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Activist Environmental History in the Trump Era

Sat, April 13, 4:45 to 5:45pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Fairfield

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


Our roundtable features several scholars from environmental history and closely related fields who have recently taken up some form of political activism over the environmental policies of the Trump Administration. By comparing, contrasting, and evaluating our experiences seeking to exert influence at the federal level, we aim to directly address the “risks and rewards” of "using environmental history.”

Speakers will discuss three different veins of activism: 1. An international letter campaign to fight against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, co-organized by historian Finis Dunaway (Trent University); 2. Involvement in the March for Science including the composition of an Indigenous Science Statement, discussed by historian Rosalyn LaPier (University of Montana); and 3. the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a volunteer collaborative of scholars that formed in the wake of the 2016 election, whose activities have ranged from public reports and formal comments to oral histories of EPA employees; discussed by the historian Christopher Sellers (Stony Brook University) and the geographer Becky Mansfield (Ohio State).

Among the questions up for discussion: how did speakers’ activist work arise and what did it involve? What connections (if any) do speakers see between their scholarly field, skills, and work, and their recent activist efforts? How does federally oriented activism compare with the more familiar, locally oriented counterparts? How do they evaluate its strengths and weaknesses?
And most broadly: as environmental history has matured over the past decades, have environmental historians defined themselves and their academic field in ways that are too divorced from political activism? May the powerful anti-environmental and anti-science victories represented by the Trump Administration be changing that? What more can or should we do, both as individual academics and as an academic organization, to enable a more politically engaged professional identity, the environmental historian-cum-environmental citizen?

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