web designer or curator.
Fifth, reach out to academic colleagues in professional schools. Sit in on a law or public health class which deals with environmental issues. Offer to work with these professionals on their projects; this will enable you to situate your scholarship within a broader context. Within the academy, you will also be better positioned to seek academic jobs which are structured as joint appointments. Outside the academy, you will have a broader understanding of environmental issues that will help you to find work with many broadly based organizations working on environmental issues.
Even in a weak economy, these simple steps can mean the difference between a job offer and a polite rejection letter.
Editor's Note: Alexandra Lord is the program committee chair for the National Council on Public History, which is meeting simultaneously with ASEH in Portland, Oregon in mid-March 2010. She is organizing a career seminar that will be open to all conference attendees -- check the Portland conference program in December for details.
|Applicants Sought for Editor of Environmental History
Deadline: February 10, 2010
The American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society are seeking a new editor for the journal, Environmental History. The successful candidate will be expected to take on duties as Editor-elect by January 2011. As editor-elect, he or she will be responsible for evaluating new manuscript submissions, recruiting authors, and representing the journal at conferences. The editor-elect will assume the rest of the editor's responsibilities no later than for the January 2012 issue. Duties will include all activities associated with the editorial content of the journal--soliciting and commissioning articles as appropriate, screening submissions, and determining the contents of each issue. The editor will work with the Graphics Editor, Book Review Editor, Web Editor, and Press to ensure timely publication.
Candidates should have a wide knowledge of and interest in the areas the journal covers and experience with academic editing. A successful applicant will need to demonstrate that he or she has the time and the institutional support to assume major responsibilities on January 1, 2011.
For more information, contact Chair of the Search Committee, Kathleen Brosnan, Dept. of History, University of Houston; firstname.lastname@example.org; 713/743-3120. A more complete announcement can be found by clicking here.
Call for Course Outlines
A recent poll on ASEH's website asked whether users would consult course outlines if we posted them on our website - and 99% of respondents said "yes." Accordingly, ASEH will begin collecting course outlines this fall. If you teach environmental history anywhere in the world and are willing to share your syllabus, please e-mail a Word copy, and, if appropriate, a link, to email@example.com
. Course outlines received by November 30, 2009 will be posted in our first round during December 2009.
Environmental Film Festival
ASEH recently teamed with the University of Washington, Washington State History Museum, and The Grand Cinema in organizing an environmental film festival in Tacoma, Washington in mid-October 2009. Funded by Humanities Washington, this event will feature a variety of scholars and filmmakers discussing the latest environmental documentaries. It is free and open to the public. Click here for more information. If you are interested in organizing an environmental film festival in your community or at your university and would like to involve ASEH, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
ASEH Grant and Fellowship Applications
For additional announcements, see www.aseh.net (right column)
Kate Christen has taken a federal job with the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, VA. Her focus is developing and implementing the new Smithsonian-George Mason University graduate and professional conservation training program.
Kate Christen, National Zoological Park, and Jeffrey Stine, National Museum of American History, have each received a 2009 Smithsonian Institution Secretary's Research Prize. These pan-Smithsonian prizes recognize excellence in recent research by the Institution's employees. Kate's award was for Elephants and Ethics: Toward a Morality of Coexistence, co-edited with Christen M. Wemmer (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). Jeffrey was recognized for America's Forested Wetlands: From Wasteland to Valued Resource (Durham, N.C.: Forest History Society, 2008), a history of American attitudes and actions toward wetland environments and a title in the Forest History Society's Issues Series.
Sara Dant was promoted to full professor at Weber State University this spring (2009) and her article, "Making Wilderness Work: Frank Church and the American Wilderness Movement," Pacific Historical Review, May 2008, received the Forest History Society's 2009 Theodore C. Blegen Award for best article in forest and conservation history during 2008.
Dan Flores' article, "Bringing Home all the Pretty Horses: The Horse Trade and the Early American West, 1775-1825", Montana The Magazine of Western History, Summer 2008, won the following: Paladin Award from Montana; Western Heritage Wrangler from Western Heritage Center; Spur Finalist from Western Writers of America; and Friends Choice Award from Friends of the Montana Historical Association.
Cynthia Melendy has accepted an appointment at Framingham State College, Framingham, Massachusetts, where she is in the History Department. When she is not teaching an array of US History courses, she is renovating her 1832 farmhouse in Center Ossipee, NH and intimately encountering local wildlife both in and out of doors! She was enthralled by her birding experiences in Australia and New Zealand during the summer of 2009, when she travelled to Newcastle, New South Wales to deliver her talk "Filial Science" at the first annual Minding Animals conference. Her book project, "Flocculent Feathers", which looks at women's emerging professionalism in ornithology in the early 20th century, has been invited for publication by the University of Texas Press' Mildred Wyatt-Wold Series in Ornithology.
book, The Environment and the Press: From Adventure Writing to Advocacy
(Northwestern University Press, 2008), has been named a finalist for the Tankard Book Award
Paul Sutter is now an Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Colorado.
|A Note from the New Chief Historian of the Forest Service|
By Lincoln Bramwell, USDA Forest Service
I want to thank ASEH for this opportunity to introduce myself and to invite members to explore Forest Service history. In my position as the agency's new Chief Historian, it is my goal to make Forest Service history more accessible to the public and more meaningful to the agency. I speak from experience that the Forest Service is a dynamic agency responding to tremendous environmental, political, and public sentiment changes.
