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Oral History and the Environment

Global Perspectives on Climate, Connection, and Catastrophe

Edited by Stephen M. Sloan and Mark Cave

Publication Date - October 2022

ISBN: 9780190684976

320 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


As uncontrolled development forces crises in the natural world, deeply ingrained human connections with the earth are changing. Oral history's proven ability to explore issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality make it a uniquely effective methodology for bringing in new perspectives to our understanding of environments.

This book brings together interviews with a global range of activists, farmers, water system managers, victims of catastrophe, tribal trustees, wilderness rangers, reindeer herders, and foresters, among others whose life experience gives them special insights into human-environmental interaction and adaption. Commentary by oral historians examines how these stories can be used to better understand our relationship with the natural world. Oral History and the Environment takes what could seem broad and impersonal forces such as climate change and environmentalismDLand crystalizes their meaning through personal stories. It overturns narrow historical frameworks bounded artificially by national borders and instead portrays the issues facing our common ecosystems.


  • Demonstrates the value of using oral history in environmental research
  • Provides a global perspective on environmental history
  • Treats a wide range of environmental issues

About the Author(s)

Stephen M. Sloan is the Director of the Institute for Oral History and Associate Professor of History at Baylor University.

Mark Cave is Senior Historian with the Historic New Orleans Collection. Sloan and Cave are the editors of Listening on the Edge: Oral History in the Aftermath of Crisis, winner of the Oral History Association book prize.


"Sloan and Cave have assembled an admirably global set of oral histories ranging from taiga to tropics and from oil spills to afforestation projects. This book brings to life perspectives and voices that rarely appear in the written record and reveal an intimately human side of environmental history as experienced by everyday people. Environmental history and oral history make good partners and this book is a shining example of how to realize their combined potential." -- J.R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun and The Great Acceleration

"This book gets at the shared activist roots of environmental and oral history and demonstrates the fruitfulness of their cross-pollination. The various perspectives and ways of knowing illustrate how oral history and environmental history have been able to broaden each other's frameworks at the disciplinary and methodological levels." -- Mary A. Larson, former president, Oral History Association

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Querying Environmental and Human Landscapes by Stephen M. Sloan

    Chapter 1
    Grim Humor and Hope: Australian Oral Histories of Drought by Deb Anderson
    Oral histories by Deb Anderson with residents of wheat-belt communities affected by drought in the Mallee, southeast Australia, Sea Lake, Ouyen, Tiega, Victoria 2004-07

    Chapter 2
    A Pelican in Her Piety: Perspectives on Wildlife Rescue in Louisiana Following the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill by Mark Cave
    Oral histories by Mark Cave with participants in the wildlife rescue operation in Louisiana following the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill, Baton Rouge, Lacombe, Youngsville, and Arabi, Louisiana, November 2010 to March 2011

    Chapter 3
    Fragmentary Time: Memory and Politics in the Wake of the Torrey Canyon by Timothy Cooper and Anna Green
    Oral History by Anna Green with environmental activist "Jane Evans" at St. Agnes, Cornwall, United Kingdom June 2012

    Chapter 4
    The Ghosts of Bhopal: Oral History, Environmental Justice, and the Literature of Protest by Suroopa Mukherjee
    Oral histories by Bhopal Survivors' Movement Study with Bhopal activists Hazra Bi, Hamida Bi, Rashida Bi, Abdul Jabbar, and Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal, India, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

    Chapter 5
    Floating Reed Islands: Gendered Stories of Resilience during Ecological Disaster in the Mara Region, Tanzania by Jan Bender Shetler
    Oral histories by Jan Bender Shetler with elderly women of the Mara Region of Tanzania, August-November 2010

    Chapter 6
    Fighting through the Fallout: Maternal and Feminist Resistance and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster by Heidi Hutner
    Oral histories by Heidi Hutner with Sachiko Sato of Fukushima City, September 21, 2011 and April 23, 2017

    Chapter 7
    More than H2O: Exploring the Biophysical and Social Dimensions of Water by Javier Arce Nazario
    Oral history by Javier Arce Nazario with Héctor L. Martinez Rivera, water system manager for the Doña Mayo community, Barranquitas, Puerto Rico on February 12, 2015

    Chapter 8
    Environmental Guardians: Learning from Maori Perspectives on Geothermal Fields by Caren Fox
    Oral history by Caren Fox with Aroha Campbell at the Ohaaki Power Station near Reporoa, New Zealand, January 14, 2017

    Chapter 9
    When Little Fish Encounter a Big Dam: Environmental Conflict on the Upper Yangtze by Dai Qing and Kang Xue
    Oral history by Kang Xue, retired Beijing People's Radio journalist, with Zhang Boju, secretary-general of Chinese non-governmental environmental protection organization, Friends of Nature, Chongying China, June 2016

    Chapter 10
    The Free Play of Natural Forces: Wild Methods of Oral History in Documenting Wilderness by Debbie Lee
    Oral history by Debbie Lee with Wilderness Ranger Art Seamans, Lewiston, Idaho, April 28, 2013

    Chapter 11
    Culture Keepers: Voices of Renewal in the Eurasian Taiga by Tero Mustonen
    Oral histories by Tero Mustonen with Evenk reindeer-herder Vladimir Kolesov, Sakha-Yakutia, Siberia, Russia (2005-2010) and Finnish-Karelian fisherman-farmer Kauko Heiskanen, North Karelia, Finland (2013) as part of the Snowchange Oral History Archive.

    Chapter 12

    Who Speaks for the Trees?: Forestry in the Scottish Highlands by K. Jan Oosthoek
    Oral histories collected by Jan Oosthoek with retired foresters of the British Forestry Commission, Stirling and Edinburgh, Scotland, June 1998-August 1999.

    Epilogue: The Fall and Rise of Oral Testimony in Environmental History by Christopher Sellers