American Society for Environmental History Annual Meeting 2009

Event Date: Feb 25 2009 – Mar 1 2009
City: Talahassee, FL
Country: USA

The Program Committee is pleased to present the program for the 2009 meeting of the American Society for Environmental History – “Paradise Lost, Found, and Constructed: Conceptualizing and Transforming Landscapes through History.” Florida is the obvious inspiration for our program theme; few regions in the United States are as apt locations for the study of the interplay between nature and cultural fantasies about paradise. (If, while attending the conference, you are so fortunate as to enjoy a Friday field trip with blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s, you might be tempted to succumb to a bit of paradise fantasy yourself.) Although Florida was our inspiration, we suggested that proposals take this theme and region as a starting point, and encouraged wider studies as well. As you will see in the following pages, the proposals certainly succeeded. We suspect that you will find your decisions on which panels to attend as difficult as ours were in creating the program.

This year’s conference includes eighty-two sessions and twenty-five posters, for a total of three hundred and twenty eight participating scholars. The diversity of approaches, topics, and disciplines is impressive. We were particularly pleased to see a number of comparative panels, as well as panels dealing with regions of the world that are new to ASEH conferences. The representation of panels dealing with local environmental history is quite strong, and there are also several hands-on workshops, from grant-writing to GIS, from publishing to sustainability. One of the strengths of the ASEH is its generational mixture, and this year is no exception with participants ranging from seasoned veterans active in the formation of our society to first time presenters who at that time were not yet born.

In addition to our regular conference activities, this year’s conference has a special workshop on environmental justice. The workshop will last all day on Friday, and Saturday until after lunch. Thanks to an anonymous donation to the ASEH, and with the support of the journal Environmental Justice, Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Peggy Shepard, and Sacoby Wilson will be joining us and participating in the workshop. This workshop represents a signifi cant addition to the ASEH conference this year – and we hope that the momentum continues in Portland in 2010. By such measures we hope that our society may be strengthened and transformed. This workshop was made possible by the tireless work of program committee member Sylvia Hood Washington, local arrangements chair Fritz Davis, and Richard Gragg from Florida A&M University’s Center for Environmental Equity and Justice. The program committee would like to extend a special thanks to Lisa Mighetto, without whom this conference would not be possible. We would also like to recognize the immense amount of work put in by Fritz Davis as the local arrangements chair, as well as his work in arranging the participation of Dan Simberloff and David Quammen as our Plenary and Keynote speakers, respectively. Finally, we thank all of you for your proposals and creativity. If every annual meeting is a referendum on the intellectual state of our scholarly society, the work that we have reviewed in the last few months makes us confident in proclaiming the ASEH’s health to be good. And if paradise is not just a place, but also the company that you keep, we are confident that the Doubletree Hotel and Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science will be heaven on earth in late February, 2009. We wish you an enjoyable and invigorating four days.

Archived Presentations

Some industrious members of NiCHE (Jim Clifford, Krista Weger, Jay Young, Jennifer Bonnell) recorded some of the sessions and roundtables at the American Society for Environmental History conference in Tallahassee, Fl. (Feb. 2009). Cannadians’ presentations and some roundtables of general interest to environmental historians are represented her


Citation: “Roundtable: History & Sustainability: Making Environmental History Relevant Inside and Outside the Academy.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Adam Sowards, University of Idaho, Jody Roberts, Centre for Contemporary History and Policy, Chemical Heritage Foundation, Wyatt Galusky, Morrisville State College.


Citation: Murton, James. “John Bull and Sons: the Empire Marketing Board and the Politics of Home in the British Colonial Food System.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: James Murton is Assistant Professor of History at Nipissing University, North Bay, ON. His research focuses on the role of the environment, the state and culture in the creation of pre-World War II global food systems.
Abstract: This paper explores the attempts of the British government’s Empire Marketing Board (EMB) to promote an imperial food system in the interwar period. In doing so, it considers issues of local versus imported foods that are at the centre of critiques of global food systems. The EMB used imperial sentiment, science, and marketing to create a single market out of a culturally and environmentally heterogeneous empire, an effort that reveals the cultural and material changes that were necessary to create a global food system.


