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Environmental Impacts of World War II in the Pacific Northwest

Sat, April 2, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Westin Seattle Hotel, Cascade 1B

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


World War II was a turning point in American environmental history. Mobilizing social, institutional and natural resources, the war’s urgencies accelerated the nation’s industrial expansion, especially in the West. Urban regions grew overnight, with the arrival of an expanded labor force, launching a new era in the cities’ environmental history. Resource extraction intensified, and previous systems of resource management were stretched to the limit. War production largely determined the pace and pattern of postwar / Cold War development and its environmental impact.
This roundtable’s participants specialize in those transformations in the northwestern United States. William Robbins is a widely published historian of the landscapes and natural resources of the region. Katherine Macica is completing her dissertation at Loyola University of Chicago, “Environments of War: The Pacific Northwest and the Waging of World War II.” Paul Hirt has written widely on the history of the region’s forests and power grid, which were placed under intense demand for the needs of wartime industry. William Lang, former Director of the Center for Columbia River History, is a leading specialist on the industrialization of the region. Joseph Taylor is a specialist on the region’s fisheries. The war’s dynamics intensified collaboration between the United States and Canada, as Tina Adcock explores in her study of the Canol pipeline, which set the stage for post-1945 industrial development of western Canada.
The panelists reveal interlocking transformations of land use, natural resources extraction, urban/industrial expansion, regional infrastructure, and riverine and coastal development during the war and immediate postwar years. Richard Tucker is the roundtable’s organizer and moderator.

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