While spending nine years on Forest Service trail and hotshot crews, I had the opportunity to view the agency from the ground up and find its unique mission to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands no less compelling today.
From its origins in the Progressive Era drive to conserve and repair woodlands from the abuses of commercial logging and grazing to the agency's post-WWII timber harvests that fueled the suburban housing boom, the Forest Service has mirrored public sentiment about the environment. Since the 1960s, the agency has struggled to meet the public's conflicting desires of its forests. Environmental legislation protects national forests from most large-scale timber extraction, yet the nation's demand for timber has never subsided. Many people are attracted to the national forests' scenic beauty yet build homes along their edges, complicating forest management and increasing their vulnerability to wildfires.
With such challenges facing the agency, now is a perfect time for ASEH members to get more involved with Forest Service history. As the agency deliberates its future direction, it needs the voice of historians to provide a new baseline of information to aid the decision-making process. The Forest Service is ripe with topics for theses, dissertations, and monograph topics for a new generation of scholars interested in the national forests, conservation, and natural resource management. To facilitate this, my predecessor, ASEH member Aaron Shapiro, oversaw the construction of the Forest Service history website that the agency plans to "go live" with in March when it unveils a new standardized national website for the public. The site will act as a clearing house for archives, collections, and history initiatives across the country. I invite ASEH members to contact me with their ideas about how to engage one of the federal government's oldest land management agencies through environmental history.
|ASEH Awards Submissions for 2009 - Final Notice |
1900 Commerce Street
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program
This year ASEH's prize committees will evaluate submissions (published books and articles and completed dissertations) that appear between November 1, 2008 and October 31, 2009. Please send three copies of each submission (these must be hard copies, or paper copies) by November 6, 2009 to:
Lisa Mighetto, ASEH
University of Washington
Tacoma, WA 98402
|Attention Graduate Students|
Update on Proposal for Graduate Student Liaison Position
Beginning in 2009, ASEH will offer a travel grant of $500 for a graduate student willing to serve as the liaison to the ASEH executive committee for one year. In February of this year, graduate student liaisons Merritt McKinney and Bradley Skopyk submitted a proposal to ASEH's executive committee, which included a formal process for selecting the liaison each year. ASEH's executive committee approved the proposal. Accordingly, in the fall of 2009, a committee that includes Bradley, Merritt, and one executive committee member will select next year's liaison, who will serve from January - December 2010. Responsibilities include communicating with ASEH's graduate students and attending and participating in the executive committee meeting in Portland, Oregon in March 2010. Details on the application process will be available in late October 2009, after the travel grants for our Portland conference are awarded (students are not eligible to receive both a travel grant and the liaison funding). The new liaison will be named by December 2009. Watch for more details on our website under "Awards and Funding."
Graduate Student Reception in Portland
ASEH is in the process of organizing a graduate student reception at our Portland conference for Thursday evening, March 11, 2010, 8:30 - 9:30 PM. We are considering a joint reception with students from the National Council on Public History. If you have ideas or requests for this reception, please contact email@example.com
|Film Review: "Earth Days"|
By Bruce Thompson, University of California - Santa Cruz
One of the first voices we hear in Robert Stone's superb film about the history of the American environmental movement, "Earth Days," is that of Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior during the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Interviewed at the age of 87, he recalls his hardscrabble youth in the rural West--a world without electricity and virtually without automobiles. The postwar economic boom changed all that: we see archival film of sprawling suburban housing developments, shiny new household appliances, and great concrete ribbons of newly constructed interstate highways. And there are no scratchy, faded black-and-white images here: somehow Robert Stone and his colleagues have restored these brightly colored images of mid-twentieth-century America to crystaline clarity. The effect is almost surrealist in its intensity, a startlingly vivid presentation of the American Dream of that era.
And then the dark side: when Udall joined the Kennedy cabinet in 1961, there were no federal environmental laws. America's great rivers, Udall says, were open sewers; its rapidly growing cities were shrouded in smog. It was in this context that Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, and the modern environmental movement began. The film gives us rare footage of Rachel Carson herself, followed by a chemical industry-sponsored denunciation (by a bespectacled "scientist" in a white lab coat) of her "gross distortions of actual facts," and her "completely unsupported" claims.
Again and again the film surprises us with gems from the archives, unseen for half a century: JFK defending Rachel Carson at one of his press conferences; population biologist Paul Ehrlich appearing on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" to discuss the environmental crisis; the youthful founders of Earth Day submitting to skeptical questions from a hostile panel of CBS News journalists; Richard Nixon announcing ambitious proposals for environmental protection in the early 1970s; and Ronald Reagan dismantling Jimmy Carter's solar panels on the White House roof a decade later.
