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HIST 4323: Nature & Americans

The Sixties:
Wilderness, Nature, & Environment


Dr. Mark Stoll
Holden Hall 135 —
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 8:30–10:30 and by appointment

Dig the Crazy Purpose of the Course

This course explores the origins of the modern American environmental issues in the culture, society, politics, and tumultuous events of the 1960s. Using lecture, discussion, readings, video, and music, the instructor will create the context within which modern environmental concerns and activism first appeared. Environmentalism arose at the height of the Cold War crisis and, like the Chicano, feminist, and gay rights movements, achieved its greatest accomplishments after the civil rights and antiwar movements began to wind down. All these movements lost steam in the second half of the 1970s, and the Reagan Administration reversed course on them in 1981. Hence, the era from 1945 to 1981 captures all the essential elements and accomplishments of both the Sixties and the environmental movement.

This is a writing intensive course. In addition to completing exams, students will select on a leader, organization, or aspect of the environmental controversy and produce a research paper that puts that subject into the context of the era.

Far-Out Readings

·         Ted Steinberg, Down to Earth, 3rd ed.

·         Stradling, David. The Environmental Moment, 1968-1972.

·         William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students or other writing guide

Groovy Details

This is a writing-intensive course. Students will write one take-home take-home exam. In addition, students will write one research paper on a subject relating to the history of the postwar environmental movement.

Extra Credit opportunity: Attend the Wood Agricultural History Lecture on Friday, February 17, at 7:00 p.m., in the Escondido Theater in the SUB. Take notes and type them up in a synopsis of the lecture for 2 extra points on your final grade.

Style: All formal written work will be typed, double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman, with 1" margins top and bottom and 1-1/4" margins on each side, and page numbers in the margin. Include a cover sheet. Do not add any space between paragraphs. Use footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography for the research paper (but this is unnecessary for the book review). For style consult Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style.

Take-home Exams: Students will write one take-home exam.

Analytical Book Review: Students will write an analytical book review on a book of their choice, drawn from the professor's bibliography (excluding edited collections of essays or books required for the course). Papers must be between four and six pages in length. No footnotes or bibliography is needed. Cite sources for quotations by putting the page number(s) in parentheses after the quotation marks and before any punctuation, thusly: (p. 57).
Instructions for the analytical book review: For this review, students will select a book from a list of books the professor supplies to the class. The book review will have three sections:

Research Paper: Students will research and write a paper between twelve and sixteen pages long on a topic of their choice. In frequent consultation with the professor, students will master the secondary literature and find primary sources on their chosen subject. Students may write on one of the topics below, or come up with a subject on their own in consultation with the professor. Use footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography. For style consult Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style.

Some possible topics include:

·         Earth Day 1970

·         The Eisenhower administration and an environmental issue

·         The Kennedy administration and an environmental issue

·         The Johnson administration and an environmental issue

·         The Nixon administration and an environmental issue

·         The Carter administration and an environmental issue

·         The Reagan administration and an environmental issue

·         Lady Bird Johnson and the environment

·         Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall

·         A wilderness issue, e.g., the Wilderness Act, the RARE process, or specific controversy

·         The creation or defense of a local, state, or national park

·         The origins of the EPA or other major legislation or government agency

·         The Rockefeller family and the environment

·         Conservative environmentalists

·         Christians and the environmental crisis

·         Science fiction and the environment (for example, Ursula K. LeGuin or John Brunner)

·         Environmental themes in film (for example, Them!, Silent Running, Soylent Green, Chinatown, China Syndrome, Koyaanisqatsi)

·         The impact of a major environmental activist, such as David Brower, Barry Commoner, Edward Abbey, Paul Ehrlich, or Lois Gibbs

·         An environmental organization, such as the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace, or other

·         The Storm King controversy, or an environmental court case

·         The impact of Silent Spring, The Population Bomb, The Closing Circle, Limits to Growth, Small is Beautiful, Ecotopia, Whole Earth Catalog, or other important book

·         Resources for the Future

·         The first international environmental summit in Stockholm, 1972

·         The 1973 oil crisis or the 1979 oil crisis

·         Love Canal, “Valley of the Drums,” Times Beach, or other toxic waste controversy

·         The Three Mile Island nuclear accident

·         The controversy over plans for a specific nuclear power plant, such as Seacaucus or Diablo Canyon

·         The military’s impact on the environment, such as radioactive waste, nuclear weapons testing, or environmental impacts of one or more military bases

·         Nuclear testing, the environment, and human health (such as Utah residents or nearby Indian tribes)

·         The relationship of the environmental movement to society or to other movements (antiwar, feminism, etc.)

·         The battle against a dam, such as Echo Park, Grand Canyon, or Tellico

·         The controversy over DDT, Alar, or another pesticide

·         The rise of agribusiness and its environmental impact (chemicals, animals, soil exhaustion and erosion, etc.)

