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June 4th, 2015

Citizens and the media regularly subject American politicians’ lives to public scrutiny. We hear about scandals. We hear about philanthropic visits and awards. We hear about financial troubles and financial successes. Yet rarely do we receive a holistic portrait of such political leaders, one that covers their lives unflinchingly and honestly, yet with tact. Author and historian William G. Robbins manages to do just that. He joins us today to discuss the impetus behind his latest work, A Man for All Seasons: Monroe Sweetland and the Liberal Paradox.

 

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Monroe Sweetland’s name first emerged in a graduate seminar at the University of Oregon in the late 1960s—as I recall—associated with a romantic sounding, radical political organization, the Oregon Commonwealth Federation.  Sweetland’s name surfaced again decades later at a labor history meeting in Portland where a friend identified him as the person who asked a question from the back of the room.  In subsequent visits to Portland I would occasionally see him in the vicinity of Portland State University, white cane in hand and usually in the company of a graduate student.

 MonroeSweetland

Sweetland, who suffered from macular degeneration, had been legally blind since the early 1990s.  Then, shortly after his death in 2006, my longtime friend Steve Haycox (University of Alaska, Anchorage) urged me to write Sweetland’s biography.  “You’re the right person to do his biography,” he enthused.  I begged off, already heavily invested in a big research project on insurgent movements in the American West.  But the amorphous nature of that venture prompted me to consider something more definitive, a problem that reminded me of the Peanuts’ character, Lucy, who was reading a book—“A man was born, he lived and he died.  The End.”  

 

With that heady sentiment in mind, I contacted Steve who put me in touch with Barbara Sweetland Smith, Monroe’s oldest daughter.  A computer search of his name found page upon page of links!  What I discovered was a person who led a fascinating and multifaceted life, living through the cultural revolution of the 1920s, the radical politics of the Great Depression, the island-hopping campaign of American forces in the Pacific during the Second World War, the fear-provoking politics of the Cold War, the civil rights and antiwar protests of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the conservative swing in American politics with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Through a remarkably active life, Monroe Sweetland took part for seven decades to advance the welfare of the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, and the less fortunate.  He was truly A Man for all Seasons.1

 

Sweetland’s long public career provides a literal tour through Oregon and national history since 1930—field organizer for the socialist League for Industrial Democracy in the early 1930s, founder of the radical Oregon Commonwealth Federation in 1937, field director for the CIO War Relief Committee in 1941, two years with the Red Cross in the Pacific, publisher of Oregon weekly newspapers, 1948-1963, member of the Oregon legislature 1952-1963, journalism lecturer in Indonesia 1963-1964, and legislative director of the thirteen western states for the National Education Association (NEA), 1964-1975.  Already well known to leading national political figures, Sweetland achieved two major accomplishments with NEA—he was the principal architect of the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 and led the agency’s push for the age-eighteen vote, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, in 1971.

 

The always optimistic Sweetland was confident that rational liberal policies would democratize and humanize social and political institutions.  While most Americans today may not share that vision, Monroe was incapable of believing there was any erosion to America’s promise.  With his friends and associates alike, Sweetland was rooted in the real world of success and failure, of admirers and detractors, but he never lost faith that rational good will would prevail.  That mood, that sense of buoyancy, inspired others, perhaps no one more than his traveling companion with NEA, Rey Martinez, who remarked: “There is hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of Monroe.  Every fiber of his being is seared in my memory.  I never walked with a greater human being.”  At Monroe’s memorial service in September 2006, his granddaughter, Kate Sweetland-Lambird, thanked Monroe for teaching her to dance, “to debate with knowledge to back up my arguments, to have a sense of humor about life and live each day in service to others.”

 

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1A Man for all Seasons is the title of Robert Bolt’s 1966 Academy Award-winning film of Thomas More, the 16th century counsellor to England’s King Henry VIII, who refused to sanction the king’s divorce so that he could marry another woman.  For his principled stand, More was tried and executed.

 

 

William G. Robbins, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History at Oregon State University from 1971 to 2002, is the author and editor of several books, including Monroe Sweetland. Following a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy, he earned a B.S. degree from Western Connecticut State University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Oregon. He is currently at work on the sesquicentennial history of Oregon State University as a land-grant institution.

 

May 28th, 2015

History may be made in a variety of ways. But when Oregon’s only two female governors join forces, it’s bound to be memorable.

 

RoseFestivalFormer governor Barbara Roberts, who held the seat from 1991 – 1995, will join current Governor Kate Brown in leading the 2015 Portland Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade. The two politicians have been named grand marshals and will march at the forefront of the parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. on June 6.

 

According to the event website, committee members chose the grand marshals to “salute the leadership and statesmanship of these two women, who have helped make Oregon such a great state to live in and visit.” The accomplishments and contributions of Roberts and Brown are indeed extensive.

 

Kate Brown gained the office in February after serving as Secretary of State, a result of former governor John Kitzhaber’s resignation.  Upon being sworn in, Brown promised to work toward restoring unity and public trust in the governmental system.  Brown’s prior accomplishments include becoming the first woman to serve as Oregon senate majority leader and updating the state’s campaign finance reporting system.

