Environmental History

Reviving LBJ’s Vision

Maybe What We Need is a Green Great Society

Talk about a Green New Deal is rife these days, but perhaps what we should be talking about instead is a Green Great Society. Actually, Lyndon Johnson’s vision of the great society was green from the get-go, so maybe we could just call for a renewed Great Society. What the Great Society is known for …


EPA’s Mission: The Original Understanding

Guess what? EPA’s core mission wasn’t cutting regulatory costs.

What is EPA’s mission? To what extent is minimizing regulatory costs part of the core mission, as the Trump Administration seems to believe? Does the Trump/Pruitt/Wheeler view comport with original intent? History makes it clear that the  answer is no. The title of the agency itself suggests that the core mission is protecting the environment, …


What’s New Under the Sun?

New Book Demonstrates the Hidden History of Climate Science

It’s a great regret of mine that I did not study the history of science either as an undergraduate or in graduate school. Then, it seemed to me like an arcane, recondite field — almost bizarre. Boy, was I wrong. Now in my rapidly advancing dotage, I recognize how it touches on so many of …


The Truth About Environmental Originalism

Scott Pruitt advocates environmental originalism. It means the direct opposite of what he thinks.

Scott Pruitt has taken to talking about environmental originalism – going back to the original intent of our environmental laws. But he’s got the original intent completely backwards. The statutes weren’t intended to protect jobs or grow the economy. They were intended to protect the environment, with cost at best a secondary consideration. This is exactly …


Bush, Nader, and the Lost Years of Climate Policy

Actions by these two very different men set climate policy back eight years.

From 2001 to 2009, the US sat on its hands while the atmosphere filled with carbon. Much of that carbon came from the US itself, at six billion tons per year up to the 2008 crash. The story of how this came to pass is yet to be fully written. It is, in part, a …


What Do You Know About EPA? Test Your Knowledge.

Much of what most people think they know about EPA is wrong.

This test involves a few basics about EPA.  See how much you know. 1.  What President established EPA? A.  Kennedy. B.  Johnson C.   Nixon D.  Clinton 2.  When is cost a factor in issuing EPA regulations? A.  Whenever allowed by law. B.   Under Republican Presidents. C.   Only for minor regulations. D.   …


The First Environmentalist Law Teacher

William Colby (1870-1964), a pioneering figure in the Sierra Club from Berkeley’s past

I’m pretty sure that William E. Colby  qualifies as the nation’s first environmentalist law teacher, if only because environmentalism was very young at the time..  Colby was a lecturer on mining law and water law at Berkeley for twenty-one years, retiring in 1936.  (That doesn’t make him the first natural resources teacher;  Judge Lindley had taught …


What Martin Luther King DIDN’T Say

Issues like the environment and animal rights weren’t on his radar screen.

Since tomorrow is Martin Luther King day, I was curious about whether Dr. King had ever said anything about the environment.  When I did a google search, this quotation popped up over and over again: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. …


The Retrospective Greening of Bill Clinton

Last week, the EPA building was renamed for Bill Clinton.  This a bit ironic — not that he was anti-environmental, but the environment wasn’t exactly his top priority.  As you may recall, Clinton’s guiding philosophy was expressed by the motto, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  There’s no reason to think he has any particular passion about …


“The Past Isn’t Dead…”

“…it’s not even past.” — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun. After its excellent special issue on “Oil in American History,” the Journal of American History has done it again.  Its new issue includes a State Of The Field Symposium on American Environmental History, with an interpretive essay by the University of Georgia’s Paul S. …