American Environmental History


Welcome to American Environmental History!

Environmental History is about looking at the past as if the environment mattered. Long ago the world seemed so big and human actions so small that it was easy to ignore our effect on the world around us. Today we understand that people have a big impact on our surroundings. And we're becoming aware that our environment has played a big part in our individual lives and our cultures. Instead of a neutral backdrop, the environment is now being recognized as a powerful shaper of human choices. That is, history.

This website is based on an undergraduate  course I teach at a major American university (UMass/Amherst). The material is appropriate for college students and highly motivated high school or home school students --- and for anyone who wants to better understand how we got to where we are today, and where we might go from here.





I've read a LOT of environmental history books, and I talk about a lot of them in my course and also in the "Library" section of this site. But because the field of environmental history is so new, there really isn't a great textbook yet. There's nothing really appropriate for introducing undergraduates, high school students, or the general public to these important ideas. So I'm turning my class into a book. Click here to see the work in progress.




I teach American Environmental History online. So instead of standing in front of a classroom lecturing, I've made video lectures my students watch and discuss. Each video is 20-30 minutes long and filled with images that illustrate the ideas I'm discussing. Now you can watch these same videos and basically take a college-level course without paying for it or taking any tests!  Click here to see a list of the videos available.




The most important aspect of American Environmental History is that it helps us understand a lot of the issues facing us today. So unlike some branches of history, we're very interested in what's going on today and what people are planning for tomorrow. We're also committed to action --- to taking these lessons out of the classroom and applying what we learn. Click here to see breaking news and current events.