HIST364: American Environmental History (Spring 2005)

Instructor: Doug Sackman 
Phone: 253.879.3913
Office: Wyatt 130
Office Hours: MW 10:30-11:50 a.m., Th 11 a.m. - noon (and by appointment)

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the new field of environmental history focusing on the United States. America has long been called "nature's nation." We will explore what nature has meant to America's various peoples, how they have changed nature in order to make a living, and how nature itself has influenced the way they live. In other words, we will examine ideas of nature, how human economies have changed natural ecologies, and how the environment itself has had a hand in shaping human history. Our exploration of nature in human history will take us into the four elemental realms (fire, earth, water, air) but we will see what human cultures and economies have made of theseÑin other words, we will be attending to the cultural construction of nature. We will look at Native American interactions with the environment; at the changes in nature that came with European colonization; at the role of capitalism in shaping how nature is seen and used; at how race and gender shape perceptions and experiences of nature; at the various forms of environmentalism developed in America; and at the role of technologies, from the torch and the plow to atom splitting and gene splicing, in transforming the face of nature in America. And to root the course in our regional environment, we will explore the economic, ecological, and imaginal role of rivers, forests and salmon to the Pacific Northwest.

In the above description, I have emphasized what "we" will do. I mean that: the course is meant to be a collaborative investigation of the role of nature in American history. The course format is discussion oriented (though periodically lectures will be given). To make the course work, then, you will have to come to class having done the reading and having thought about questions or comments you might want to bring up in class discussion.

Readings, Writings, & Rationale
At the core of this course is an extensive set of texts. Some are books and articles written by contemporary environmental historians; others are documents, laws, magazine articles, excerpts from novels that shed light on the way nature has been perceived and consumed in the era in which they were written. Through these readings, and through the course as a whole, my aim is not to provide an objective and complete body of knowledge about what Americans have done to nature. Rather, I hope to make available the knowledge and tools for you to see for yourself how Americans' relationships to nature have been constructed, and how they have changed and evolved over time. It is only through being able to see nature through the eyes of others positioned in society and in time differently than are you that such a vantage point can be achieved; together with the lectures and the written assignments, the readings are windows on the American peoples' multifaceted engagement with nature.

There are several discussion papers based on the readings and couple of document gathering assignments. Two medium-sized papers (4-6 pgs.) will provide opportunities to explore issues raised in the class and in the readings in more depth. For the final "research essay," you may also make use of readings we have done in class as well as conduct some of your own original research. A set of topics together with more detailed guidelines will be distributed at appropriate times in the term. There will be no exams for this course, but quizzes may be implemented depending on the degree of engagement shown with the readings.

1. (26%) Attendance, class participation, and nine short papers
(seven 1-2 page discussion papers and two document gathering assignments)
Class participation and the short papers will be weighted about equally in determining this portion of your grade. The class participation component is based on your preparation for class and your active and constructive involvement in discussions. In addition, there is one oral report on a journal article (the "What is environmental history" assignment, explained below), and one day in the second half of the course your group will lead class discussion. The discussion papers, which will not be graded but will be assigned a number from 0-4 that assesses their general quality, give you a chance to consider the reading assigned for the day that the discussion paper is due and pose a question that the group as a whole might discuss in our class session. [Guidelines below]. The document gathering assignments will be explained when they are assigned.

2. (5%) An in-class ten-minute presentation on a topic of the student's choosing. (Students will decide on a topic by the second week; feel free to ask for suggestions and/or come by my office during office hours).

3. (18%): Paper 1
A 4-6 page paper, due in Week 6.

4. (18%): Paper 2
A 4-6 page paper, due in Week 12.

5. (28%) An 8-10 page research essay, due on Wednesday of finals week. Prospectus is due in Week 10.

6. (5%): Group review of Karl Jacoby, Crimes against Nature.

In addition, a number of quizzes may be given if they are needed to stimulate and reward the reading of the material.

