An Earth Appreciation Reading List for #EarthDay2018

Each year, Earth Day is about both honoring the ongoing work of the environmental movement as well as appreciating the wonders of the planet that we live on. We’ve selected a few new titles below that showcase both calls to action and appreciation of the diversity of landscapes here on planet Earth. Happy #EarthDay2018!

Coasts in Crisis: A Global Challenge
Gary Griggs

Coastal regions around the world have become increasingly crowded, intensively developed, and severely exploited. Hundreds of millions of people living in these low-lying areas are subject to short-term coastal hazards such as cyclones, hurricanes, and destruction due to El Niño, and are also exposed to the long-term threat of global sea-level rise. Coasts in Crisis is a comprehensive assessment of the impacts that the human population is having on the coastal zone globally and the diverse ways in which coastal hazards impact human settlement and development.

 

Grand Canyon for Sale: Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change
Stephen Nash

Grand Canyon For Sale is a carefully researched investigation of the precarious future of America’s public lands: our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, and wildernesses. Taking the Grand Canyon as his key example, and using on-the-ground reporting as well as scientific research, Stephen Nash shows how accelerating climate change will dislocate wildlife populations and vegetation across hundreds of thousands of square miles of the national landscape.

 

The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism
Chad Montrie

Since its publication in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring has often been celebrated as the catalyst that sparked an American environmental movement. Yet environmental consciousness and environmental protest in some regions of the United States date back to the nineteenth century, with the advent of industrial manufacturing and the consequent growth of cities. As these changes transformed people’s lives, ordinary Americans came to recognize the connections between economic exploitation, social inequality, and environmental problems. As the modern age dawned, they turned to labor unions, sportsmen’s clubs, racial and ethnic organizations, and community groups to respond to such threats accordingly. The Myth of Silent Spring tells this story.

 

Cane Toad Wars
Rick Shine

Cane Toad Wars chronicles the work of intrepid scientist Rick Shine, who has been documenting the cane toad’s ecological impact in Australia and seeking to buffer it. Despite predictions of devastation in the wake of advancing toad hordes, the author’s research reveals a more complex and nuanced story. A firsthand account of a perplexing ecological problem and an important exploration of how we measure evolutionary change and ecological resilience, this book makes an effective case for the value of long-term natural history research in informing conservation practice.

 

The Mountains That Remade America: How Sierra Nevada Geology Impacts Modern Life
Craig H. Jones

From ski towns to national parks, fresh fruit to environmental lawsuits, the Sierra Nevada has changed the way Americans live. Whether and where there was gold to be mined redefined land, mineral, and water laws. Where rain falls (and where it doesn’t) determines whose fruit grows on trees and whose appears on slot machines. All this emerges from the geology of the range and how it changed history, and in so doing, changed the country.


Happy Earth Day 2018 from Case Studies in the Environment!

From Earth Day Network’s The History of Earth Day:

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date.

While there may be some debate about the origins of the environmental movement as we know it, there can be no debate that we face many environmental challenges in the world today. Earth Day is a time to reflect on these challenges but also to be thankful for new understandings and solutions, and to continue to build towards a brighter environmental future for us all.

For Earth Day 2018, we at UC Press offer up stories of renewable energy, taking a night class in the forest, revitalizing our waterways and forests, and more—in fact all Case Studies in the Environment content is free for your reading pleasure, through the remainder of 2018.

Happy Earth Day 2018!


On the Fault Line: Suggested Reading for Californian Earthquakes

As the leading university press on the West Coast, we constantly think about when the next “big one” will strike. The article San Francisco’s Big Seismic Gamble by Thomas Fuller, Anjali Singhvi, and Josh Williams from today’s New York Times reminded us of the fragility of our landscape as well as the magnificence that lies beneath it. Following are a selection of titles from our backlist to help us to more deeply understand the seismic realities of living in the Golden State.


After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006:
Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
Mark Klett (Photographer), Michael Lundgren (Contributor)

How exactly has San Francisco’s urban landscape changed in the hundred years since the earthquake and cataclysmic firestorms that destroyed three-quarters of the city in 1906? For this provocative rephotography project, bringing past and present into dynamic juxtaposition, renowned photographer Mark Klett has gone to the same locations pictured in forty-five compelling historic photographs taken in the days following the 1906 earthquake and fires and precisely duplicated each photograph’s vantage point. The result is an elegant and powerful comparison that challenges our preconceptions about time, history, and culture.

