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Environmental Historian William Cronon to Lecture at Reed


Portland, Ore (March 14, 2013)—Noted environmental historian William Cronon will deliver two lectures at Reed College, April 17 and 18, in the Greenberg Distinguished Scholar Program.

At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, he presents “The Riddle of Sustainability: A Surprisingly Short History of the Future,” in Vollum lecture hall. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. for a pre-lecture reception with light refreshments in the adjacent Vollum lounge. At 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, Cronon lectures on “Landscapes of Frontier Change: Narratives of Environmental Change in the Art of the American West,” also in Vollum lecture hall.

The Greenberg Distinguished Scholar Program brings to campus scholars who are at the top of their field, providing opportunities for in-depth intellectual exchange that stimulates and supports student and faculty work.

One of the country’s preeminent environment historians, Cronon is the outgoing president of the American Historical Association and the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Television audiences will recognize him from his appearances in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

“As a historian, the man knows how to tell a story,” says Joshua Howe, visiting assistant professor in history and environmental studies. “In his famous essay, ‘The Trouble with Wilderness,’ Cronon demonstrated that the spaces we have protected as wilderness reflect culture as much as they do nature. In fact, one of the things that happens when humans define wilderness as a pristine area, is that it separates them from nature. It creates a nature that humans cannot live in.”

In his first book, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (1983), Cronon postulated that native impacts on the environment were non-negligible; whenever man is living with the land, he is changing it. The work was awarded the Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians. His book Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1991) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and awarded both the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize and the Bancroft Prize.

The two lectures are free and open to the public.