The OAH Magazine of History

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Environmental History Revisited

from the editor

The Battle of Butchertown, by Carl R. Weinberg

Rustic Pork Paté Served Room Temperature with Blue Dog Baguette. House Made Chorizo Sausage with Swiss Cheese and Dijon Mustard. House Cured Loin Bacon on Buttered Breadworks Salad. These are a few of the porcine delicacies you can try at Louisville’s Blind Pig—“Butchertown’s Premier Swine Dining Establishment”—if you have the money. According to a review in the New York Times, “an average meal for two, without drinks or tip, is about $60.” I haven’t eaten there, but last summer I did spend some time two blocks away in the Butchertown neighborhood on Story Avenue at a very different pig-related establishment. For the previous week, I had been teaching high school and middle school teachers about the history of the labor movement in an NEH-sponsored institute at Indiana University-Bloomington. For our culminating activity, we visited Butchertown’s JBS-Swift pork processing plant, whose 1,300 workers belong to Local 227 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). We met with plant managers and union stewards. We saw, heard, and smelled how pigs were slaughtered. Most relevant for this issue, we learned about a decade-old environmental dispute between JBS-Swift, a Brazil-based multinational, and the Butchertown Neighborhood Association (BNA). Read online >


Environmental History: Complexity, Connections, and Place,
by Sarah S. Elkind
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Everything and the Kitchen Sink: Enriching the U.S. History Survey Course with Environmental History ,
by Patty Limerick
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Editor's Choice

Empire’s Footprint: The Ecological Dimensions of a Consumers’ Republic,
by John Soluri
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Natural Disasters in the Making: Fossil Fuels, Humanity, and the Environment,
by Christopher J. Castaneda
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Nature in the City: Urban Environmental History and Central Park,
by Colin Fisher
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teaching resources

Historian with a Chainsaw: Teaching Environmental History in the Field,
by Brian Donahue
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Thinking About Progress: Teaching a High School Environmental History Seminar,
by Amy Schwartz
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Teaching U.S. History with Environmentally Themed Cartoons ,
by Paul Hirt
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Team Teaching History, English, and Biology: An Integrative Approach,
by Billie Jean Clemens and Honor McElroy
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on teaching

Readings in Environmental History: An Unscientific Survey,
by Readings in Environmental History: An Unscientific Survey Sarah S. Elkind
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bringing history alive

Editor's Choice

A Lively Seminar on Death: Teaching the Environmental History of the Human Corpse,
by Ellen Stroud
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on the cover

“Unloading bananas on the dock, Mobile, Alabama,” February, 1937 (Photograph by Arthur Rothstein; Courtesy of Library of Congress)

In 1937, Mobile, Alabama was the third largest importer of bananas in the U.S. The United Fruit Company dominated the trade, shipping millions of bunches from its Central American plantations to U.S. ports. Laboring on the Mobile docks, this worker—possibly a ship crew member from Central America—carries bananas onto a refrigerated boxcar. (Most dockworkers were African American rural migrants.) Once a luxury, the banana became ordinary fare by the early twentieth century. The change in American consumption had profound effects on Central American labor, politics, and ecologies, including massive deforestation and agrochemical pollution. Environmental history offers a rich vantage point on the global intersections between nature, labor, politics, and culture.