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Two decades before, Barbara Roberts had charted unknown political territory, serving as the state’s very first female governor. Facing political and societal stigmas, Roberts worked hard to pursue goals of improved public education and the protection of human rights. Roberts’s governorship is also remembered for its focus on tax reforms and environmental interests. In 2011, she published a memoir chronicling her unlikely rise to power, titled Up the Capitol Steps. OSU Press is proud to announce that the Rose Festival Association provided a copy of the memoir to each princess on the 2015 Rose Court.

 

“I am so honored to be joining governor Kate Brown as Grand Marshal of Portland’s 2015 Grand Floral Parade,” Roberts wrote in a news release covered by the Oregonian. “As the only two women who share the historic role as Oregon Governors, we look forward to celebrating with Portland and with Oregon in our state’s equally historic Grand Floral Parade.”

 

With these two influential women at the helm, the parade promises to live up to its 2015 theme and be a “bloomin’ good time.”

May 21st, 2015

 

How does one define “better”? It’s a question redolent of philosophy, but one that applies to nearly every aspect of our lives. In her forthcoming book, Building a Better Nest, Evelyn Searle Hess tackles this all-encompassing question. Hess joins us today to discuss the very essence of her work and share what we as a global community may do to live fulfilled, harmonious lives.

 

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As the story unfolds of building our first house in over a decade and a half, Building a Better Nest asks the question, “What is ‘better’ not just for the individual or family, but also for the ecosystem, the community and the world?” Unfortunately, the road is long and bumpy between defining “better” and being able to do anything about it.

 

First we must acknowledge the extent of the mess our species has made of our planet: disappearing species, polluted air and water, widening income gap, climate craziness, acidification of rising seas, blown-up mountains, destroyed ecosystems and more. Then we come face to face with myriad roadblocks to rerouting that relentless march to annihilation: our economic system that favors growth, progress and the bottom line over all things natural; our society’s acceptance of acquisition as a symbol of success and of convenience and comfort as necessities for happiness; the continuing divorce of humanity from the natural world, and the innate human fear of change. How do we build a better nest in the face of an economy, social goals and our own lizard brains all hell-bent for destruction of that very nest?

 

Neuroscience shows that people’s happiness conflates with their expectations. Corporate advertisers exploit this fact regularly, directing our expectations toward more, newer and fancier. But we can choose to define our own goals in self- and nature-affirming ways, rather than letting the P.R. folks be the designers of our dreams. If we can imagine a better world, we can make it so. Rather than profit for the CEO and shareholders, the bottom line we strive for could be happiness for the 99% and healthy ecosystems. We could learn to look forward to a productive backyard garden rather than a second car, to cooperative ventures rather than exploitive ones, to the rewards of doing work we love rather than working for status.

 

If we accept the challenge of living our own best lives, we will find concert in a community where almost everyone yearns for more authenticity and meaning. That community can stretch beyond a clutch of friends to the neighborhood and distant reaches until it finds the strength to influence legislation and inspire the production of sustainable technologies. And that community may recognize itself as part of a bioregion that includes air, water and soil required for life, along with all of the other creatures sharing that air, water and soil, from the most miniscule to the immense, from the floating and the swimming, the wriggling and the creeping, the galloping and the flying, to the sprouting and flowering and leafing and towering. And we will then know that saving the individual requires saving each other and our life-giving biosphere.

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This is not a pipe dream. Like building a house from its foundation, all-important movements for change begin from the bottom—with people committed to a vision and brave enough to defy the accepted norm. The damage already done to this planet is such that major change is already on its way, but if we choose now to live as responsibly as possible--simply, attentively, cooperatively and empathetically--we can not only mitigate the damage, we can learn and teach our children how to live more rewarding and harmonious lives.

 

As Building a Better Nest tracks the building of the house and plumbs ancestral memories, it seeks to understand the myriad connections essential to all species and the societal and personal strictures that limit our ability to honor and conserve those connections. The book will do its job if it provokes conversation. May we grab the controls of our careening ship to give this blue planet and our children a fighting chance.

 

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Evelyn Searle Hess is the author of two books published by OSU Press, including the forthcoming Building a Better Nest: Living Lightly at Home and in the World. Having worn a variety of hats in her lifetime—including teacher, gardener, nursery owner, and garden designer—she now lives along southern Oregon’s Coast Range, weeding, writing, and trying to put up her garden produce before the critters get it. Her 2010 book, To the Woods, earned a WILLA Literary Award for Best Creative Nonfiction.

May 14th, 2015

 

Some books must be read more than once. Some books appeal to multiple generations. And some books fit into both categories. Historian Richard W. Etulain joins us today to discuss the powerful prose of one of Oregon’s greatest literary legacies.

 

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Ask an Oregonian to identify the only novelist from the state to win a Pulitzer Prize. The frequent—and wrong—answers are Ken Kesey, Ursula LeGuin, or, for the younger set, Chuck Palahniuk.

 

The correct response: H. L. Davis’s Honey in the Horn (1935), which snagged a coveted Pulitzer in 1936.  It also won the Harper Prize for 1935.

 HoneyintheHorn

I learned of Davis and his nationally recognized novel when I was in graduate school at the University of Oregon in the early 1960s.  Davis had died in 1960, but among Oregon’s literary cognoscenti he was still remembered.

 

Harold Lenoir Davis broke free from the numbing traditions of previous writers in the Pacific Northwest.  He avoided the romance genre Frederic Homer Balch utilized in his long-popular Bridge of the Gods (1890) and kept his distance from the formula-ridden Westerns of Zane Grey and Max Brand.

