“Environmental History,
St Louis and Beyond”


The St Louis Regional Historical Societies presents “Environmental History, St Louis and Beyond – 2018” a speaker series on environmental history from April 17 to May 24, including a panel discussion on May 16 and finishing May 24 with the capstone speaker, Dr Adam Rome, on “The Genius of Earth Day.”


April 17, Tuesday, 7:00 pm at Wildwood Historical Society
“St Louis’ Radioactive Legacy” by Ed Smith
Did you see the documentary about St. Louis’ radioactive legacy, Atomic Homefront, on HBO earlier this year? The role St. Louis played in the production of nuclear weapons during WWII has been mostly forgotten, even as the region continues to tackle its environmental legacy more than seventy years later. The St. Louis region was ground zero for the processing of uranium used for nuclear weapons from 1942-1957. Our region even had a role in the ban of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing through The Baby Tooth Survey coordinated by Washington University in St. Louis. Join Ed Smith from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, who was in Atomic Homefront, to hear the story of St. Louis’ radioactive legacy and ongoing efforts to cleanup Coldwater Creek and the West Lake Landfill.

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April 25, Wednesday, 7:00 pm at Old Trails Historical Society in Manchester -Ballwin
“Historical Perspectives of Climate Change” by David Henry

The issue of climate change is considered by some to be controversial. Yet, there is little controversy about it in the scientific community. The vast majority of climate scientists accept the basic facts of climate change: 1) that certain gases (such as carbon dioxide) trap heat within earth’s atmosphere; 2) that increases in these greenhouse gases cause increases in average global temperatures; 3) that small changes in global temperature can have profound effects on the global environment; and that 4) the increases in average global temperature we have seen in that past 200 years are due, primarily, to human activity.

Those who continue to debate the facts of climate change often do so by limiting the scope of their arguments. They may only consider changes in their local region. They will frequently limit the historical time frame to make their point. By limiting the time frame to recent years, they may argue that warming has ‘stalled’. By taking an overly broad perspective, they may argue that the climate has always changed – more than what we have seen in the past two centuries. In the political realm, some argue that climate change is a recent ‘liberal hoax’ made famous by Al Gore and that climate scientists have a ‘liberal’ bias.

This talk will cover the broader historical perspectives of climate change starting with the views of Alexander Von Humboldt from the early 19th century; considering the scientific discoveries that established the basic facts of climate change over the past two hundred years; and finishing with our current situation and the hard decisions we now face.

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April 26, Thursday, 7:00 pm at Historical Society of University City
“A History of Environmental Issues in St. Louis and Missouri” by Don Corrigan
This talk is a comprehensive guide to local and state environmental issues involving the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we inhabit in the Show-Me State. It examines such problems as urban sprawl, polluted streams, radioactive waste, lead contamination, airborne mercury, ozone and smog, and noise and light pollution. It raises questions about wildlife concerns: What’s with the Asian Carp taking over our rivers? Why are the bees disappearing? When will the Ozark Hellbender revive and thrive? It is not all bad news and pessimism. The talk will cover at how sustainability looks at how Missourians are going green, whether it’s with cloth diaper parties, raising backyard chickens, farming responsibly, or hosting green burials at trail’s end. The talk argues that we should teach our children well, instead of trying to sweep problems under the rug. It’s time to tackle matters head on and guide the way to a more sustainable future!

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May 5, Saturday, 1:30 pm at Carondelet Historical Society
“A Brief History of Landscape Architecture in St. Louis” by Esley Hamilton
Although St. Louis largely grew up without a plan, over two centuries many outstanding landscape designers have worked here, laying out neighborhoods, parks, institutions and individual properties. This talk is intended to draw attention to this liitle-known part of our heritage.

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May 15, Tuesday, 7:00 pm at Webster Groves Historical Society
“The Mighty Mississippi: Sustaining Life in the Confluence Region” by David Lobbig

Connect with the most important natural features of our area: the Mighty Mississippi and its many important tributaries. Learn how our present and future are informed by our rich history with the river. Explore how our cultural connections with the watershed’s bountiful resources reveal the ways
in which our lives, and a diverse natural community, can be sustained. Finally, recognize how some of our most important environmental failures and successes help us examine how to strengthen our bonds to place and work toward a sustainable future.
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May 17, Thursday, 7:00 pm at Sappington-Concord Historical Society
“The Secret History of St. Louis’ Weather and What We Can Learn From It” by Andrew Hurley
Weather rarely occupies a prominent place in the history of modern cities.  The prospect of global warming and increasingly erratic weather patterns, however, demand that we take a closer look at how urban populations have responded and adapted to unusual weather conditions in the past. This presentation will review long-term weather trends in St. Louis and explore the ways that St. Louisans have responded to a variety of weather challenges in the past, including tornadoes, storms, and heat waves over the last century.  It will also report on a recent community engagement project that employs historical research to help inner-city populations plan for the impacts of climate change.  Over the past two years, faculty and students at the University of Missouri-St. Louis have partnered with grass-roots organizations in several St. Louis neighborhoods to identify climate-related liabilities and assets through the production of local landscape histories and citizen-generated photo narrations about meaningful places. This data has been fed into a variety of community planning exercises. The presentation will conclude with a more general assessment of how historical knowledge can enhance climate change preparedness at the neighborhood level.

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May 23, Wednesday, 7:00 pm at Clayton Historical Society
“Blessing or Boondoggle? A Historical Perspective on the Biofuel Debate” by Jeff Manuel
We are in the midst of a long-term energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Yet few sources of renewable energy have been as controversial as biofuels, especially ethanol made from corn. Supporters argue that corn ethanol is key to reducing carbon emissions and supporting rural economies, while detractors believe it is a government-sponsored boondoggle that does little to address pollution. This talk will discuss the long history of alcohol fuels in the United States—going back to the nineteenth century—to demonstrate why this energy source has been so controversial.
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