·         Pesticides and the farmworker movement of Cesar Chavez

·         The organic farming movement or natural foods stores

·         The counterculture and the environment

·         Communes or the back-to-the-land movement

·         Minorities and the environment

·         The Santa Barbara oil spill

·         One aspect of the fight against water pollution, such as the “death” of Lake Erie or the Hudson River cleanup

·         One aspect of the fight against air pollution, such as the rise and control of smog or the Donora crisis

·         The politics of the energy crisis

·         The “Sagebrush Rebellion” and public lands

·         Controversy over the cross-Florida canal, the Florida airport, or another major Florida development

·         Preserving species or wildlife

·         Making suburbs more environmentally friendly

·         The movement for the development of renewable fuel sources, such as solar or wind power

·         Recycling

·         The fight for auto emission control

Students will turn in their choices of paper topic with a preliminary bibliography, which counts as 10% of the paper grade.

Students will give 10-minute presentations of their papers in the last weeks of class. The class will have an opportunity to ask questions afterwards.

Grading: The final grade will be calculated on the following basis:

·         15% Book review

·         20% Takehome exam

·         10% Thesis and bibliography

·         50% Research paper

·         5% Presentation

Students may optionally submit a re-write of their research papers, due on May 3 at 5:00 p.m., and the average of the grades of the two papers will be entered as the grade for the paper.

Plagiarism: Using text written by someone else (even in a close paraphrase) without clear and unambiguous acknowledgment is academic dishonesty and will result in an “F” for the course.

Attendance: The professor will call roll at the beginning of each class. Students with a perfect attendance record will receive three bonus points on their final grades. Students with more than two absences will receive 1.5 points off their final grades for each absence over one. The instructor will accept excuses in cases of true need if appropriately documented. Students who leave class early may be counted absent. Three tardies count as one absence. Students more than 10 minutes late will be counted absent.

Electronics in the classroom: Electronic devices distract both the student and nearby students. All electronic devices must be turned off and put away during class time. Texting or other use of cell phones or laptops is prohibited. Laptops may be used with permission of the instructor for class-related activities only, such as note-taking. This means no e-mail, social media, Internet surfing, video watching, or other non-academic activities. Students using unauthorized electronic devices during class will be asked to leave and counted absent for the day.

Note: Any student who intends to observe a religious holy day should make that intention known to the instructor prior to the absence.  A student who is absent from class for the observance of a religious holy day shall be allowed to take an examination or complete an assignment scheduled for that day within a reasonable time after the absence.  See University Standard Operating Procedure 34.19.
Note: Any student who, because of a disability, may require special arrangements in order to meet the course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make any necessary arrangements. Students should present appropriate verification from Student Disability Services during the instructor’s office hours. Please note: instructors are not allowed to provide classroom accommodations to a student until appropriate verification from Student Disability Services has been provided. For additional information, please contact Student Disability Services in West Hall or call 806-742-2405.
    The professor reserves the right to change this syllabus at his discretion. Changes will be announced in class and posted on the class Webpages.



Schedule of Happenings

Jan 19



Postwar America


The Fifties


Reading: Steinberg, v–169

Feb 2

Reading: Steinberg, 171–300


Nuclear worries, dams, outdoor recreation, and origins of environmentalism


The Sixties


Analytical Book Review Due
The Sixties


Reading: Storey, chapter 1

The Sixties, cont.


Paper Topic and Preliminary Bibliography Due

The Sixties, cont.


The Sixties


Reading: Stradling, 3–58; Storey, chapters 2-4

Mar 2

The Seventies


Reading: Stradling, 59–105


The Seventies


Spring Break


Nixon, the Environmental President


The Watergate Era. Reading: Stradling, 106–138


Carter and late-1970s Environmental Issues. Stradling, Reading: 139–160


No class; work on papers

Apr 4

In-class individual consultation


In-class individual consultation


In-class individual consultation


In-class individual consultation


Papers Due







May 2





Rewrites due


5:00 p.m.: Take-home Exam Due

Expected Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of this course, the students will be able to (1) describe major events and themes in the history of the Sixties era and early environmentalism; (2) explain the ways events and social and cultural developments shaped American environmentalism; (3) describe the history of early environmental institutions and policies; (4) develop analytical arguments in written and/or oral forms by analyzing critically major historical events, people, ideas, values, and institutions that shape society’s contemporary environmental successes and problems; (5) know how to write a research paper, including development of an argument, use of primary and secondary sources, and proper footnote and bibliography style.

Assessment of Expected Learning Outcomes: Exams, consisting essay questions, assess outcomes 1, 2, 3, and 4; discussion assesses 1, 2, and 3; the research paper assesses outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.