Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History

Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History

by Ted Steinberg
     
 

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A tour de force of writing and analysis, Down to Earth offers a sweeping history of our nation, one that for the first time places the environment at the very center of our story. Writing with marvelous clarity, historian Ted Steinberg sweeps across the centuries, re-envisioning the story of America as he recounts how the environment has played a key role in… See more details below

Overview

A tour de force of writing and analysis, Down to Earth offers a sweeping history of our nation, one that for the first time places the environment at the very center of our story. Writing with marvelous clarity, historian Ted Steinberg sweeps across the centuries, re-envisioning the story of America as he recounts how the environment has played a key role in virtually every social, economic, and political development. Ranging from the colonists' attempts to impose order on the land to the modern efforts to sell the wilderness as a consumer good, packaged in national parks and Alaskan cruises, Steinberg reminds readers that many critical episodes in our history were, in fact, environmental events: the California Gold Rush, for example, or the great migration of African Americans to the North in the early twentieth century (in part the consequence of an insect infestation). Equally important, Steinberg highlights the ways in which we have envisioned nature, attempting to reshape and control it--from Thomas Jefferson's surveying plan that divided the national landscape into a grid, to the transformation of animals, crops, and even water into commodities (New Englanders started trading water rights by the early nineteenth century). From the Pilgrims to Disney World, Steinberg's narrative abounds with fascinating details and often disturbing insights into our interaction with the natural world. Few books truly change the way we see the past. Down to Earth is one of them: a vivid narrative that reveals the environment to be a powerful force in our history--a force that must be examined if we are truly to understand ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Ted Steinberg's book is a delight. [H]e shows how nature and natural events were influential in ways too often overlooked: for example, the role of climate in shaping the events and outcomes of the Civil War.... A coherent and well written overview of an extremely complex subject."-- Stephanie Pincetl, Department of Geography, University of Southern California, The American Historical Review

"With this book, Ted Steinberg boldly places the environment at the center of an important new synthesis of American history.... Down to Earth elegantly synthesizes the most recent work in the field and presents the author's own interpretations."--Linda Nash, Department of History, University of Washington, The Journal of American History

"Steinberg produces one of the best environmental histories ever written, a naturalist's version of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. Like Richard White and William Cronon, who worked this ground before him, he insists that our interaction with the land is a complex give-and-take that still leaves room for surprises."--Bruce Barcott, Outside Magazine

"A challenging new look at American history describing how the environment has played a key role in every aspect of American development.... Richly researched and filled with fascinating details, this book takes an important new look at history and may cause readers to pause and consider the consequences of their lifestyle."--Library Journal

"The most exciting and fundamentally new view of the national past in a generation. American history, in every sense, has never looked greener."--Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz, The Ecology of Fear, and Late Victorian Holocausts

"Steinberg chronicles the ecological effects of the clear-cutting of forests, the great push west, the building dams and railroads, and the rise of the cattle and car industries, heady endeavors that have diminished biodiversity and created vast quantities of hazardous waste and garbage. A socially conscious sibling to Tim Flannery's Eternal Frontier, Steinberg's scintillating environmental panorama reveals the ripple effect of every choice we make, from creating nuclear weapons to eating fast food, driving SUVs, and maintaining perfect lawns."--Booklist

"In this pioneering work, Ted Steinberg offers a bold new critical synthesis of American environmental history, the most ambitious that any scholar has attempted since the founding of the field more than a quarter century ago. By demonstrating the myriad but too often unackowledged ways in which familiar historical events have been intimately tied to the transformation and exploitation of the natural world, Down to Earth changes the way we think not just about our past, but our future as well."--William Cronon

"Steinberg is a refreshing historian because he writes from an environmental perspective. And he's a refreshing environmentalist because he's not hysterical."--Toronto Globe and Mail

"Steinberg's accessible survey will prove useful as a reference for green-inclined readers in and out of school."--Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199315017
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
05/09/2002
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
11 MB
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