A Companion to American Environmental History

A Companion to American Environmental History

A Companion to American Environmental History

A Companion to American Environmental History

Synopsis

A Companion to American Environmental History gathers together a comprehensive collection of over 30 essays that examine the evolving and diverse field of American environmental history.
  • Provides a complete historiography of American environmental history
  • Brings the field up-to-date to reflect the latest trends and encourages new directions for the field
  • Includes the work of path-breaking environmental historians, from the founders of the field, to contributions from innovative young scholars
  • Takes stock of the discipline through five topically themed parts, with essays ranging from American Indian Environmental Relations to Cities and Suburbs

Excerpt

Look upon this canvas (see cover). You see an image of the American sublime – the Grand Canyon. Its steep, plunging walls open up a chasm into the earth into which sunlight glances down as far as it can go. Deep down below flows the water of the Colorado – one of the archetypal American rivers. Up above, standing at the edge of this vast precipice, you see the icon of American wildlife – the buffalo. This is American nature, it would seem. This is the place to come in search of American environmental history.

And environmental historians have come here, and to places like it. They have written about the buffalo – and have come back to revisit the surprisingly complex story of how they were pushed off, by the hundreds and thousands, to their deaths. They have written about the National Parks and sublime landscapes – and have come back to revisit the topic to assess what has been gained and who has lost. They have written about the river – showing how its waters were dammed for growth and power, or how dams planned near this canyon were stopped by environmentalists. Each time they go back to these sites, they seem to develop a different and often multifaceted picture of the relationship between nature and humanity. Neither nature nor history is static, fixed. Take a picture in the 1960s – as Roderick Nash did in his pioneering book on the American view of wilderness (1967) – and take another in the 1990s – as William Cronon did when he reexamined the American idea of wilderness and found trouble therein (1995b) – and two very different images representing Americans’ relationship with the natural world develop. the earlier picture showed the free-flowing river against a backdrop of earlier industrial rampage as a hopeful sign of an unfolding ecological consciousness. the later one pointed to how we were nonetheless separated from the natural world when we idealized a certain view of wilderness, and how “we” did not actually include all of us after all. This canyon looks very different if you put the Havasupai into the picture as full participants in this . . .

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