 

The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906:
How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself, With a New Preface
Philip L. Fradkin

The first indication of the prolonged terror that followed the 1906 earthquake occurred when a ship steaming off San Francisco’s Golden Gate “seemed to jump clear out of the water.” This gripping account of the earthquake, the devastating firestorms that followed, and the city’s subsequent reconstruction vividly shows how, after the shaking stopped, humans, not the forces of nature, nearly destroyed San Francisco in a remarkable display of simple ineptitude and power politics. Bolstered by previously unpublished eyewitness accounts and photographs, this definitive history of a fascinating city caught in the grip of the country’s greatest urban disaster will forever change conventional understanding of an event one historian called “the very epitome of bigness.”

 

Surf, Sand, and Stone:
How Waves, Earthquakes, and Other Forces Shape the Southern California Coast
Keith Heyer Meldahl

Surf, Sand, and Stone tells the scientific story of the Southern California coast: its mountains, islands, beaches, bluffs, surfing waves, earthquakes, and related phenomena. It takes readers from San Diego to Santa Barbara, revealing the evidence for how the coast’s features came to be and how they are continually changing. With a compelling narrative and clear illustrations, Surf, Sand, and Stone outlines how the coast will be altered in the future and how we can best prepare for it.

 

Magnitude 8:
Earthquakes and Life along the San Andreas Fault
Philip L. Fradkin

Environmental historian Philip L. Fradkin offers a vivid history of earthquakes and an eloquent guide to the San Andreas Fault, the seismic scar that bisects the Golden State’s spectacular scenery. The author includes dramatic stories of legendary earthquakes elsewhere: in New York, New England, the central Mississippi River Valley, Europe, and the Far East. Combining human and natural dramas, he places the reader at the epicenter of the most invisible, unpredictable, and feared of the earth’s violent phenomena. On the eve of the millennium, as cyberspace crackles with apocalyptic visions, Fradkin reaches beyond the earthshaking moment to examine the mythology, culture, social implications, politics, and science of earthquakes.


A Land in Motion:
California’s San Andreas Fault
Michael Collier

As he tours the length of the San Andreas Fault, Michael Collier provides a valuable overview of plate tectonics and gives a geologic history of the San Andreas Fault written for non-scientists. He discusses the evolution of seismology as a science and traces the knowledge that scientists have gleaned about earthquakes and plate tectonics from their work on the San Andreas Fault. Collier looks into human history as well, discussing major earthquakes that have hit the San Andreas, including the famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the San Fernando quake of 1971, the Loma Prieta quake of 1989, the Landers quake of 1992, and many lesser temblors.

 

Why Geology Matters:
Decoding the Past, Anticipating the Future
Doug Macdougall

Volcanic dust, climate change, tsunamis, earthquakes—geoscience explores phenomena that profoundly affect our lives. But more than that, as Doug Macdougall makes clear, the science also provides important clues to the future of the planet. In an entertaining and accessibly written narrative, Macdougall gives an overview of Earth’s astonishing history based on information extracted from rocks, ice cores, and other natural archives. He explores such questions as: What is the risk of an asteroid striking Earth? Why does the temperature of the ocean millions of years ago matter today? How are efforts to predict earthquakes progressing? Macdougall also explains the legacy of greenhouse gases from Earth’s past and shows how that legacy shapes our understanding of today’s human-caused climate change. We find that geoscience in fact illuminates many of today’s most pressing issues—the availability of energy, access to fresh water, sustainable agriculture, maintaining biodiversity—and we discover how, by applying new technologies and ideas, we can use it to prepare for the future.


Toad’s Day Out

by Rick Shine, author of Cane Toad Wars

Every town has its rituals, but some are stranger than others. Every year on March 29th, the citizens of Townsville in northeastern Australia gather at local parks in the evening, equipped with gloves and buckets. Their aim is to collect and kill as many invasive Cane Toads as they can find.

The tradition began in 2009, inspired by an episode of the TV show The Simpsons entitled “Whacking Day.“ The survival of this bizarre custom is due partly to a concern from the general public to do something – anything – about environmental problems. But mostly, the activity continues because it’s fun. In Australian society where hunting is politically incorrect, targeting an invasive species (in the name of conservation) provides a guilt-free opportunity for legal hunting of wildlife.

Cane Toads are the perfect quarry for the families of Townsville. Small, squat, slow and unable to bite or scratch their captor, a Cane Toad can be captured by even a small child. The toad possesses potent poisons that it can deploy against an aggressor, but a sturdy pair of gloves removes any risk.

This “citizen vigilante” approach to controlling invasive species raises two troubling issues.