Late policy: Late papers will be marked down 1/3 of a grade for being up to one day late (e.g. a B would become a B-); papers more than one day but less than two days late will be marked down 2/3 of a grade; papers turned in three days will be lowered a full grade; more than three days late and the penalty is a 1 and 1/3 deduction.

1. Theodore Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History
2. Louis Warren, American Environmental History
3. Conevery Bolton Valencius, The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land
4. William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
5. Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves and the Hidden History of American Conservation
6. American Environmental History Reader

Discussion Papers
The class is divided into 4 "groups"--A, B. C and D . (This is mostly for the purpose of dividing up the class--you will be writing your discussion papers individually, not in groups, though your group will work together to lead one class discussion). Discussion papers for your group are due on the days indicated in the course schedule with your groups letter in brackets next to the date (see below). Please also note that there are eight days designated for your group, but you are only required to do seven discussion papers; you can choose to skip any one that you decide. Normally under no circumstances, including computer failure, may discussion papers be turned in late, since their purpose is to be available for use in the class discussion on the day on which they are due. (In certain circumstances, I may allow you to switch the day for which you write a discussion paper, but you must ask me about this at least 24-hours in advance). Discussion papers should be typed and between one and two pages long. The discussion papers involve two components: a topic discussion and an issue identification:

Topic Discussion
For the topic discussion, I would like you to write two or three paragraphs or so about some aspect of the reading for that day that grabs your attention and you would like to discuss. I am not looking for you to summarize the reading. Instead, I would like you to identify some theme or issue raised in the reading and interpret its significance. You need not deal with the reading as a whole; in fact, you may want to focus on a small part of the larger reading. You may wish to draw comparisons between the readings of the day, or between the reading of the day and previous readings. You may wish to discuss how the reading relates to some larger issue in the class. You must include at least one quotation from the reading in your paper (normally, stronger papers use such citations). Please provide the page number in a footnote or in parentheses for your quotations. I will on occasion ask you to summarize or read your topic discussion for the class.

Issue ID
The second component of the discussion paper is the identification of some issue that can be suitable for class discussion. This can be one or two sentences long, and it can be as simple as identifying a quote from one of the readings that you find illuminating and interesting or questionable and briefly stating what important issue you see in the quote. You might also raise a point of comparison between readings. The issue may be related to your topic discussion, though it need not be. Be prepared with these: I will on occasion ask you to present your issue id in class as a way to start discussion.

What is Environmental History Reports 
Three-to-five minute oral report on "What is environmental history?" as it is reflected in an article of the student's own choosing from any issue since 1995 in the journal Environmental History. The journal is available in the library. The report should include a brief overview of the article and its topic, a restatement or citation of its main argument (or thesis), some consideration of where the article might fit in terms of the three levels of analysis outlined by Worster and Cronon; an example of piece of evidence (a primary source, for example) used in the article; and some other of your own responses to the article that may include comparison to other examples of environmental history we have encountered in the class and/or which convey your own reaction to and assessment of the article. The article you choose need not be on a U.S. topic. Students will be assigned a day for their reports.

Grading Policies
The work in all of the above categories will be taken into account to determine your final grade. In general, the writing asks you to go far beyond the recitation of facts and information. You will be formulating your own ideas and arguments, gathering and organizing evidence to support your positions, and putting it all together in finished essays that are at their best polished, engaging, original, creative, and/or provocative. I will distribute more specific criteria that I use in evaluating your longer papers. The discussion papers are more informal in orientation, and one of their purposes is to allow you to pursue your ideas and hone your writing talents without the pressure of grades. The following statements will give you some idea what level of work and participation constitutes what kind of grade in this course:

C-level work is considered both average and respectable in this course. Work that merits a C represents a serious engagement with the class and the course materials by the student. For papers, this means that the paper deals with its topic, makes use of the proper number and type of sources, shows that the student has grappled with the readings and issues, and advances a central idea or thesis. Yet, the thesis may be vague and there may be problems with the mechanics, organization or clarity of the paper. In terms of participation, the C-level student regularly attends, is attentive to what is going on in the classroom, occasionally offers ideas and perspectives in class, completes the discussion papers in satisfactory fashion, and willingly contributes to small group discussions.