 

Instead, as I came to realize, Davis had, by diligent work, become a superb regional writer.  He did for the Pacific Northwest what William Faulkner did for the South, John Steinbeck for California. Most of all, regional writers like Davis showed how regions or places shaped diverse characters.

 

While in Eugene I encountered Status Rerum (1927), the scandalous pamphlet Davis and James Stevens concocted attacking Pacific Northwest creative writing teachers and their students.  These misguided mentors were, Davis and Stevens chuckled, nothing but “posers, parasites, and pismires” turning out an “interminable avalanche of tripe.”   They didn’t even know how to “castrate calves.”

 

Status Rerum prepared the way for Honey in the Horn.  Davis would then go his own stubborn way, avoiding the romance and the Western and turning out fiction rich in regional settings, local speech patterns, and individualistic character types.

 

When I dipped into Honey in the Horn, Davis’s first novel, I was immediately drawn to the familiar “growing up” theme at the center of his novel.  Two youthful wanderers without strong, experienced moorings, Clay and Luce, drift through Davis’s marvelously described landscapes—from the Oregon Coast, to the Willamette Valley, and on to the High Deserts.

 

Some readers exult over Davis’s vivid landscapes.  They should. But I am even more intrigued by his wry, pungent characterizations of a whole gamut of regional character types.  His character vignettes depict a spectrum of pioneer figures that Oregon’s previous—and many later—writers have overlooked.  More than a few of Davis’s characters seem like vagabonds searching, often unsuccessfully, for Oregon places in which to root themselves.

 

Understandably, Davis’s unvarnished treatment of Oregon and its early settlers alienated the state’s cultural chauvinists.  Unbowed, Davis moved on to write a clutch of strong novels, short stories, and essays about the Oregon Country.  All overflowed with a redolent regionalism, demonstrating how a talented author could exhibit the molding power of physical and cultural environments on a collage of colorful characters.

 

The Oregon State University Press does a meritorious service in reprinting Davis’s path-breaking novel.  The reappearance of Honey in the Horn will introduce a new generation to an Oregon literary classic, the first novel in the Pacific Northwest to gain national prominence.  Davis’s premier work of fiction richly merits a fresh wave of appreciative attention.

 

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Originally published in 1935, Honey in the Horn once more hits the press this June to reach a new generation of readers. Lauded even in Davis’s lifetime, the book captures Oregon spirit and history in a nearly tangible way that hasn’t been seen since.  Commemorate Davis and his legacy Wednesday, June 10, at a celebration sponsored by the Umpqua Valley Arts Association and While Away Books. Including readings from authors like Robert Heilman and Karen Tolley, the event will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Umpqua Valley Arts Association Art Center in Roseburg.

 

Discover the raw beauty of Honey in the Horn for yourself here, updated with an introduction by Richard W. Etulain.

 

H. L. Davis (1894 – 1960) was an Oregon novelist and poet whose work emphasized the beauty of place and landscape. Davis created gritty, realistic characters whose lives were far from perfect, overturning the popularized romanticism of the West. His 1935 novel, Honey in the Horn, earned him a Pulitzer Prize, making him the only Oregonian to have ever earned the honor.

 

Richard W. Etulain is the author or editor of more than fifty books, including Conversations with Wallace Stegner on Western History and Literature, Beyond the Missouri: The Story of the American West, and Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era. A Professor Emeritus of History at the University of New Mexico, he lives in Clackamas, Oregon.

May 7th, 2015

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: words that promise the potential of personal agency and bliss. It’s human nature to search for the fulfillment of such a promise, yet individuals chase after it in a multitude of ways. Author Margaret Grundstein visits us today to talk about her own search for happiness, chronicled in recently-released Naked in the Woods.

 

Grundstein’s memoir follows her journey from college student to utopian resident and beyond, capturing the reader’s heart along the way with the raw emotion and frank contemplation so characteristic of her writing. So, did Grundstein ever find that contentment? Are happy endings possible in the chaos that is life? I think we’ll let her post speak for her …

 

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“Who comes with me wherever I go?” I ask, sitting cross-legged on the floor, my right hand tucked in my lap, my left discreetly tapping two little boots that I have cut from black construction paper to the inside of my wrist. It is raining outside. In front of me, ten toddlers sit nestled against the comforting chests of their parents.  I wait a beat. After all, this is Los Angeles and timing is everything.  They know what’s coming.  We do this every week. 

 

“Mr. Hand!” they shout.

 

I pause, and up he pops, my thumb and fingers poised at the end of my arm.

 

“Those are beautiful new boots, Mr. Hand,” I say.

 

He lowers his head at my wrist, striking a modest angle.

 

 “Are you feeling shy?”

 

 “Yes,” he says, nodding slowly.

 

I take in the trusting faces that are my audience, each one a delicious dumpling.  Their lips are parted as they watch with clear eyes, not caring if my voice and Mr. Hand’s mouth are out of synch.

 

Gradually Mr. Hand lifts his head, feeling safe among familiar faces, and with my help shares his excitement over his new rainwear.  Then he moves on to his real job, picking the child whose name will open our ritual welcoming song.

 

This is my utopia.  Walk through the gate to the preschool I founded in Venice, California, and the world drops away. Friendly is the operative word and love is my currency.  I need this.