One is humane treatment of the animals involved. An individual Cane Toad hopping along a country road bears no personal responsibility for the environmental mayhem that its species has inflicted on native wildlife. Toads didn’t ask to be brought to Australia in 1935; any blame surely attaches to the sugar-cane industry that brought them in, not the toads. So if we decide to cull Cane Toads, we need to do it humanely. Fortunately, that’s easy to achieve. The toads can be popped into a refrigerator for a few hours (inside a plastic bag) to cool down before being transferred to the freezer for transformation into a toadsicle. It’s painless.

The other issue is more difficult to resolve. Does culling toads achieve any gains for conservation? First, any impact of toad removal is short-term. A female toad can produce 30,000 eggs in a single clutch, so the invaders can replace themselves faster than even a toad-culling army could remove them. And second, Cane Toads don’t have much environmental impact in areas where they have been present for decades, such as the Townsville region. The invading amphibians fatally poison thousands of native predators when they first arrive in an area, but it’s a short-term massacre. Within a few months, the local marsupials, snakes, lizards and crocodiles either have been killed, or have learned not to eat the toxic newcomers.

So, splashing around in gumboots picking up toads achieves more for personal entertainment than it does for biodiversity conservation. But on the other hand, the event stimulates families to get up off the sofa and out into the national park, and educates them about the perils of invasive species. In a world where the younger generation is increasingly addicted to smartphones rather than the natural world, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.


Rick Shine is Professor of Biology at the University of Sydney. He has published more than a thousand scientific papers on the ecology of reptiles and amphibians, and he has received a host of national and international awards for his research.


Engaging Science for Inclusive Water Governance: A Q&A with environmental anthropologist Heather O’Leary

In recognition of World Water Day 2018, in this post, we speak with Dr. Heather O’Leary, an environmental anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, about citizen science and how water researchers can engage with marginalized communities to improve water quality. Her article “Engaging Science for Inclusive Water Governance: An engaged ethnographic approach to WaSH data collection in Delhi, India” publishes soon in UC Press’s journal Case Studies in the Environment.

UC Press: Tell us a little about the informal settlements, or “slums,” of Delhi, India where you conducted your water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) research.

Heather O’Leary: My research shows how we can use water as a lens to demonstrate core challenges and opportunities to sustainable urban development. One of my research questions has always been: How do different development patterns challenge people’s relationship to critical life-giving natural resources, like water? In Asia’s booming megacities, like many cities worldwide, people make deeply ingrained cultural assumptions about who belongs and what they are entitled to—and this is evident through measurable, material contexts, like water quantities and qualities.

Women share a hose at a community standpipe.

In Delhi, I examined three interstitial sites—places “in-between”—where the answers to questions about water are presumed to be known without any formal scientific verification. Of these sites, rapidly transforming demographic and infrastructures of informal “slum” communities showed dynamic transformations between people by using water as a sign of upward mobility.

Many people who in-migrate to cities are seeking a better life, or are being pushed into cities from areas with lesser access to opportunities and resources. New trajectories of upward mobility can be both indicated by new access to water and new practices of water use. But a lot of the water acquired in informal settlement communities is either not legal or hard to come by, since deliveries to squatter residents are not well supported by the larger urban community. Typically, residents of legal homes get a few hours of water pressure through municipal pipes each day. In some communities, wells and public standpipes are also sources of water. The Delhi Jal Board (the municipal water organization) also sends tanker-trucks of water to roadside pickup points. Tankers are sent to informal communities that the city does not want to legitimize with civic infrastructure and also in relief situations—for wealthy communities in times of scarcity or to poor, informal neighborhoods with a population spike. Access to water is precious and signals a lot about where and how a person fits into the narrative of the city.

So, as you can imagine, people are hesitant to talk about even the most mundane aspects of water collection and storage. Essentially, they risk losing a precious leg-up they have in a city not entirely hospitable to them. This is one reason why, in my WaSH research, I collaborate with residents to discover, in their own words, how do they determine who belongs to a city.

For instance, by what magical transformation do recent in-migrants demonstrate they are now city-folk, and how does water sourced from the countryside and deep wells become the most salient symbol of urban contemporary life? Because this question is hard to measure through words alone, residents use water access as a proxy for deeper, ineffable cultural issues that mediate millions of peoples’ relationship to the people and resources around them. The research presented in my CSE article gives a snapshot of one way to improve research techniques in informal communities. It was collected over 18 continuous months of fieldwork in Delhi as part of my decades-long research in the cultural dimensions of human-environment interactions.