Citation: Bavington, Dean. “Energy, Equity & Natural Thresholds in Fisheries In Panel: Toward a Social History of Fossil Fuels.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Canada Research Chair in Environmental History, Assistant Professor of History and Geography, Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada and adjunct Assistant Professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His current book project Managing Fish, Managing Fishermen offers a synoptic overview of commercial cod fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada from the mid-19th century to after the moratorium on cod fishing imposed in 1992. He argues for understanding the cod fishery as a scientifically managed object and exposes the mutually provoked changes between managerial methods on the one hand, and cod, fishermen and fishing techniques on the other.
Abstract: In his 1973 essay entitled, Energy and Equity, medieval historian and social critic Ivan Illich observed that the first step toward addressing the energy crisis is to recognize that there are thresholds “beyond which technical processes begin to dictate social relations. Calories are both biologically and socially healthy only as long as they stay within the narrow range that separates enough from too much.” In order to uncover what “enough” might mean in the post-collapse cod fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador, I focus on debates that emerged during the 1850s surrounding the appropriateness of various fishing methods. I interpret the introduction of the cod jigger in the 19th century as marking the transgression of a cultural threshold that allowed the determination of appropriate relationships between codfish and people.


Citation: Clifford, Jim. “The River Lea in Crisis: Suburban growth and Environmental Decline in the Lea Valley, 1855-1898.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Jim Clifford, York University.
Abstract: From Sewage to Industrial Waste: Pollution and the River Lea in East London and West Ham from 1866-1899. The River Lea is London’s second river, flowing southeast from Luton to West Ham where it meets the Thames. In the early nineteenth century, the Lea was so pure it attracted the Calico printing industry to the wetlands of West Ham, beginning the industrial and urban transformation of this once rural landscape. By the middle of the nineteenth century, urban growth led to the declining purity of the Lea and the Calico printing industry left West Ham. The consequences of the increased pollution for the human population became clear after the Cholera epidemic of 1866. Untreated sewage infused water from the Lea supplied East London’s drinking water, spreading the deadly disease. The crises led to the 1868 Royal Commission on the Lea’s water pollution and the creation of the Lee Conservancy Board to manage and improve the quality of the water. This major human intervention in the working of the river slowly transformed the Lea into an increasingly engineered river, but the problem of pollution in the River Lea continued. Chemical works and other polluting industries grew on the eastern banks of the Lea, beyond the reach of London’s regulation of noxious trades. The leaders in West Ham welcomed the economic growth that came with the expansion of industry along the Lower Lea. This paper will trace the continued efforts of the LCB’s engineers to control the pollution of the Lea and the shifting priority from diverting and treating sewage to contending with the industrial pollution in the lower Lea.


Citation: Daschuk, Jim. “Who Killed the Prairie Beaver? An Environmental Case for Eighteenth Century Migration in Western Canada.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Jim Daschuk, University of Regina


Citation: Miller, Reed. “Contrasts in Spacial Perceptions of Land and its Utilization.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Dr. Reed Miller, First Nations University of Canada.


Citation: McBain, Lesley. “Nursing Stations and Uranium Mines” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Dr. Lesley McBain, First Nations University of Canada
Abstract: At the end of World War II, the traditional lands of the Cree, Dene and Métis peoples of northern Saskatchewan faced rapid environmental and social change based on exploitation of the region’s raw materials, particularly forestry and uranium deposits. The physical environment was rich in natural resources, but the primarily Aboriginal population of the region faced a very different landscape with a lack of education and medical facilities. To address the objectives of the uranium industry, a single-industry community was constructed, while a series of small nursing stations were established to provide health care to the northern population. The impacts and how Aboriginal people adapted to their changing environment are the focus of this presentation.


Citation: McCook, Stuart. “The Colonial Vortex: the re-importation of epidemic disease into colonial Africa, 1890-1940.” American Society of Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Stuart McCook, University of Guelph


Citation: Young, Jason. “In its Natural State.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Jason is a PhD candidate in history at York University and is interested in the relationships between technology, environments, and cities. He is currently working on his dissertation, which examines the growth of the Toronto subway system during the second half of the 20th century and from which his ASEH presentation is drawn.
Abstract: Jason’s presentation analyzes the restoration of the Cedarvale-Nordheimer ravine by Metro Toronto following the construction of the Spadina subway through the valley in the 1970s. This case study serves as one example in which politicians used landscape restoration as a means to minimize environmental-based criticism of a large-scale infrastructure project.


Citation: Taylor III, Joseph E. “Insert Fact Here: Modeling the Past at Sea” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Dr. Taylor is a professor of history and geography at Simon Fraser University.
Abstract: This talk evaluates the role of historians and historical methodology in shaping recent efforts to develop a clearer sense of past marine ecologies. It looks particularly at the History of Marine Animal Populations (HMAP) and similar programs of research, and suggests that although some critiques have been valid and still need to be addressed, there is a spectrum of published research running from egregiously simplistic to extremely nuanced uses of historical data. It also notes that the simple inclusion of historians into these research programs has not been a guarantee of sophistication, nor has the absence of historians necessarily doomed such efforts.