 

Forty years ago I sought another kind of utopia. Back in 1969, I was part of a group of radicals at Yale trying to create a world where we could live in innocence.   It had seemed possible.  San Francisco celebrated the summer of love, Martin Luther King taught us the power of nonviolence, and Woodstock was iconic before Max Yeager’s fields had even dried. Then armored tanks rolled across the campus.

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We had hoped for peace, ignoring the consequences of our growing militancy as students occupied campus buildings and organized strikes, demanding an end to the war in Vietnam and racism at home. Nationally, the civil rights movement shifted with the arrival of thirty Black Panthers in paramilitary berets and leather jackets at the California State Assembly, flaunting rifles and shotguns to protest arms-control legislation.  The country, watching on television, shuddered and looked to the locks on their doors and windows.  Cities burned, assassins murdered Malcolm X and MLK, and the National Guard, dressed like invading aliens in gas masks and goggles, killed four students at Kent State and injured nine.   This was revolution.

 

KatrinaLenaSwaying together, singing “we shall overcome” was no longer enough. The tanks lumbering through my neighborhood, clanking down my street, brought home the futility of confrontational tactics.  We needed a new plan, one that was plausible and released us from the politics of mutual hate.   If we couldn’t change the world we would change ourselves, building communities, where, as the Beatles told us, “all we need is love.”  In Vermont, New Mexico, Virginia, and Oregon--any place where land was available and people sparse--students dropped out, looking for a more peaceful solution.  The back-to-the-land movement showed us a way we could love ourselves, each other, and the dirt that fed us. 


We wanted to be stardust.  We wanted to be golden.  Naked in the Woods is the story of that quest, told through my experience.  But like any utopia, even the one I presently enjoy, we cannot, as Joni Mitchell sang in her iconic song Woodstock, escape the devil's bargain.  Returning back to the garden may be impossible; trying is not, because, as she reminds us … life is for learning. 

 

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Margaret Grundstein, in addition to directing the preschool in Venice, California, practices photography and owns a private practice of psychotherapy. She has a B.A. from Goddard College, a Masters in Urban Planning from Yale University, and a Masters in Family Therapy from Loyola Marymount. Naked in the Woods is her first book.

 

 

Included photos courtesy of Margaret Grundstein.

April 30th, 2015

 

The history and legacy of the western United States involve more than just cowboys and covered wagons. Tangible pieces of our past lay within mixed-conifer forests that dot the region. Trees not only form a vital part of the contemporary western U.S. ecological system, but that of the future, as well. Unfortunately, deforestation and poor management have threatened the benefits and beauty of these natural resources.

 

Author and OSU Professor Emeritus of Forestry John C. Tappeiner II joins us today to demonstrate the importance of analyzing and understanding silviculture, the study of forest growth and management. Tappeiner, along with three colleagues, is co-author of the recently released second edition of Silviculture and Ecology of Western U.S. Forests. Read on for a sneak peek at the text, introduced by Tappeiner’s commentary.

 

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This book focuses on the silviculture of western U.S. forests for two reasons. First, the authors’ careers were spent mainly in the forests of California, Oregon, Washington, and SilvicultureSecondEditionArizona, with some brief forays into southeastern Alaska, Montana, the Lake states, New England, and the Southeast. Most of our research and practical forest management work was done in Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, true fir, and Sierra Nevada and southern Oregon mixed-conifer forests. Therefore, many of the examples we use are derived from either firsthand experience or the experience of colleagues in these forests. However, many of the species and forest types that we discuss occur throughout the western U.S., so the principles that we develop are valuable to the silviculture of western forests. With the help of excellent reviews and by consulting the literature, we have included considerable information from the interior west. Therefore our work is of value throughout the West. 

 

The authors believe that silviculture can help resolve many of today’s forest management controversies. Frequently we hear debates about forest management that reach an impasse. We think that these impasses are least partially the result of an incomplete understanding of silviculture and forest growth and development. We hope that the ideas and information in our book will reduce the “sharp edges” and controversies in the forest management debate and lead to more informed, fruitful discussions.

 

 

EXCERPT

Uncertainty and the Long-Term Nature of Silviculture

Taken from Chapter 1: Silviculture, p. 13-14

 

"Silvicultural systems are by their nature long-term. It is sobering to remember the length of time required for a forest stand to develop and mature. This process may span the careers of several forest managers and, in contemporary society, several changes in forest policy as well. A 50-yr-old stand is comparatively young by western forest standards. Thus foresters—and society at large—have only modest “control” over silvicultural systems and stand and forest development. It is wise to view silvicultural systems as “working hypotheses” of stand development, as Smith et al. (1997) suggest. Silvicultural systems will often have to be modified for several reasons. Natural events such as windthrow, insect and pathogen outbreaks, fire, and unexpected regeneration of trees or shrubs occur frequently and may alter stand density and species composition. Shifts in policy, markets for forest products, landowners’ need for income, and public attitudes often require reevaluation of, and changes to, systems. Furthermore, new information on silvicultural practices, plant biology, or forest ecology may provide new insights and reasons for modifying systems.

