Answer the questions: How does nature have a history? Why does that question matter in the first place? The assignment is to demonstrate your skills as an environmental historian. One of environmental history’s central insights is that nature itself has a history, and that nature has profoundly influenced American history from the its pre-contact colonial origins to its contemporary urbanized, industrialized present. Over four centuries, Americans turned nature into commodities, into cities, into cultural representations, into new industries and jobs, into dangerous or forgotten waste, and into stories we tell ourselves to explain the world. Write a 7-page essay that explores Armenia OR Los Angeles OR Tokyo OR Thailand, that you care about or would like to learn more about. You will start by looking closely at a landscape or built environment and asking questions about how your place came to look the way that it does. Offer an interpretation about the environmental history of this place. The purpose is to “read” the landscape as a way of gathering evidence or raising questions about the past. You should not attempt to narrate all of the past environmental changes of your place since the retreat of the last glacier (!), but instead try to look at the place with “fresh” eyes to see patterns that you might otherwise ignore. For example, why do wires hanging from tall wooden poles snake into older homes? Why might all the trees on your street belong to the same species of palm tree? Why are all the walking paths in North Campus Open Space curvilinear and not straight? We will work together to answer questions like these. In addition to reading the landscape, you must use at least 3 primary sources from Warren, 2 secondary sources from Warren, 3 lectures or discussions from the second half of the course, and find at least one additional outside primary source to help you narrate past environmental change. If you are writing about almost any place in California, you may want to look at 1) Online Archive of California (http://www.oac.cdlib.org/), 2) Calisphere (https://calisphere.org/), or 3) UCSB Aerial Photography Collections (https://www.library.ucsb.edu/src/collections-aerial-photography). You can write in the style of a letter, a creative non-fiction essay, or a more formal essay. You can use first person pronouns like “I” or “We,” but your essay must be organized, well-written, proofread, and must demonstrate your critical, thoughtful response to the assignment. Don’t forget an introduction and conclusion. Essay must have the following: 1) a clearly identifiable thesis or argument that organizes the rest of the essay, 2) most paragraphs should include appropriate details: who, what, when, where, and how from readings, discussion, and relevant lectures, 3) some explanation that accounts for change over time that confirms, challenges or elaborates some course theme. Follow the Chicago Manual of Style for your footnotes. No bibliography is necessary. Please print out your typed, 12-point font, double-spaced essay with page numbers.
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