UC Press: What are some of the dangers of imposing research on marginalized communities, rather than engaging and empowering them in the research process?

Heather O’Leary: When researchers impose their projects on marginalized communities not only do they risk reproducing the inaccuracies of past research, but they also perpetuate a long history of extractivist epistemic violence. That is to say, many research traditions treat marginalized communities as case studies and the people within them as objects of study. This harmfully reduces populations of human beings into repositories of data ready to be analyzed by clever folks trained in scientific research traditions. But this privileges only certain ways of knowing, or epistemologies. In other words, this is a system that downplays the critical diversity of the ways in which we can understand problems and solutions.

By dehumanizing experts in other knowledge traditions and other knowledge areas (for example, experts in navigating slum life), it makes it seem more ok to treat other humans not as peers but as objects of study. This has perpetuated stratified systems of who is considered an expert and what knowledge traditions are considered legitimate. Yet, research in situ, with boots-on-the-ground, does not typically require the objective distance and non-disruption of blind experiments conducted in a lab. In fact, subjectivity is a strength of field research that only grows when researchers openly acknowledge their situatedness—or how their identities have affected their research. Instead of ignoring privilege and vast histories of hierarchy perpetuated by the supposedly objective gaze, when working in the field researchers should actively engage and empower partners in marginalized communities. Through collaboration and seeing the world through the eyes of other capable experts, empowering marginalized populations by treating them as citizen-scientists can be a powerful engine to generating new insight and better research, not to mention taking a step toward more ethical science.

UC Press: Research projects leveraging data from citizen-scientists have become increasingly common in recent decades, but oftentimes, underprivileged communities are under-represented in these projects. What are some of the benefits of better democratizing citizen science?

Heather O’Leary: Researchers take a step in the right direction when they try to broaden the representation of their samples to include traditionally underrepresented populations. Not only does this help close the critical gaps in sampling representation, but it also recognizes these populations as stakeholders who participate in systems—from being affected by dangers, to coping through creative solutions.

However, I join a critical community of scholars who argue that many inclusion tactics treat people in underprivileged communities as objects, rather than subjects. Essentially, this means that researchers observe and collect data on populations without forming essential partnerships that recognize the agency and talents of everyday people. By approaching members of underrepresented populations as legitimate, credible experts who collect untapped data and form complex theories governing their everyday experiences, researchers glean a whole lot more than diverse participation in data collection.

Democratizing citizen-science means including everyday people as partners in every step along the way: framing research projects, troubleshooting methods, interpreting resulting data, and determining next steps towards broader impact. By democratizing citizen-science, researchers issue a powerful invitation to participate in creating more nuanced hypotheses, higher-quality data collection, and holistic systemic solutions. My article demonstrates one of many instances where training and partnering with people in the local community generated even better research frameworks and how these partnerships mobilized a community of citizen-scientists to improve WaSH according to their specific, local needs.

This could mark an exciting new juncture in how we approach the “wicked problem” of urban WaSH and human-environmental interactions more broadly. Consider that as a global community we’ve made laudable, marked progress towards eradicating and reducing waterborne and vector disease. We have also worked toward reducing the barriers to clean, adequate levels of water at multi-scalar levels: from transnational rivers and aquifers, to balanced uses shared in regions, to democratizing access in communities and homes. Yet, change may not be rapid enough. This may be because we’re working with models and solutions that either do not address the vast collective human knowledge on water management and, alarmingly, we systematically repress the expertise of the most hydraulically and socially marginalized. What new models of water management could be possible if we learned to work together, as partnered equals? Which existing knowledge tradition could unlock a sustainable water future for all? Rather than looking for solutions solely in the future of science, what if we also listened to the citizen experts among us just a little more closely?

 

Dr. O’Leary’s article is part of a forthcoming Case Studies in the Environment “special issue” on water science and collaborative governance for addressing water quality. For more on this special issue, see our call for papers here (submissions close May 1, 2018).

Case Studies in the Environment is a journal of peer-reviewed case-study articles, case-study pedagogy articles, and a repository for editor-reviewed case-study slides. The journal informs faculty, students, educators, professionals, and policymakers on case studies and best practices in the environmental sciences and studies.