 

"Given the inherent uncertainty in the enterprise of tending forests, we believe that one important principle is that a silvicultural system should preserve future options. An example is the shift in silvicultural theory and practice in response to an outbreak of Swiss needle cast disease (Phaeocryptopus gaeumannii) on thousands of acres of Douglas-fir in northwestern Oregon. Stands with mixtures of western hemlock and other species may come through the episode better than pure stands of Douglas-fir; these other species probably do not retard the spread of the disease, but if they are present they can replace Douglas-fir killed or damaged by it. Silviculturists who worked to produce pure Douglas-fir stands for economic efficiency and high yield are consequently reevaluating that practice on sites where needle cast is common As a result, in disease-prone stands where western redcedar, red alder, and western hemlock can grow, managers may either plant these species along with Douglas-fir or favor them where they regenerate naturally. The outcome in terms of species composition, wildlife habitat, and forest yield is not yet known, but a mixture of species will minimize the risk of losing an entire stand. Even though some species in the mix are of less commercial value, this silvicultural strategy will maintain future options better than continuing to plant only commercially valuable trees susceptible to the disease.

 

"Given the present rate of change in public sentiment toward forestry, and resulting changes in regulations constraining silvicultural practices, one may start to question whether the concept of a silvicultural system is even viable (Shindler et al. 2002). The context of the discussion often changes too rapidly for systems to be fully implemented, tested, and understood. Environmental issues change rapidly, and new regulations proliferate must faster than the typical cycle of thinning or harvest of an even-aged stand. From an even broader perspective, potential climate change and human population growth almost guarantee that the objectives guiding the design of current silvicultural systems will be modified.

 

"Numerous creative solutions have been proposed for meeting concurrent commodity and amenity objectives, but many of these are silvicultural treatments designed to produce certain stand structures over a relatively short term. These innovative treatments are often not well integrated into comprehensive silvicultural systems. A given treatment may be designed to produce a certain type of stand or vegetation structure, but the longevity of that structure and the future dynamics of the stand may be only superficially considered and understood. For example, it has been proposed that groups of trees or single trees be left after harvesting of even-aged stands. These trees are intended to provide structural diversity in the next stand and help certain organisms survive from one stand to the next. However, it is not clear how the trees around these groups and individuals should be managed. For example, should they be thinned or underburned? The practice raises other questions. Is it necessary to carry over young trees in stands being managed on short rotations? If so, what species and how many trees should be left? Finally, it is an open question whether those trees will actually function as intended for conserving biodiversity."

 

Tappeiner et al., 2015

 

REVIEW

“This is a great basic overview of silviculture theory… It is nice to know there are efforts to infuse the next generation of silviculturists with a basic knowledge of ecology.”

 

Goodreads user Gabrielle on May 24, 2008

 

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John C. Tapeiner II is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management at Oregon State University.

 

Douglas A. Maguire is the N.B. and Jacqueline Giustina Professor of Forest Management in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management at Oregon State University.

 

Timothy B. Harrington is a Research Forester for the Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service in Olympia, Washington.

 

John D. Bailey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management at Oregon State University.

April 23rd, 2015

Who knew airport layovers could foster so much creativity! Co-authors Bruce L. Batten and Philip C. Brown join us today to chat about the inspiration and processes behind their new book, Environment and Society in the Japanese Islands: From Prehistory to the Present. Both well-respected historians in their fields, Batten and Brown collaborated to offer readers a fascinating glimpse into the complex connection between humans and nature, and how that relationship has changed over time.

 

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Q: Can you remember a particular moment or memory that prompted you to study the topic of environmental and societal patterns, particularly in the Japanese Islands?

 

PCB: I came at this via my study of early modern Japanese agriculture and its sensitivity to drought, cold, and excessive water. That led to my second book on how villagers socially engineered a solution—joint ownership and reallocation of arable lands in ways very sensitive to micro-climatic and topographic variations.

 

BLB: I grew up amidst Oregon’s spectacular natural scenery and like many other (current and former) residents of the state have always had a strong interest in environmental issues. I studied geology and paleontology at the University of Oregon before moving on to Japan language and history. I had always wanted to put my various interests together, and this project was what finally made it possible. So I’m thrilled.  

 

 

 

Q: What brought you together to work on the project? Had you known each other as BattenandBrowncolleagues before the book?

 

PCB: Usually time between planes in airports is pretty dead, at minimum quiet and solitary. However, our meeting for the Bozeman conference gave us our first chance to actually meet face-to-face after a number of years of exchanging e-mails. Since our travel schedules meshed, especially on the return, we had a lot of time to begin to develop ideas for what ultimately became Environment and Society in the Japanese Islands. Several trial runs and a wonderful Hawaii conference later, here we are. Most productive time I ever had while in an airport!

 

BLB: That’s about the size of it! 

 

 

 

Q: Were there any memorable moments during your travels for research?

 

PCB: Although my interest in the relationship of farm communities to their natural surroundings has been long-standing, my particular interest in floods was sparked by photographs of 1950s dike construction in the Shinano River, Japan's longest. Looking for other documents in Tokamachi, a small Piedmont town in Niigata, someone brought several boxes of old photographs in to the documents preparation room. The home of a local photographer's family had been destroyed by the 2004 Chu-Etsu earthquake. While the photographs had been rescued -- a trove dating back to the very early 20th century -- the family could no longer keep them and donated them to the library.  Among the images of a fire that destroyed the town, streets buried so deep in snow that people used entrances on the second floor, and more, were images of building flood control dikes that looked very much like those that would have been built a hundred or more years before that time.  How could Japan, which had gone through such dramatic economic and industrial transformation that it became a world power, continue to rely on old technologies of flood control?  With that began my current work on Japan's changing response to flood hazards, and which marked my transformation into an historian of technology and the environment.

