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Explorations In Environmental History

Explorations In Environmental History

Essays by Samuel P. Hays
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Explorations In Environmental History
    Book Description:

    Explorations in Environmental Historyrepresents four decades of writing from one of the most distinguished scholars in the field of environmental history. Samuel Hays's dedication and research is apparent in every one of these essays, four of which are published here for the first time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7184-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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    (pp. vii-xii)
    Joel A. Tarr

    Samuel P. Hays has been called one of the leading American historians of the second half of the twentieth century. As Michael Ebner observed at a 1992 symposium in his honor, “The scholarly interests of Sam Hays defy convention.”¹ Trained in American history, he has exercised scholarly influence over four of its subfields: environmental history, political history, social history, and urban history. Yet Hays himself would insist that there is a continuity in his work that bridges the subfield boundaries and provides a unity in his writing. This continuity involves a focus on the link between power and values and...

  2. INTRODUCTION: An Environmental Historian Amid the Thickets of Environmental Politics
    (pp. xiii-xl)

    This collection of articles reflects a distinctive journey in the field of environmental history and hence this semibiographical approach to the introduction. My own involvement in environmental history has come in two stages, the first, beginning with graduate work and publication ofConservation and the Gospel of Efficiencyand, after a lapse of over a decade, beginning in 1970 with a renewed interest in the subject, now called environmental history, which led to a more sustained level of teaching and writing on the subject. The two stages have their own distinctive origins and their distinctive biographical role.

    My first interest...

  3. I. The Big Issues

    • THE LIMITS-TO-GROWTH ISSUE: A Historical Perspective
      (pp. 3-23)

      Environmental conservation problems are persistently moving toward a context of the limits to growth. The writings of Forrester and the Meadows have given an overall formulation to a set of predispositions and hunches that have been rather widespread in a variety of more disparate and piecemeal issues.¹ The impact has seemed rather astounding. The Meadows’ writings especially took us off guard, so much so that at the start they were considered in an atmosphere of transient sensationalism. Yet there is a persistence to the insights in all this that has remained and will remain for a long time to come....

      (pp. 24-40)

      Conventional wisdom would suggest that certain aspects of our government are relatively neutral in their value preferences. While the main political choices, we are told in our high school civics classes for example, are worked out in the legislature, administrative and judicial bodies merely administer and interpret the laws. These are carried out, so the implication runs, in an atmosphere not of value conflict but of disinterested judgment. As the images are elaborated further, not only governmental administration but planning as well take on the connotations of being scientific, objective, and without value preferences. These functions are carried out by...

      (pp. 41-68)

      Since many of us “furriners” here are seeking to establish our western credentials, perhaps it is not inappropriate for me to add several items of my own personal history. My initial exposure to natural resource problems came during the 1940s when I worked for two and a half years for the Oregon and California Revested Lands Administration doing general forestry work. The most exciting part of that experience was a three-month stint devoted exclusively to sharpening jackhammer bits! A few years later my first research paper in graduate school was on the Taylor Grazing Act and its historical background. All...

      (pp. 69-100)

      Environmental history arising amid public interest in environmental affairs since World War II, has taken up as wide a range of discrete subjects as are debated in contemporary issues. The agenda is vast and diffuse. Much of it is placed within the context of an effort to attach historical meaning to current policy choices, rather than write from a context of questions defined through historical concepts of patterns of long-run change. Yet, a more clearly historical context is readily at hand for environmental historians to apply.

      Environmental history encompasses two large questions. First are the long-run changes in environmental circumstance,...

      (pp. 101-128)

      The world of contemporary debate is filled with pronouncements about the sharp turn of events in environmental regulation which we are now amid; the future, so the argument goes, will be vastly different from the past. I am suspicious of such arguments. They have far less to do with accurate descriptions of change and development over time, and far more with the normative arguments of those who advocate rather than observe and analyze change. Such advocates write recent and current history primarily to support their policy prescriptions. I am far more impressed with incrementalism in American environmental institutions. As one...

  4. II. Forest Debates

      (pp. 131-155)

      National forest throughout the nation are currently the subject of intense controversy over forest plans being drawn up under the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (“NFMA”).¹ Some plans, under severe public criticism, have been withdrawn. Most have been appealed within the agency. A few have become the subject of litigation despite the Forest Service’s newfound willingness to negotiate with its opponents. Environmental critics of the Forest Service are increasingly well organized and capable of grappling with today’s detailed management issues.²

      This widespread and intense debate reflects a new public conception of the purpose of forests in America. While the...

      (pp. 156-171)

      Over the past three decades environmental objectives have emerged in the West with considerable strength and influence to reshape public attitudes. Until World War II agriculture and raw-materials extraction still dominated the region’s economic and political views.¹ But in recent years the West has begun to change rapidly. New residents have brought with them new attitudes toward natural resources. Increasingly, those resources are thought of as an environment to enhance individual and regional standards of living rather than as material commodities alone. An indigenous environmental constituency has become more vigorous in challenging the previously dominant extractive economy of lumber, grazing,...

      (pp. 172-184)

      It is now more than obvious that the management of our forests is undergoing massive debate and controversy. Whether or not that leads to change in management depends on a host of factors. But certainly the role of professional foresters, what they think and propose, what they do in the management agencies, what on-the-ground strategies they foster, will play a major role in the policies that emerge. If we can think of this as a matter of “stewardship” or “ethics” is not at all clear; but whether or not it involves potential major changes in how we think and act...