Citation: Dunkin, Jessica. “A Recipe for Making a Most Delicious Summer.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Jessica Dunkin, Carleton University


Citation: Bocking, Stephen. “Defining the landscape of concern: ecologists and geologists construct the Oak Ridges Moraine.” American Society of Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Stephen Bocking is a professor of environmental history and policy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. He teaches courses on the politics of science, the environment in developing countries, the university environment, and environmental history. His current research includes studies of the environmental history of science in northern Canada, the science and politics of salmon aquaculture, and the environmental history of southern Ontario.
Abstract: My presentation examined the Oak Ridges Moraine: a region of hills and valleys located immediately north of the city of Toronto. My focus was not on the history of the moraine itself, but on the evolution of the moraine’s identity as a landscape: as picturesque scenery, difficult agricultural terrain, relic of glacial history, problem of conservation, contested resource, and protected area. Thus, I demonstrated how the present identity of the moraine – as a landscape possessing both ample groundwater and ecological values – was constructed over time, and was contingent on changing land uses, environmental values, and scientific knowledge.


Citation: Hammond, Lorne. “Constructing Canada’s First Natural Gas Pipeline and Energy Exports.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: I work as the Curator of History at the Royal British Columbia Museum (1886- ) whose “new” permanent galleries were planned in the 1960s around a mix of the ideas of Lynne White, Jr., JMS Careless’s metropolitan thesis, and the problem of how to communicate ecological change and indigenous rights. I mentor students on museums and environmental history as an Adjunct Professor in History at the University of Victoria. My MA dealt with commodification of animals and the fur trade. At the University of Ottawa while working with Chad Gaffield on a doctorate on the emergence of corporate lumbering, I began organizing small environmental history conferences with other graduate students, culminating eventually in hosting a joint ASEH/NCPH conference in Victoria. I am currently working on a book on the social history of new energy systems in British Columbia.
Abstract: Discusses the origins of natural gas in the Peace River (Northeast British Columbia), Westcoast Transmissions’ construction of the first inter-provincial gas pipeline (Alberta – British Columbia) and building Canada’s first export natural gas pipeline (1955-1957). Continental energy topics include: Canadian and US nationalism over energy imports and exports; Pacific Northwest’s demand for energy to utilize Quebec-sourced titanium ore for Cold War production; conflict and alliances between California, Oregon, Washington, and Canadian provinces, pipeline networks, and urban electric power providers; and examines transitions between different energy systems (hydro-electric, oil, wood, and gas) at the regional, municipal and household level.


Citation: Colpitts, George. “Bears, Films and National Parks.” American Society of Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: George Colpitts, University of Calgary.


Citation: “Roundtable: Great Paper! What Are You Going to Do With It?” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Mark Cioc, University of California-Santa Cruz, Editor, Environmental History, Jamie Lewis, Editor, Forest History Today, Jeannie Whayne, University of Arkansas, Former Editor, Arkansas Quarterly, David Mladenoff, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Former Editor, Landscape Ecology.
Abstract: A discussion between four current and former scholarly editors that seeks to provide insight for new scholars into the publishing industry and how best to approach journal editors and the peer review process.


Citation: Walker, Brett & Tim LeCain. “From Silkworms to Cattle: Environment, Technology, and Culture in High Modernist Japanese and American Copper Mining.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Brett Walker and Tim LeCain, Montana State University.


Citation: Sandlos, John. “Orphaned Landscapes: the Legacy of Mine Abandonment in Canada’s Northwest Territories.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: John Sandlos, Memorial University of Newfoundland.


Citation: Studnicki-Gizbert, Daviken. “Exhausting the Sierra Madre: Long-term trends in the environmental impacts of mining in Mexico.” American Society of Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, McGill University.


Citation: Keeling, Arn. “Cyclonic development and landscape transformations on Northern Canada’s mining frontier.” American Society for Environmental History. 26 Feb. 2009.
Bio: Arn Keeling, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Abstract: This paper examines the historical geography of mineral development at Uranium City, Saskatchewan, to illustrate the quixotic attempts to control the human and environmental effects of what Harold Innis and others have described as “cyclonic” development. The establishment and early history of uranium mining at Uranium City illustrates how the cyclonic nature of a particular industrial staple development, and efforts to control or at least mitigate these stormy effects, were registered in the physical landscape. I trace the planning and establishment of the industrial settlement at Uranium City in the early 1950s, examine some of its environmental impacts, and discuss the region’s subsequent legacies of boom-and-bust development and environmental damage.

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