 

BLB: I have lived in Japan for more than 30 years, so I can’t really say that I “traveled” during the research for this book. But I can relate some of my feelings about Japan’s natural environment. When I first came to the country, I had heard about Japan’s beauty and was expecting a lot. Frankly, I was disappointed because there were people and signs of their activity everywhere. Of course, that’s hardly a bad thing, but I was really hoping for more pristine scenery, such as one might encounter in Oregon. Later I learned to appreciate Japan’s “built environment,” which is the result of millennia of interaction between human beings and their natural surroundings. That interaction is the theme of this book.  

 

 

 

Q: What’s next for the two of you?

 

PCB: In addition to the monographic project noted above -- how Japan’s approach to dealing with floods has changed over the past two centuries, and the relationship between these developments, Japan’s economic transformation, and military expansion -- I’ve committed to edit two other books. One deals with science, technology and medicine in Imperial Japan, the other on East Asian environmental history that will include China and Korea in addition to Japan. Both are rather new fields for East Asian studies and it is exciting to be making a contribution to their growth.

 

BLB: I’m writing the chapter on “Climate and Environment in History” for the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Premodern Japanese History. Once that’s finished, I intend to return to a long-standing commitment with another press to complete a history of Japan from a global environmental perspective. Also, in order to avoid the tunnel vision to which scholars are prone, I intend to continue reading voraciously in fields unrelated to Japanese history. Cross-fertilization among disciplines is the key to new insights, and I often get new ideas while reading—or doing—things that have no apparent bearing on my current research.

 

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Bruce L. Batten teaches Japanese history at J. F. Oberlin University in Tokyo, specializing in the ancient and medieval eras. The former director of the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama, Batten is also the author of To the Ends of Japan: Premodern Frontiers, Boundaries, and Interactions and Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War and Peace, 500 – 1300.

 

Philip C. Brown, a professor of history at The Ohio State University, specializes in early modern and modern Japanese history, focusing on developments affecting rural Japan. His previous publications include Central Authority and Local Autonomy in the Formation of Early Modern Japan: The Case of Kaga Domain and Cultivating Commons: Joint Ownership of Arable Land in Early Modern Japan.

April 16th, 2015

 

Like the smell of rain on wet pavement or the taste of a good microbrew, Douglas fir forests seem patently Oregonian. Trees feature prominently in our landscapes, in the Capitol building, and even on our license plates. Today, many lobbyists and citizens push for the conservation of old-growth forests that preserve such an iconic and integral aspect of our state. But forest conservation hasn’t always been at the forefront of Oregonians’ concerns.

Science historian Emily K. Brock joins us today to share a bit of conservation history within the Beaver state. Her new book, Money Trees: The Douglas Fir and American Forestry, 1900 – 1944, explores patterns of forest management and the complicated correlation between humans and nature.

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If you look at satellite images of southwestern Oregon today, you can make out faint traces of a gigantic checkerboard design etched into the forest. The checkerboard is a still-visible remnant of management decisions made in the 1860s. The persistence of the checkerboard, and its relation to conservation, is a reminder that when you hike through an American forest, you are always walking through a landscape created by past decisions.

Foresters, loggers, landowners, politicians, regional planners, and many others have made decisions or taken actions that impacted forests. Whether to log, plant, or preserve, those forest management decisions will carry over to the present day. Because forests take so long to grow, decisions they made can resonate in the forest for decades, even centuries, into the future.

We can find an example of the value of forest history in the famously contentious case of the Northern Spotted Owl. Knowing the historical background of the case gives a new insight into why the owl became so threatened, and why conserving it became not just ecologically difficult, but economically and politically difficult too.

CheckerboardForest

This story begins in 1866, when the federal government granted public domain lands to a company called the Oregon and California Railroad to build a rail link between Portland and California. These lands, like most railroad grant lands of the time, were divided into a checkerboard in which the railroad received every other square. In the case of the O&C, their checkerboard squares were mostly thickly covered with intact Douglas fir forest. Generally, as a railroad grew, it would sell off such grantland to raise revenue. However, due to various legal and financial difficulties, little of it was ever put up for sale. The forests eventually came under the control of the General Land Office, but remained mostly unlogged and undeveloped.

It was not until the late 1930s that the checkerboard survey would really have an effect on these forests. With the aim of showing how methodologically sophisticated his department was, the Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes spearheaded an effort to enact advanced system of forest management on the lands through the 1937 O&C Act. The checkerboard soon became an experiment in sustained-yield forest management and rural planning.

Those property lines caused more trouble than anyone expected when the checkerboard was first drawn. While the public squares of the O&C lands are now controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the successor agency to the General Land Office, the private squares have met various fates. Some are still managed for timber, some have been developed for agriculture or settlement, and some were incorporated into the BLM holdings through land swaps.

The O&C Act contained stipulations that county governments benefited more from O&C logging than from logging activity taking place on, for example, National Forest land. Instead of the 25% of gross receipts received from national forest logging taking place within a county’s borders, the county would receive 50% from O&C logging. Many of the eighteen “O&C Counties,” with O&C checkerboard land in them came to rely heavily on that revenue to finance county infrastructure, buildings, and government services. Further, many residents of the counties found steady, well-paid employment in the lumber industry.