      (pp. 185-197)

      To some, the debate over siting wood-burning power plants, the subject of Fred Frankena’s book, might well seem of limited importance. Yet, it focuses sharply on a type of issue that has occurred again and again over the past thirty years and has played a role of considerable significance in environmental politics. Most accounts of such issues have dealt primarily with the drama of the events and have not probed very deeply. Frankena’s treatment, however, goes further to focus on the conflict over values and its relationship to population change, science, and technology as they apply to large-scale environmental intrusion...

      (pp. 198-218)

      This chapter offers historical perspective on the most critical factor in future policy with regard to the Great Lakes forest—the human perceptions, values, and institutions that constitute the major setting in which choices are made. It concerns choices made by people in their daily lives as they have come into direct or vicarious contact with forests, choices made by wood production companies, by forest professionals and managers, by local, state, and national public officials. And it asks how and why these choices changed over the course of time.

      Policies regarding the Great Lakes forest stem primarily from this human...

  5. III. The Politics of Clean Air

    • CLEAN AIR: From the 1970 Act to the 1977 Amendments
      (pp. 221-247)

      Passage of the amendments to the Clean Air Act¹ came after seven years of intense experience with the workings of the 1970 law. There was continual litigation, both to restrain and to enhance the application of the former Act, the outcome of which established an evolutionary tone. There was continual evaluation of the process of implementation, and especially of enforcement, creating a changing set of ideas about what would bring results and what would not. Underlying this were both changing public values as to what objectives were desired in a clean air program and an evolving body of information and...

    • CLEAN AIR: From 1977 to 1990
      (pp. 248-279)

      In October Congress passed and in November President George Bush signed the new Clean Air Act (CAA). It had been thirteen years since the passage of the previous act in 1977, supposedly to be renewed again in five years.¹ But efforts by Congress to complete revision in the early 1980s failed because of disagreement within the Congress and between the Congress and President Reagan. President Bush, in contrast, desired to foster a revision and his persistence was crucial in the eventual passage in 1990.

      The resulting statute is complex beyond belief, accurately reflecting a policy arena that is also complex...

      (pp. 280-290)

      Public debate over environmental affairs has its share of mythologizing, but perhaps none is more striking than that about emissions trading under the acid rain provision of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Discussion surrounding that provision has been remarkable for its panoply of symbols and slogans, so much so that little of the reality of emissions trading—its importance, usefulness, and effect—has got through the fog.

      Emissions trading is a relatively minor provision of the act. It pales into insignificance in the face of the massive, overriding decision to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from utilities by 50...

      (pp. 291-312)

      The human health effects of lead are a subject of ancient interest and of great contemporary concern. Its science and its public policy have been debated with both light and heat. This chapter will concentrate on both lead science and lead policy in their close relationship as society seeks to define an acceptable level of exposure. That acceptable level involves not just policy choices, but values expressed by scientists, citizens, and policy makers. A closer examination of the lead issue promises greater insight as to the role of values in both science and public policy.1-4

      The focus of analysis is...

  6. IV. Environmental Politics Since World War II

      (pp. 315-333)

      On a number of occasions during the past twenty years I have attempted to formulate a general interpretation of American political structure based upon persistent tensions between centralizing and decentralizing tendencies in American society and politics.¹ The analysis of environmental affairs since World War II presented here constitutes an extension of that argument to a more recent time period. The political tendencies within environmental objectives and the controversies which they generated seem to make most sense when brought together within a centralizing-decentralizing conceptual context. The relevant ideas involve distinctions among local, state, and national levels of political life, ever-increasing scales...

      (pp. 334-378)

      The nation’s political intelligentsia—those institutional leaders who think about, write about, and try to explain contemporary public life—have been more than puzzled about the rise of environmental affairs to a rank of national importance over the past thirty years. Although they have come to accept the reality of the political drive the rise entails, they have been persistently skeptical about the wisdom of its objectives. Rarely have they taken the role of leading the nation into new environmental frontiers. Their mixed emotions have led to a curious mixture of ideas about what this rise means. Many are tempted...

      (pp. 379-399)

      We have now witnessed three decades of vigorous environmental activity in the United States. Since the late 1950s environmental issues have played a significant role on the national agenda; environmental objectives have been increasingly advanced by organized citizen groups and the political resistance to those objectives has been equally elaborated.

      As time passes we can understand all this from an historical perspective: what long-term patterns of continuity or change does it represent? The intensity of contemporary environmental debate tends to generate a momentary perspective. But larger meaning can be grasped if one backs away from the event to focus on...

      (pp. 400-417)

      On a number of recent occasions I have argued that environmental affairs since World War II arose from widespread changes in values associated with the evolution of the American society and economy. The change was slow and persistent, demographic in character, as people became more educated and more affluent. Older types of production and consumption gave way to newer and among the newer was “environmental quality,” a new component in the persistent desire for a higher “standard of living.” Such new values were held more strongly among younger people and became diffused throughout society more fully with each new generation.¹...

      (pp. 418-450)

      The evolution of federal administration since the New Deal years, and especially since World War II, has loomed large in recent American history. Since the mid-1960s, moreover, environmental affairs have become an increasingly important element of that development. They have also played more than an equal role in the debate over the “federal bureaucracy” and the issue of “big government.” In this analysis I hope to go beyond the limited scope of that debate to the larger historical question of the role environmental administration has played in recent American politics—especially as an example of institutional development. This constitutes a...