Ronald Reagan’s Environmental Legacy

Before the end of his first term in office, President Ronald Reagan seemed to alienate, outrage, and motivate more environmentalists than any of his predecessors. His reforms, his bureaucratic strategies, and the people he put into positions of power all had the appearance of reversing the political successes of the environmental movement of the previous…

The Atom does not wait for favors from nature!

Can the atom quicken the pace of evolution in order to feed a hungry world? The notorious Soviet scientist Trofim Lysenko used to claim (or shout) that real scientists don’t wait for random changes to happen. They don’t wait for favors from nature! Real scientists use tools and knowledge to shape human destiny! He wasn’t the only…

Seeing the Oceans According to Our Values

My essay on how “seeing the oceans” has changed over time was published in the June 2014 issue of Isis. The title is “Seeing the Oceans in the Shadow of Bergen Values.” It begins with a discussion of how the oceanographer Roger Revelle is lionized today because of his role collecting data on the carbon…

Arming Mother Nature Excerpted in Salon

I learned today that a portion (chapter 6, to be exact) of my book Arming Mother Nature has been excerpted on Salon.  The excerpt is titled “We Tried to Weaponize the Weather,” which is much more direct that the chapter’s title, “Wildcat Ideas for Environmental Warfare.”  It’s the natural one to excerpt, I think, because…

World War II and the Environment

“World War II was wide ranging in its human, animal, and material destruction, it halted certain political ideologies in their tracks and strengthened others, and entailed the mobilization of natural resources on an unprecedented scale.  And yet scholars have been slow to assess the war’s environmental dimensions.” So begins my recent essay on the environmental…

Japan Forum: Fukushima and the Motifs of Nuclear History

How do we tell the story of Fukushima?  The finger-pointing frenzy that occurred in the wake of the crisis is extremely useful for historians.  As people tried to blame each other, they enlisted a range of understandings–and misunderstandings–about the history of nuclear issues.  As historians, we need to be conscious of the power of the…

NATO and Environmentalism

Did you know that Richard Nixon tried to turn NATO into an environmental organization?  It was pretty baffling for the allies, who took the alliance seriously as a military organization, and also took seriously their scientific bodies devoted to environmental issues.  But Nixon had a different agenda, to link environmental issues to American foreign policy…

Environmental Histories of the Cold War

I was excited to be part of this volume, writing about biological weapons and radioactive contamination in the early years of the Cold War.  The books emerged from a conference at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., and is edited by J. R. McNeill and Corinna Unger.  Here’s the description: Environmental Histories of the…