B-level work is very good. It represents both serious engagement with and reasonable mastery of the course material. The B-level student maintains their degree of engagement throughout the course, and usually their work shows improvement. Papers that merit a B are well-crafted and organized, advance a central thesis that addresses the paper's topic in an interesting or illuminating fashion, are mostly free from mechanical and grammatical errors, draw effectively on a range of materials, and are generally persuasive and cogent in their argument. B-level participation involves regular attendance and participation in class discussions. Comments and contributions are often based on a careful consideration of the readings. For example, such a student may sometimes point to a specific passage in the text to back up or develop their comment or question.

A-level work is exceptional. Not only do A-level papers display all of the good qualities of a B-paper, their central argument is advanced with an exceptionally impressive degree of sophistication, originality or insight. The paper's organization, craft and use of evidence are all excellent. In terms of participation, contributions to class discussions are both frequent and particularly insightful.

Late Policy
Assignments that are up to 24 hours late will receive a 1/3 grade reduction (e.g. a B would become a B-); assignments turned in more than one but less than two days late will be lowered 2/3 of a grade; work turned in three days late will be lowered a full grade; work turned in beyond three days late will receive a 1 1/3 reduction.

Academic Honesty
Faith in your academic integrity is vital to all we do at UPS. It should go without saying that the college expects that all work submitted for evaluation in courses will be the product of the student's own labor and imagination. Of course, you are free to speak with others about your work and share ideas and perspectives. In writing your papers, though, you are developing your own ideas and arguments. You can incorporate the ideas or words of others in your own paper, but to do so you must properly cite your sources. Turning in a paper that attempts to pass off the words or ideas of others as your own constitutes plagiarism (see The Logger for more information). Like other forms of cheating, plagiarism is a contamination that pollutes our environment. Students who knowingly turn in work that involves plagiarism or is marred by other forms of cheating will not pass the course, though more severe penalties may be recommended for egregious cases.

One can understand the temptation to turn in illegitimate work: students working under intense pressures may turn to cheating as an easy way out. But to do so, you not only steal the work of others, you cheat yourself and your fellow students as well. A real degree from UPS cannot be obtained through looting. If you are worried about your grade or completing an assignment, please come and talk to me. I can work with you to help you get over the hurdles and make it possible for you to get something positive out of the course.

Course Schedule 
Readings for each day, which need to be completed prior to class, are listed next to the date. If there is a bullet, it means it's from one of the course's texts; if it is a number, it's from the xeroxed Reader.

Part I: Introduction to Environmental History
Week 1: Perspectives of Environmental History
1.18: Placing the Elements of Environmental History
1.20: What is Environmental History: a Scholarly Forum

1. Donald Worster, "Transformations of the Earth: Toward an Agroecological Perspective in History"

Everyone reads Worster and his response (be especially attentive to finding his definitions of environmental history and his claims for its importance and difference from other fields of history).

The groups are to read and report on the following responses by other leading environmental historians to Worster in the roundtable: Group A Crosby and Pyne; Group B White; Group C Merchant; Group D Cronon.

Part II: New Faces on the Countryside: the Environmental Conquest of North America
Week 2: [A,B,C] Native Americans and the Columbia Exchange (and Shock)

Steinberg, ix-xii, 3-20
Warren, 1-48 + "What is environmental history reports"

1.27: [D]

Steinberg, 21-38
Warren, 49-72 + "What is environmental history reports"

Week 3: Economics and Agriculture, North and South
2.1: [A]

Warren, 73-124
Steinberg, ch. 3 + "What is environmental history reports"

2.3: [B]

Warren, 124-140
Steinberg, chs. 4-6
(4) Thomas Jefferson on Agrarianism, 1787 + "What is environmental history reports"