6 Elementa Articles for World Water Day 2018

In honor of World Water Day 2018 on March 22, we are pleased to highlight 6 water-focused articles from our open access, trans-disciplinary journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. With research on floods and droughts, oceans and rivers, agriculture and food-energy systems, these articles are among Elementa‘s many peer-reviewed scientific reports addressing water challenges and solutions in this era of human impact. #WorldWaterDay


Earth & Environmental Science, Sustainability Transitions

From Figure 7 in “Water depletion: An improved metric for incorporating seasonal and dry-year water scarcity into water risk assessments”

Water depletion: An improved metric for incorporating seasonal and dry-year water scarcity into water risk assessments
Brauman KA, Richter BD, Postel S, Malsy M, Flörke M. 2016.
18,296 views/downloads, 11 citations, Altmetric Score 105

Evolving deltas: Coevolution with engineered interventions
Welch AC, Nicholls RJ, Lázár AN. 2017.
367 views/downloads, Altmetric Score 7
Special Feature: Deltas in the Anthropocene

 

California’s drought as opportunity: Redesigning U.S. agriculture for a changing climate
Morris KS, Bucini G. 2016.
3,214 views/downloads, 1 citation, Altmetric Score 3
Forum: New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems

Earth & Environmental Science, Ocean Science, Sustainability Transitions

Effective inundation of continental United States communities with 21st century sea level rise
Dahl KA, Spanger-Siegfried E, Caldas A, Udvardy S. 2017.
4,495 views/downloads, Altmetric Score 65

Sustainability Transitions

From Figure 2 in “River restoration by dam removal: Enhancing connectivity at watershed scales”

River restoration by dam removal: Enhancing connectivity at watershed scales
Magilligan FJ, Graber BE, Nislow KH, Chipman JW, Sneddon CS, Fox CA. 2016.
10,290 views/downloads, 4 citations, Altmetric Score 42

Leveraging agroecology for solutions in food, energy, and water
DeLonge M, Basche A. 2017.
1,129 views/downloads, 2 citations, Altmetric Score 44
Forum: Food-Energy-Water Systems: Opportunities at the Nexus


About Elementa: Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene is a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal committed to the facilitation of collaborative, peer-reviewed research. With the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact, it is uniquely structured into six distinct knowledge domains, and gives authors the opportunity to publish in one or multiple domains, helping them to present their research and commentary to interested readers from disciplines related to their own.

To read more open access Elementa content, or to submit your own article, please visit us at elementascience.org.


Why the Food Movement Should Focus on Trade Organizations

This guest post is published around the American Society for Environmental History conference in Riverside, occurring March 14-18, 2018. #ASEH2018

by Anna Zeide, author of Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry

In the last six months, as reported by Politico and NPR, many major food companies—such as Campbell Soup, Mars, Tyson, Hershey’s, Cargill—have bowed out of the ranks of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, signaling a huge shift in how the food industry does business. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is the sort of body that is way more important on the production side than most consumers are aware of. You may not have heard of it, but it has heard of you. That is, the GMA works endlessly behind the scenes to influence consumer choices and to get all of us to buy more processed food. Much of the power of the food industry comes from its ability to band together to influence legislation, resist regulation, and set agendas that benefit a broad range of companies. For the past decade, and, in a different form, for more than a century, it has been the GMA that has been that consolidated voice of power.

The GMA was born in 2007, when the similarly-named Grocery Manufacturers of America joined with the Food Products Association to create an unprecedented force in the world of food. Before that, though, both groups had existed as independent organizations for a full century beforehand. Both trace their origins to those heady days after the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, when industrial manufacturers recognized a need for more formal organization in the face of federal intervention in food production. The Grocery Manufacturers of America formed in 1908 under that same name, which they carried proudly until the 2007 merger. The Food Products Association, however, began under a different time, back in 1907: the National Canners Association. As I write in my new book, Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry, it is with this body of organized canners where the broader story of industrial food really begins.

From its inception, the National Canners Association (NCA) was a pioneer in many of the foundational elements of the modern food industry. The NCA formed among the earliest scientific research laboratories in the food industry in 1913, investigating agricultural production, bacterial contamination, and food safety outbreaks. In so doing, they helped seal the marriage between science and food industry. Later, in 1927, they formally established the NCA Publicity Bureau, which devoted itself to marketing and advertising canned products to a sometimes-reluctant consuming public. The Publicity Bureau commissioned pro-canning works from celebrity chefs, lobbied newspapers to retract stories that blamed canned foods for cases of food poisoning, and published free promotional cookbooks to encourage housewives to embrace canned foods. Beginning as early as the 1930s, the NCA began to get more directly involved in using its leverage to resist government regulation, and to lobby the federal government for more industry-friendly policies. These strategies intensified in the 1970s, culminating in a name change to the National Food Processors Association in 1978 (and later to the Food Products Association in 2005).