Compounding the issue, the Bureau of Land Management habitually authorized more logging, and regulated it less, than did the U.S. Forest Service. As Forest Service regulation became more stringent in the latter half of the twentieth century, the logging on the O&C lands became more lucrative for logging companies to pursue. The rate of logging on O&C lands authorized by the B.L.M. was often well above what sustained yield calculations would have specified. Eventually the overcut would have forced the O&C Counties to a reckoning, but before that day arrived, a little gray owl changed the rules of the game.

LogChute

The Northern spotted owl is a small, shy owl which lives in Pacific coast forests, and which depends on natural Douglas fir or coast redwood forests for nesting, foraging, and roosting. Its population levels had dipped low enough by 1990 to be federally designated a threatened species.

In the years following this designation, scientists predicted that the owl would go extinct if any more of its habitat was destroyed. The problem wasn’t just the acreage of habitat, but the fact that the owl didn’t like to nest close to buildings, roads, or any other sign of human development. While over seven million acres of federally-owned old-growth Douglas fir forest still remained in the Pacific Northwest, much of that forest was in the form of the O&C checkerboards and other heavily-fragmented landscapes. These forests were already so fractured by human use that much of their acreage was not suitable for the owls.

To save the owl from extinction, the federal government deemed further habitat fracturing had to be avoided. This meant a slowdown of logging in national forests, and an almost complete cessation of logging on the O&C lands. The O&C checkerboard design, which had initially been devised to promote economic growth and regional development, was now the very thing that necessitated a logging shutdown. Because local governments in the O&C Counties had grown dependent on revenue generated by B.L.M. lumbering, the shutdown affected not just those employed by the lumber industry but all citizens of the counties. Local anti-environmentalist sentiment rose as the full ramifications of the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan unfolded. The changes do seem to have slowed the decline of owl populations, although the species now faces new threats to its existence.

The residents of the O&C Counties had been pawns in the struggles between private companies and federal government since the 1860s, when their forests had first been gridded with the surveyors’ checkerboard. The federal government reversed the promises of the O&C Act, grounded in 1930s ideals of sustained-yield forest management, in order to enforce the Endangered Species Act, grounded in 1970s ideals of conservation biology. Victims of historical shifts in government goals, environmental values, and scientific agendas, the O&C Counties have still not fully righted themselves from the economic tumult of the twentieth century.

As the example of the spotted owl shows, to understand people’s relationships to forests, it helps to know not just what is going on in them today, but also their history. MoneyTrees

My new book, Money Trees: The Douglas Fir and American Forestry, 1900-1944, is about management of Douglas fir forests, but also about the ways the challenges of managing the Douglas fir forests of the Pacific Northwest influenced the profession of American forestry. The history of the O&C Lands is one part of this bigger story of forest management in this region. Knowing forest history can deepen our knowledge of these landscapes, and aid our understanding of the complex relationships between humans and forests.

 

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Emily K. Brock is a historian whose research focuses on American natural resource management and the interconnections between industry, science, and conservation. After receiving her Ph.D. from Princeton University, Brock went on to teach at several academic institutions, including Stanford University. She currently serves as a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. Money Trees is her first book.

 

Image Captions & Credits

Checkerboard Landscape: The checkerboard patterning, a legacy of the O&C Railroad land grant, is still apparent in this contemporary Google Earth satellite image of the forestland directly west of Cottage Grove, OR.

Klamath Log Chute: Log rafts on the edge of the Klamath River in 1939, near the small town of Keno, OR. Photo by Dorothea Lange. Library of Congress reference LC-USF34-020953.

April 9th, 2015

Time for a little history lesson. Did you know Oregon has an official state flower? It’s the Oregon grape. How about an official state dance? We do indeed: the square dance. And what about our state book? No idea? Perhaps that’s because we don’t actually have one.

 

On March 23, The Oregonian’s editorial board created waves in the literary community by asking readers which title could be considered the state’s official book. Although no movement exists to push for such a thing, the editors were inspired by a recent bill in Mississippi that offered the Bible as the state’s official tome. Suggestions quickly poured in as passionate readers defended their favorite titles and debated definitions and potential categories.

 

In the end, Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion” emerged as victor, having garnered the most overall votes. Yet the beauty of the literary conversation lies not in its final consensus, but rather the extreme variety and quality of books suggested. Poignant classics and new favorites were unearthed to share the spotlight – including several OSU Press titles!

 

Oregonian online user AEsteve wrote: “What about ‘Honey in the Horn,’ H.L. Davis’s 1935 Pulitzer Prize winner? Not even Kesey caught the wanderlust at the core of Oregonians. Then ‘Sometimes a Great Notion.’”

 

User Boyd Osgood concurred, saying: “I propose ‘Honey in the Horn’ by H.L. Davis. It won the Pulitzer in 1936 for best novel … It is an extremely good read.”

 HoneyintheHorn

Honey in the Horn, the only Oregon novel to win a Pulitzer, follows the story of orphan Clay Calvert as he journeys across the state in the early years of the twentieth century. Many of those who weighed in during the debate suggested Davis’s book, citing its unparalleled portrayal of the indomitable and restless Oregon spirit. You can discover its unique beauty for yourself this June, when OSU Press releases a reprinted edition, complete with a new introduction from historian Richard W. Etulain.

