Working Groups

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Earth and Environmental Sciences Working Group explores the interactions between humans and their environments from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives in the humanities and social sciences.  Meetings are held monthly to discuss a colleague’s work in progress or to discuss readings that are of particular interest to participants.  Meetings are usually held at the Consortium offices in Philadelphia from 6:00 to 7:30 on first Wednesdays.  Scholars located anywhere can also participate online.

If you would like to join this working group please contact .|


Jeremy Vetter is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Arizona. His research is at the intersection of environmental history and the history of science and technology in the American West. Read more about his research here.

Upcoming Meetings

October 5, 2016


November 2, 2016


December 7, 2016


Past Meetings

April 6, 2016

Members in the Philadelphia area were invited to attend a local screening of Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s new film, Containment (2015), about nuclear waste sites and the challenge of communicating their danger to humanity 10,000 years in the future, followed by a discussion with Peter Galison: here.

March 2, 2016

Elaine LaFay of the University of Pennsylvania introduced her paper “‘On the Teeth of the Wind’: Medical Meteorology and the American Empire Along the Antebellum U.S. Gulf Coast.”

January 27, 2016

Note special day. Nick Shapiro, research fellow at CHF joined the group for a discussion of his recent work published in Cultural Anthropology, “Attuning to the Chemosphere: Domestic Formaldehyde, Bodily Reasoning, and the Chemical Sublime.” The article is available for download at

December 2, 2015

The group discussed a recent forum on “Technology, Ecology, and Human Health since 1850,” Environmental History 20 (2015): 710-804. The group’s conveners (Benson, Roberts, and Vetter) began the conversation by introducing specific themes and topics relevant to their own work.

September 30, 2015

Larry Kessler from Temple Univ. shared his paper, “‘Overcoming Nature by Nature’: Biological Pest Control and the Campaign for Hawaiian Annexation.”

April 24, 2015

Lisa Ruth Rand of the University of Pennsylvania introduced her paper “Under the Copper Curtain: Project West Ford and the Roots of Outer Space Environmentalism, 1958-1964.”

March 27, 2015

Jeremy Vetter of the University of Arizona introduced his paper, “Field Stations and the Problem of Scale: Local, Regional, and Global at the Desert Lab”

March 6, 2015

Mary Mitchell of the University of Pennsylvania introduced her paper, “Falling Out: Challenging Atmospheric Nuclear Testing in the Domestic Courts”

February 6, 2015

Jody Roberts of the Chemical Heritage Foundation introduced his book chapter, “Re-Inventing Green Chemistry: Alternative Histories for a Sustainable Science”

May 1, 2014

Rebecca Onion introduced selections from Lawrence Badash, A Nuclear Winter’s Tale: Science and Politics in the 1980s Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009, and Peter Stearns and Timothy Haggerty. “The Role of Fear: Transitions in American Emotional Standards for Children, 1850-1950.” The American Historical Review 96, no. 1 (February 1, 1991): 63–94.

March 6, 2014

The group discussed Daniel Schneider’s Hybrid Nature: Sewage Treatment and the Contradictions of the Industrial Ecosystem.

December 5, 2013

Rebecca Onion of PACHS introduced selections from New Natures: Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies, eds. Sara Pritchard, Dolly Jorgenson, Finn Arne Jorgenson, U of Pittsburgh Press, 2013.

November 7, 2013

Paul Sabin of Yale University introduced selections from his The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future (Yale UP, 2013)

October 3, 2013

Jacob Hamblin of Oregon State introduced selections from his book Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism

April 18, 2013

L. Ruth Rand introduced her Orbital Decay:  Space Junk and the Environmental History of a Global Commons, 1957-2009

March 7, 2013

Jody Roberts introduced his draft book chapter, Politics in a Bottle

February 7, 2013

Jeffery Brideau introduced his draft dissertation chapter, An Inland Seacoast?  The Origins of the Seaway Idea and Construction of Bi-National Interest

November 1, 2012

Jeffery Brideau introduced the Introduction from Confluence:  The Nature of Technology and the Remaking of the Rhône by Sara B. Pritchard.

October 18, 2012 (note special day)

Jody Roberts introduced the collection of essays The Future of Environmental History: Needs and Opportunities published by the Rachel Carson Center.

January 18, 2012

Building a Protective Web: CHESS and the Challenges of System Building in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1969-1977 by Jongmin Lee of Virginia Tech.

November 16, 2011

Group discussion of A Landscape of Energy Abundance: Anthracite Coal Canals and the Roots of American Fossil Fuel Dependence, 1820-1860 by Christopher F. Jones

October 19, 2011

The Nose as Sanitary Agent: Scenting the Home by Melanie Kiechle, CHF

May 18, 2011

Jody Roberts will introduce Climate for Change, or How to Create a Green Modernity?
by Ulrich Beck Theory Culture Society 2010 27: 254
A New Climate for Society
by Sheila Jasanoff
Theory Culture Society 2010 27: 233

April 20, 2011

The Cosmopolitan Society and Its Enemies by Ulrich Beck
Theory Culture Society 2002 19: 17
Science for the Post-normal Age
by Silvio 0. Funtowicz and Jerome R. Ravetz
Futures, Volume 25, Issue 7, September 1993, Pages 739-755

March 16, 2011

Introduction to Hidden Waters: Groundwater Histories of Iran and the Mediterranean by Abigail Schade, Columbia University

February 16, 2011

Unruly Technology and Fractured Oversight by Jody Roberts, Chemical Heritage Foundation


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