Session Submission Summary

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Summer of ’69: Iconic Environmental Events 50 Years Later

Thu, April 11, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Union E

Session Submission Type: Panel


2019 marks the 50th anniversary of several seminal events in modern American environmental, energy, and water history: the Santa Barbara oil spill (Teresa Sabol Spezio), the Cuyahoga River fire (David Stradling), and the dewatering of Niagara Falls (Daniel Macfarlane). These three moments have become staples in narratives about emerging North American environmentalism. The three papers in this panel connect with the ASEH 2019 conference theme by exploring how national and international benefits produced local risks, and delve into the ways that changing ideas about environment, energy, and technology shaped responses to environmental disaster and manipulations. The presenters will collectively explore the ways that these 1969 events spurred on immediate changes, such as to policies (Clean Water Act) and public attitudes (environmental movement), but also consider how the Cuyahoga River fire, the Santa Barbara oil spill, and turning off Niagara Falls have been portrayed, remembered, and politicized over the last half-century. This panel will be a hybrid panel/roundtable of sorts: we have limited the panel to three, instead of four, participants so that there will be sufficient time for each to present on their topic, but also allow ample time to then include the audience in an open discussion about other important environmental history events of 1969.

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Individual Presentations