 

But Honey in the Horn wasn’t the only OSU Press title to receive some love from readers. Below are several of the suggested books, along with users’ comments.

 

·       Field Guide to Oregon Rivers 

o   “For field guide I would choose the new and amazingly wonderful Field Guide to Oregon Rivers by Tim Palmer, a must have for anyone who loves the outdoors of this beautiful state.” – Oregonian user Animist

·       Fool’s Hill

o   “ … it is a GREAT little book. I give it my highest recommendation.” – Oregonian user barttels

·       Listening for Coyote

·       A Majority of Scoundrels

·       Mink River

·       Wildmen, Wobblies, and Whistle Punks

o   “Two books I would add to the reading list are Wildmen, Wobblies and Whistlepunks, Stewart Holbrooke, and Fool’s Hill, John Quick. Both singularly outstanding and published by the estimable OSU press.” – Oregonian user barttels

·       Moontrap

·       Nehalem Tillamook Tales

·       Requiem for a People

·       Illahee

o   “Kay Atwood’s delightful short book called Illahee, which is about early settlers, trappers, and Native American lives along the lower Rogue River! GREAT NONFICTION!” – OPB user Puddleglum

·       Stubborn Twig

·       To Build a Ship

·       Trask

o   “Don Berry, specifically his novel Trask. Oregon in setting, authorship, and writing style.” – Oregonian user TuberousRootMan

o   “Trask by Don Berry. His description of winter in the northern coast range is enough to send me under the blankets to wait until spring!” – OPB user Barbara Wanores

 

Still not convinced you should pick up an OSU Press title today? Perhaps we should simply forget this whole debate business and follow the advice of Oregonian user bendbrilliance: “In other words, books are different than birds and rocks. So I say no to designating a state book. Just enjoy them all.”

April 2nd, 2015

Books represent large undertakings. The writing process is arduous, the time lengthy, and the research often difficult, even dangerous. So what leads authors to pour their hearts and souls into such laborious work? Author Kurt Fausch joins us today to share what drove him to create his recently published book, For the Love of Rivers. Staying true to his scientific background, yet venturing into the connection between nature and emotion, Fausch offers his audience a book that reads much like a journey—and today, he invites us to come along.

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Why would a scientist write about love for rivers?  Don’t scientists normally stick to the facts? 

I became a fish biologist, and later a professor of stream ecology, so that I could do the studies needed to provide answers for the field biologists and natural resource stewards who manage fish and the streams and rivers they inhabit.  Along with teaching students about these ideas, and working together with graduate students and other researchers on these studies, this is really all I ever wanted to achieve. 

Somehow, along the way, I became drawn into a deeper relationship with the streams and rivers I was studying, the colleagues I was working with, and the need to communicate both the science and these emotions to others. 

In For the Love of Rivers: a Scientist’s Journey, I draw the reader into an international research FortheLoveofRiverscollaboration with Japanese stream ecologist Shigeru Nakano and his colleagues.  Nakano and I developed a deep friendship fueled by a common passion to immerse ourselves in streams, literally (by snorkeling), and understand how the native charr and trout in northern Japan and northern Montana coexisted in the same habitats in streams without driving each other extinct. 

Shigeru went on to do brilliant large-scale field experiments covering streams with mesh greenhouses to show how the insects emerging from streams into the riparian forest, and those falling into streams from the forest, created key connections that fed animals in both ecosystems.  Cutting these off with the greenhouses made half the fish in the stream, and most of the bats and spiders in the riparian forest, disappear!

But when Nakano was killed while visiting the field site of another scientist in Baja California, it set me back and I began to ask what was most important in my busy life as a researcher and teacher.  The loss of streams and fish that we were recording in several other studies, and our predictions of what we stand to lose based on those studies, loomed large in my thinking.

One day, out of the blue, former student-turned-filmmaker Jeremy Monroe (founder of Freshwaters Illustrated) approached me about making a documentary film on Nakano’s life and amazing career.  His idea was to draw the public into an engaging story, and teach them about how streams, fish, and their strong linkages with riparian forests work.  I was skeptical at first, but after the film had been beamed to more than 100 million homes on PBS stations, I realized the power of stories that include the emotional connections among scientists in capturing the attention of everyday people and providing a means to communicate complex science.  I decided to write my story -- of streams and the scientists who study them.

But when I thought about what would move people to actually want to conserve these beautiful ecosystems, I realized that I needed to move beyond the science of streams, and even the science of why humans are attracted to the sights and sound of running waters.  Stephen Jay Gould, the famous evolutionary biologist and great communicator of science, wrote that we only save those things that we love, and we only love those things with which we develop a deep emotional bond. 

In the end, I needed to take the risk to explore what it is that I love about rivers, even as a scientist who has been trained to study them objectively and focus on the cold, hard facts.  While not ignoring the importance of science to conserving rivers, I realized that I needed to move beyond this science if I wanted to inspire others to keep striving to understand what is essential about rivers to us as humans, and keep working with others to conserve them.

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Kurt Fausch is a professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University, where he has taught for more than 30 years. Collaborative research has taken him throughout Colorado, much of the western U.S., and worldwide, including to Hokkaido in northern Japan. A recipient of numerous awards from the American Fisheries Society and the World Council of Fisheries Societies, Fausch is a respected professional in his field. For the Love of Rivers is now available on our website or by calling 1 (800) 621-2736. Watch a full trailer for the book here.

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