By the time this body became the Grocery Manufacturers Association in 2007, it was a behemoth, with more than 300 member-companies, representing nearly all the major brand names in America.

Throughout all of it, though, even as the NCA grew in reach and strength, it always remained particular attuned to and concerned about one particular group: its consumers. The desire to win over consumers has driven this large trade organization from the very beginning.

The defection of some of GMA’s largest members in recent months, then, should not be dismissed as insider politics without larger ramifications for consumers or for the food movement. No, the weakening of this group that has been the foundation of the food industry for over a century means that there is significant space for consumers to voice their concerns even more forcefully. Throughout its history, it has been in moments of weakness that the food industry has been most willing to change its ways in response to consumer concern.

In this moment we must recognize and take advantage of these shifting sands of the industry’s fortune to make our calls for healthier food and a more transparent food system heard.


Anna Zeide is Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Oklahoma State University, where her research, teaching, and community activism focus on food and food systems.


Arnold Miller: Coal Miner, War Veteran, Union Dissident, and Environmental Activist

This guest post is published around the American Society for Environmental History conference in Riverside, occurring March 14-18, 2018. #ASEH2018

By Chad Montrie, author of The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism

Born to a family line of West Virginia coal miners and union activists in 1923, Arnold Miller quit school and went to work digging coal when he was only 14 years old. Toward the end of World War II he volunteered for the United States Army and trained as a machine-gunner. He was severely wounded in the Normandy invasion but eventually returned home and went back to the mines. After breathing coal dust for decades he developed symptoms of what became known as “black lung.” Facing a corrupt and recalcitrant union leadership, he helped lead a dissident movement to hold coal operators responsible for the disease. After an unsanctioned statewide “wildcat” strike in 1968, the West Virginia legislature finally passed a black lung bill and the next year the federal government passed the Coal Mine Safety and Health Act, followed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1970.

As the “black lung” campaign was going on, Arnold Miller and his fellow deep miners also supported a growing movement to ban surface coal mining. They were concerned with the impact that “stripping” had on the region’s economy, since its efficiency put miners out of work, as well as the ways it ravaged the land and polluted water. Protest had begun long before, dating back at least to the 1930s, and it became intensely militant overtime. By the mid-1960s, activists were resorting to nonviolent civil disobedience (blocking haul roads and bulldozers) and even industrial sabotage (shooting at bulldozer operators and blowing up mine machinery). As a result of this militancy, more and more members of Congress were signing on to an abolition bill introduced by West Virginia representative Ken Hechler. Miller aided that effort by rallying coalfield residents in his home state as well as traveling to Washington, D.C., to offer testimony. He also headed a slate of reform candidates in the 1972 United Mine Workers elections and became president of the union.

Today, unfortunately, few environmental historians or environmental activists know anything about Arnold Miller or the decades-long campaign to end surface coal mining. This is due largely to the way they understand the origins of American environmentalism. By the standard interpretation, the movement started in 1962, with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and it was rooted in a receptive suburban middle-class motivated by newfound concerns with quality of life. There is no room in this ‘big book’ origin story for the likes of Arnold Miller and other hard-pressed people living in the Appalachian coalfields, people moved to activism because daily circumstances forced it on them. They do not fit the prototypical definition of “environmentalist.” The Myth of Silent Spring tells their story, as well as the stories of countless others, recovering a new narrative about environmentalism in the past “from the bottom up.”


Chad Montrie is Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is the author of several books, including A People’s History of Environmentalism in the United States.


Climate Day 2018: Books for #ClimateAction

Happy Climate Day 2018! 

Today, we stand in support of the movement to reverse climate change and to protect the Earth’s natural resources. For the occasion, we are pleased to highlight four books that address the changing natural landscape, as well as what actions we can take to support preservation and sustainability.

Check out #climateday2018 and the Climate Change tag on the UC Press Blog for more, and explore more Natural Sciences titles on our online catalogue.


Imagining the Future of Climate Change: World-Making through Science Fiction and Activism
Shelley Streeby (Author)

From the 1960s to the present, activists, artists, and science fiction writers have imagined the consequences of climate change and its impacts on our future. Authors such as Octavia Butler and Leslie Marmon Silko, movie directors such as Bong Joon-Ho, and creators of digital media such as the makers of the Maori web series Anamata Future News have all envisioned future worlds during and after environmental collapse, engaging audiences to think about the earth’s sustainability. As public awareness of climate change has grown, so has the popularity of works of climate fiction that connect science with activism.

