Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History / Edition 3

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In this ambitious and provocative text, environmental historian Ted Steinberg offers a sweeping history of the United States—a history that places the environment at the very center of the narrative. Now in a new edition, Down to Earth reenvisions the story of America "from the ground up." It reveals how focusing on plants, animals, climate, and other ecological factors can radically change the way that we think about the past. Examining such familiar topics as colonization, the industrial revolution, slavery, the Civil War, and the emergence of consumer culture, Steinberg recounts how the natural world influenced the course of human history. From the colonists' attempts to impose order on the land to modern efforts to sell the wilderness as a consumer good, he reminds readers that many critical episodes in U.S. history were, in fact, environmental events. The text highlights the ways in which Americans have attempted to reshape and control nature, from Thomas Jefferson's surveying plan, which divided the national landscape into a grid, to the transformation of animals, crops, and even water into commodities.

In this third edition, Steinberg addresses the role of corporations in U.S. environmental history, in part by exploring the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He has also updated the discussion of climate change in order to offer a fuller assessment of U.S. policy and its world-historical importance.

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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: 9780199797394
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/29/2012
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 112,463
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Steinberg is Davee Professor of History and Law at Case Western Reserve University. He is author of American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn (2006), Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America (OUP, 2000), Slide Mountain, or the Folly of Owning Nature (1996), and Nature Incorporated (1994).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments to the Third Edition
Acknowledgments to the Second Edition

Prologue: Rocks and History

Part One: Chaos to Simplicity
1. Wilderness under Fire
2. A Truly New World
3. Reflections from a Woodlot

Part Two: Rationalization and Its Discontents
4. A World of Commodities
5. King Climate in Dixie
6. The Great Food Fight
7. Extracting the New South
8. The Unforgiving West
9. Conservation Reconsidered
10. Death of the Organic City

Part Three: Consuming Nature
11. Moveable Feast
12. The Secret History of Meat
13. America in Black and Green
14. Throwaway Society
15. Shade of Green
16. In Corporations We Trust


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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2014

    Dazzling analysis! Environmental history from multiple points of

    Dazzling analysis! Environmental history from multiple points of view.

     I am giving them as gifts!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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