Part III: Confronting and Reconstructing Nature in "New" Lands: the Body and the City
Week 4: Moving West: Bodies & Climate
2.8: [C]

Valencius, The Health of the Country, Introduction and Chapter 1, pp. 1-52 + "What is environmental history reports"

2.10: [D]

Valencius, chs. 2 and 3
Warren, 141-155 + "What is environmental history reports"

Week 5: Cultivation and Race
2.15: [A]

Valencius, chs. 6 & 7 + "What is environmental history reports"

2.17: [B]

Valencius, chs. 8 & 9

Preliminary informal reports on health, climate, and "What I Saw in California";
Be prepared to discuss the relationship between one document at the "What I Saw in California" Web site and Valencius

Week 6
2.22: [C]

Steinberg, ch. 8
Warren, ch. 6

2.24: [D]

Warren, ch. 5
Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, xiv-xix, 5-19

First paper due Friday by 5 p.m.; please turn them in to the folder next to my office.

Week 7: The Country and the City
3.1: [A]

Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 23-93

3.3: [B]

Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 97-147
(5) Frank Norris, selections from The Octopus (1901)

Week 8: [C] Hog Butcher of the World
3.8: Readings:

Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 207-259
(6) Upton Sinclair, selection from The Jungle (1906)

3.10: [D, A, B]

Cronon, Nature's Metropolis, 357-385
Steinberg, chs. 10 and 11

Spring Break

Part IV: Constructing and Deconstructing "Wilderness"
Week 9: Conservation & Preservation
3.22: Film: The Wilderness Idea

8. John Muir, excerpt from "The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West"
9. Defending the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley
10. John Muir, "The Hetch-Hetchy Valley," Sierra Club Bulletin, 1908

3.24: [C] [Group B leads class discussion]

Warren, 212-235
7. Henry David Thoreau, excerpts from Walden

Week 10: The Hidden History of Conservation
3.29: [D]

Jacoby, Crimes against Nature, xv-xvii, 1-47
11. Conservation documents: 11a and11b

3.31: [A]

Jacoby, Crimes against Nature, 48-98
Conservation documents: 11d, 11e and11f

First document gathering assignment due for groups B and C

Week 11
4.5: [B]

Jacoby, Crimes against Nature, 99-146
Warren, 202-211

First document gathering assignment due for groups A and D

4.7: [C] [Group D leads class discussion]

Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature, 149-198
Bring Warren and the History 364 Reader to class [@20 minutes to discuss our review with your group in class today]

Part IV: Water and Salmon
Week 12: The Northwest
Monday, 4.11: Group book review due: e-mail them to me by 7 p.m.
4.12: [D]

12. Donald Worster, "Water as a Tool of Empire"
11: Conservation document: 11c
Film: An American Nile

4.14: [A]

13. Linda Nash, "The Changing Experience of Nature: Encounters with a Northwest River"
14. Joseph Taylor, "El Ni–o and Vanishing Salmon"
15. Taylor, from Making Salmon
16 Salmon documents

Second paper due Friday by 5 p.m.

Part V: Postwar America, Environmentalism, and the Reinvention of Nature
Week 13: The Environmental Movement
4.19: [B]

17. Excerpts from Insects: The Yearbook of Agriculture, 1952
18. Edmund Russell III, "Speaking of Annihilation"
Warren, 256-270
Steinberg, ch. 13

4.21: [C] [Group A leads class discussion]

19. Adam Rome, "Give Earth a Chance"
Warren, 290-297
Steinberg, ch. 15

Week 14: Consumption
4.26: [D]

Steinberg, ch. 14
20. Jennifer Price, "Looking for Nature at the Mall"

Second document gathering assignment due in class

4.28: [A, B, C, D] [Group C leads class discussion]

Warren, chs. 11 and 12

Week 15
5.2: The End of Nature?
Read the conclusion to Steinberg, and chapter 13 in Warren; and reread the conclusion to one other book we have read in the class. 
Final research essay due Wednesday of finals week by 5 p.m.; turn them in to the folder at my office.