Today, real-world social movements helmed by Indigenous people and people of color are leading the way against the greatest threat to our environment: the fossil fuel industry. Their stories and movements—in the real world and through science fiction—help us all better understand the relationship between activism and culture, and how both can be valuable tools in creating our future. Imagining the Future of Climate Change introduces readers to the history and most significant flashpoints in climate justice through speculative fictions and social movements, exploring post-disaster possibilities and the art of world-making.

 

The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism
Chad Montrie (Author)

Since its publication in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring has often been celebrated as the catalyst that sparked an American environmental movement. Yet environmental consciousness and environmental protest in some regions of the United States date back to the nineteenth century, with the advent of industrial manufacturing and the consequent growth of cities. As these changes transformed people’s lives, ordinary Americans came to recognize the connections between economic exploitation, social inequality, and environmental problems. As the modern age dawned, they turned to labor unions, sportsmen’s clubs, racial and ethnic organizations, and community groups to respond to such threats accordingly. The Myth of Silent Spring tells this story. By challenging the canonical “songbirds and suburbs” interpretation associated with Carson and her work, the book gives readers a more accurate sense of the past and better prepares them for thinking and acting in the present.

 

Coasts in Crisis: A Global Challenge
Gary Griggs (Author)

Coastal regions around the world have become increasingly crowded, intensively developed, and severely exploited. Hundreds of millions of people living in these low-lying areas are subject to short-term coastal hazards such as cyclones, hurricanes, and destruction due to El Niño, and are also exposed to the long-term threat of global sea-level rise. These massive concentrations of people expose often-fragile coastal environments to the runoff and pollution from municipal, industrial, and agricultural sources as well as the impacts of resource exploitation and a wide range of other human impacts. Can environmental impacts be reduced or mitigated and can coastal regions adapt to natural hazards?

Coasts in Crisis is a comprehensive assessment of the impacts that the human population is having on the coastal zone globally and the diverse ways in which coastal hazards impact human settlement and development. Gary Griggs provides a concise overview of the individual hazards, risks, and issues threatening the coastal zone.

 

Grand Canyon For Sale: Public Lands versus Private Interests in the Era of Climate Change
Stephen Nash (Author)

Grand Canyon For Sale is a carefully researched investigation of the precarious future of America’s public lands: our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, and wildernesses. Taking the Grand Canyon as his key example, and using on-the-ground reporting as well as scientific research, Stephen Nash shows how accelerating climate change will dislocate wildlife populations and vegetation across hundreds of thousands of square miles of the national landscape.

In addition, a growing political movement, well financed and occasionally violent, is fighting to break up these federal lands and return them to state, local, and private control. That scheme would foreclose the future for many wild species, which are part of our irreplaceable natural heritage, and also would devastate our national parks, forests, and other public lands.

To safeguard wildlife and their habitats, it is essential to consolidate protected areas and prioritize natural systems over mining, grazing, drilling, and logging. Grand Canyon For Sale provides an excellent overview of the physical and biological challenges facing public lands. The book also exposes and shows how to combat the political activity that threatens these places in the U.S. today.


A Q&A with Heather Lukacs, program director at an environmental justice non-profit organization and coauthor of “Risk, Uncertainty, and Institutional Failure in the 2014 West Virginia Chemical Spill”

In this post, we speak with Heather Lukacs, a PhD graduate of Stanford University’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. Dr. Lukacs’s work focuses on community-based natural resource management with and for underserved rural communities. Her article “Risk, Uncertainty, and Institutional Failure in the 2014 West Virginia Chemical Spill” in Case Studies in the Environment, co-authored with Nicola Ulibarri and Nik Sawe, lays bare the many and varied failures that led to, and compounded, the 2014 chemical spill that tainted West Virginia’s drinking water supply.

UC Press: Heather, you are originally from West Virginia, and you were finishing your PhD at Stanford when a Freedom Industries storage tank spilled 10,000 gallons of crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM)—a chemical used to process coal—into West Virginia’s Elk River. That river is a major source of drinking water in the state. What happened next?

Heather Lukacs in West Virginia.

