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The above links demonstrate a basic navigational structure of this course and the organization of the readings and work assigned so that you may use those links to further excel in your learning. But below is the day-by-day links to class discussion pages.



Opening Topics  

August 25

Pursell, Machine


August 27
Motivating students to describe their environs.


September 1
Effective Strategies to describe places


September 3
Experiencing the wild frontier


September 8




More Course calendar dates

American Environmental History

"Give me people to match my mountains."

Thompson, 1913


Environmental History: An analysis of land, labor, and capital in America

"Busy as we are from childhood
 tilling Mother Earth, we peasants have no time to let any nonsense
settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we haven't land
enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself!"

Leo Tolstoy, "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"

Calendar of when & what to read.

Weekly discussions


"Environmental history was . . . born out of a moral purpose, with strong political commitments behind it, but also became, as it matured, a scholarly enterprise that had neither any simple, nor any single, moral or political agenda to promote. Its principal goal became one of deepening our understanding of how humans have been affected by their natural environment through time and, conversely, how they have affected that environment and with what results."

Donald Worster, The Ends of the Earth (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 290.

A Detailed Description

The study of America's natural environment in the past, in retrospect, is a story about land-use and land use changes created by the needs of a people to thrive and not merely survive. To comprehend the enduring character of how generations of Americans sustained their changing social needs this course examines the cultural and natural resources as embodied in land to better recognize the crossroads whereat we now stand. As Elizabeth Ann R. Bird has said "From [environmental] histories we can infer the modes of thought and behavior that are more likely than others to be detrimental to the environment we want to live in. A primary element of such histories should be the social analysis of scientific knowledge construction, because many technologies that are science-based cause so many environmental problems."

Elizabeth Ann R. Bird, "The Social Construction of Nature."

An Interpretation

of the course description in the syllabus:

The course builds on knowledge of geography, art, biology and literature so you can weave these separate bodies of knowledge together chronologically to best answer this question: "What is worth protecting in America and how well do we preserve our natural heritage for future generations to appreciate, use, or pass it on?"

"The past is never dead. Actually, it is not even past."

William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun. 1951 (Act 3 Scene 1).

Dates in American History to use and recall

1785, The Land Ordinance; created the Township & Range survey system

1864, George Perkins Marsh published Man and Nature.

1910, The Washington D.C. Governor's Conference on Conservation

1964, The Wilderness Act: protects 109 million acres in 44 states today is just less than five percent (5%) of the nation's land area.

This American Land


Syllabus, an outline of the subjects in a course of study.

Environment, a setting or condition in which something transpires, external conditions of existence.

History, a study of the past; an analysis of causes and consequences over time.

Ecosystems, the specialists term for living (biological) associations of plants, animal,s bacteria and fungi in a community with a collateral concept of region, place or habitat as the area occupied by that living community.

Ecology, is a study of ecosystems or the surroundings for living things.

Ecological footprint

A visual image representing the impact of people on their surroundings called ecosystems that is referred to as an ecological footprint.



Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Roderick Frasier Nash, The American Environment, & Island Civilization

Carolyn Merchant, Major Problems in American Environmental History

Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire

Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert

Primary Documents

Henry David Thoreau, Journals, Faith in a Seed

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Rene Dubos, Man Adapting

Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., Journey Through the Seaboard Slave States

George Perkins Marsh, Man and Nature

W. E. B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk: The Black Belt

John Wesley Powell, "Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the U. S." 1879 [see land realism.]

Aldo Leopold, Thinking Like a Mountain, & Round River

Luna B. Leopold, Rivers and water ethics

Thomas Cole

George Catlin

Student Learning Outcomes for American Environmental History are in the cognitive domain.

In this class we read in order to actively discuss and examine the ideas of the national character as portrayed by authors: Crosby, Pursell, Worster, Austin, and Bates as a foundation. We do so in order to delineate, explain, and judge competing sources of wealth in written discourse.

Class Wiki








By nature, by custom and by inclination we cherish those treasures least often that most often must be forever entailed for the good of all.




Georgia O'keeffe