November 21, 2017

Environmental History October 2017, 22.4

TABLE OF CONTENTS at OUP October, 2017 | Vol. 22, No. 4



This issue takes us back to our roots, with articles focused on forest conservation, policy development, wilderness, and attempts to control our environments through technological fixes…

This issue’s full editor’s note…


Gallery Editors’ Note by Finis Dunaway

During the 1970s, the recently created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed an innovative documentary project: the agency sponsored photographers to travel around the United States and record visual evidence of environmental conditions. Although modeled after the influential Farm Security Administration photography program of the 1930s, the EPA project never attained the same cultural status as its New Deal predecessor. Nor has Documerica attracted much attention from environmental historians. In this issue’s Gallery essay, Caleb Wellum shows how this collection offers a unique visual archive of the decade’s pivotal environmental dilemmas. Looking at four photographs of petroleum infrastructure, Wellum takes us on a wide-ranging visual journey—from an oil platform off the California coast and the proposed path of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System to a pile of discarded oil barrels and a customer standing in a gas line. Even as he detects ambivalence in these pictures, Wellum also emphasizes how Documerica photographers tended to promote managerial, technocratic solutions to systemic environmental problems. His essay provides new insight into the much-debated energy crisis and reflects more broadly on the contested cultural meanings of oil.

Charles O’Rear’s photograph of an oil platform near Huntington Beach, California, May 1975. The accompanying caption reads, “Sunbathers at Huntington Beach, and an oil platform offshore. Nearby a major housing development is under construction, one of the relatively few that have been authorized since the coastal zone conservation act in 1973. The commissions, which are charged with determining development along the shoreline, must submit recommendations to the state legislature by January, 1976, recommending guidelines for future shoreline development.” Credit: EPA-Documerica—Charles O’Rear. Record Group 412, National Archives II, College Park, MD.