Heather Lukacs: On January 9, 2014, the governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, declared a state of emergency and issued a “do not use” notice to residents across a nine county area. As residents watched the evening news, they were told not to use their tap water for drinking, cooking, washing, or bathing. Fumes of toxic licorice hung in the air in Charleston—the state’s capital—as restaurants closed before dinnertime, bottled water supplies ran out, some residents left to stay with relatives in unaffected areas, and hundreds began asking questions on social media. Local news sources revealed the culprit—MCHM—a chemical used in the coal cleaning process. The chemical leaked from a storage facility into the Elk River less than one mile upstream of the intake for the regional drinking-water system. My Facebook account lit up with speculation about this chemical and its potential risks. What is MCHM? How dangerous is it? Why can we not even wash our clothes in it? Who is responsible? Are my children going to be okay? US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) called for a full investigation from the Chemical Safety Board, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies. As speculation on social media persisted, I asked myself—would this chemical spill have long-term consequences for the health of local residents or for government policy related to drinking water? Or would we awake on the morning of January 10, 2014, to find that the smell had gone away and be told that the chemical was not toxic and we could safely drink our water again. One interesting part of this case study to me is that there is still so much that is unresolved about this case and also about the long-term safety of drinking water in the United States.

UC Press: After the drinking-water ban was lifted in the affected areas, Governor Tomblin was asked at a press conference, “Should we be drinking the water?” He responded, “It’s your decision. If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking with this water then use bottled water. I’m not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don’t use it.” What does the governor’s response say about the larger issues at play here?

Heather Lukacs: How do we as individuals and as a society determine what levels of a contaminant are “safe” for consumption of drinking water? Governor Tomblin’s words are poignant in that he acknowledges that all the experts could not tell the general public that their water was safe. He put the burden of the decision about drinking the water on each individual resident and recognized that there was uncertainty. Federal and state regulations determine the legal levels of many contaminants allowed in drinking water, yet the chemical MCHM was (and is still) not a regulated chemical, so there was no established legal level.

UC Press: How did decide to distill what you learned about the WV chemical spill into a case study?

Heather Lukacs: During the first months after the chemical spill, I taught a version of this case study in a couple of different college classes related to risk perception and environmental ethics. Many of the broader themes resonated with different audiences. In the summer of 2014, I co-developed the written form of the case study with two fellow Stanford PhD students, Nik Sawe (now a Research Associate and Lecturer at Stanford University) and Nicola Ulibarri (now an Assistant Professor at UC Irvine’s School of Social Ecology) at a National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) workshop on teaching case studies. The workshop helped us refine our case, and afterward Cynthia Wei from SESYNC encouraged us to submit to Case Studies in the Environment. Ultimately, we wanted to spread the word about the systemic failures that created the conditions for a chemical spill to taint WV’s drinking water. We hoped others would learn from this case and prevent similar failures in the future and in other places.

UC Press: In your work on water-justice issues, you are both a researcher and an environmental practitioner. What benefits are there for practitioners in publishing their work as case studies?

Heather Lukacs: Sharing the on-the-ground work of community-based environmental practice, from the perspective of practitioners, is immensely important. As environmental practitioners, we understand the issues and are connected to affected communities in ways that outside researchers are not. We chose to publish our work in the form of a case study to add to the peer-reviewed literature on environmental policy and resource management in a way that is accessible and easy to digest. The peer review process added legitimacy to our analysis. The ultimate goal of publishing this case study is to highlight challenges and opportunities in the provision of safe drinking water, which is one of my primary motivations.

UC Press: Where are we now with the WV chemical spill? And outside of WV, are there more hopeful developments on the horizon?

Heather Lukacs: This whole process revealed the gaps in our governance system for safe drinking water. There are so many important questions raised by the events in WV: What are our perceptions of risk? How do we define safe water? Who defines safe water? And how are these risks and protections communicated effectively, in an environment where people increasingly mistrust their drinking water? We still have a long way to go as a society to ensure universal access to safe water. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, a deadline recently passed for claimants to join a class-action suit for damages to people and businesses affected by the spill. Where I now work in California, there is a movement to establish drinking-water standards for chemicals not regulated at the national level, such as the pesticide 1,2,3,-Trichloropropane, from agricultural runoff. And for the first time in its history, California now regulates groundwater at the state level through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. That legislation provides local communities with the authority to establish their own groundwater agencies and implement their own regulatory schemes and monitoring. So there are glimmers of hope, but there is still a lot of work to do.

To read Heather Lukacs, Nik Sawe, and Nicola Ulibarri’s case study article on the 2014 West Virginia chemical spill in UC Press’s journal Case Studies in the Environment, visit cse.ucpress.edu or click here: Risk, Uncertainty, and Institutional Failure in the 2014 West Virginia Chemical Spill.

Case Studies in the Environment is a journal of peer-reviewed case-study articles, case-study pedagogy articles, and a repository for editor-reviewed case-study slides. The journal informs faculty, students, educators, professionals, and policymakers on case studies and best practices in the environmental sciences and studies.