The film works its magic by interweaving these finds from the archives with vignettes of the movement's eloquent veterans: in addition to Udall and Ehrlich, we meet Earth Day co-founder Denis Hayes, sustainable development pioneer Hunter Lovins, Limits to Growth forecaster Dennis Meadows, environmental journalist Stephanie Mills, and Whole Earth Catalogue author Stewart Brand. Astronaut Rusty Schweickart reminds us of the impact of that glorious photograph of the earth, taken from space, and former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey (now a Democrat) remembers a time when a significant fraction of the Republican Party was proud of its record on environmental issues.
"Earth Days" succeeds brilliantly in tracing the change of consciousness wrought by this offshoot of the 1960s "counterculture"--an impact comparable in its significance to the contemporaneous civil rights and feminist movements. The pioneers of the movement register their conversion experiences, when the gravity of the ecological crisis began to dawn on them; the feelings of hope and empowerment they experienced when their activism began to achieve results; and their rueful awareness, in retrospect, of the inadequacy of their efforts. Stone has caught most of them in late middle age, offering mature--and often wry--reflections on their youthful activism and subsequent careers.
The film is equally strong on the politics of the period: Nixon's surprising liberalism, Carter's failure to convert the "energy crisis" into an opportunity for significant reform, Reagan's successful counterrevolution. "We lost thirty years," is the disappointed verdict of more than one of the film's protagonists.
"Earth Days" will appear as an installment in the long-running "American Experience" series produced by WGBH in Boston. Let us hope that the film will not be overshadowed by Ken Burns's wonderful PBS series on the history of America's National Parks, for it is unlikely that Robert Stone's group portrait of the founders of the modern environmental movement will ever be surpassed.
ASEH will show "Earth Days" at its film festival at the University of Washington-Tacoma, Oct. 16, 2009. Click here
for more information.
____________________________________________________ ASEH News is a publication of the American Society for Environmental History. |
Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President
John McNeill, Georgetown University, Vice President/President Elect
Mark Madison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Treasurer Ellen Stroud, Bryn Mawr College, Secretary
Marcus Hall, University of Utah
Paul Hirt, Arizona State University
Nancy Jacobs, Brown University
Tina Loo, University of British Columbia
Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Linda Nash, University of Washington-Seattle
Mark Stoll, Texas Tech University
Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Stephen Pyne, Arizona State University
Douglas Weiner, University of Arizona
Editor, Environmental History: Mark Cioc, University of California-Santa Cruz
Executive Director and Editor, ASEH News: Lisa Mighetto, University of Washington-Tacoma
Ex Officio, H-Environment Representative: Thomas Wellock, Central Washington University
ASEH Annual Conference,
Portland, Oregon, March 10-13, 2010
for the schedule of sessions
. The full conference program will be available on ASEH's website in December 2009. Because members indicated they preferred to save money and resources, the program will not be mailed, but hard copies will be available at the conference in Portland and a pdf form will be available on the website.
for information on travel grants
- deadline Oct. 2, 2009
for information on submitting posters - deadline Dec. 10, 2009.
for information on the conference hotel
ASEH's Portland conference will include several opportunities to explore the Columbia River and historic Columbia River Highway.
Mount Hood from Portland. Courtesy Tacoma Public Library.
Words of Thanks from World Congress Travel Grant Recipient
ASEH provided travel grants to two scholars who presented their research at the world congress in Copenhagen:
Bart Elmore and Amruth Mangalappalli Illam
"I just wanted to write to express my thanks to ASEH for making my trip to Copenhagen possible. I could not have asked for a better experience. Not only did our paper receive some press coverage from a Danish science journal, but I was also able to spark up conversations with dream mentors like Richard Tucker, who, incidentally, is now helping me on my dissertation. None of this would have been possible without ASEH's support, so thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you in Portland." -Bart Elmore
ASEH co-sponsored a reception in Copenhagen. Photo courtesy Jamie Lewis.
ASEH Fellowships - Deadline Fast Approaching
|The deadline for ASEH's research fellowships, the Samuel Hays Fellowship and Hal Rothman Fellowship, is Sept. 30, 2009. Click here for more information.
ASEH Future Conferences
Hosted by Arizona State University
April 12-16, 2011
for poll on our Arizona conference (scroll down home page).
Hosted by University of Wisconsin
March 28-31, 2012
Attention Book Publishers
ASEH's Portland conference will include a book exhibit, and our program will include book advertisements. This is an opportunity to reach a larger group than usual, as we expect an attendance of around 1,000 people at our Portland conference (ASEH and NCPH are meeting simultaneously).Click here for information on reserving tables and placing ads. The deadline is November 1, 2009.
for submitting entries for ASEH's award for the best book in environmental history November 6, 2009
. Click here
This newsletter is a quarterly publication of the American Society for Environmental History. If you have questions, or if you would like to submit an article or announcement, contact Lisa Mighetto, editor, at