Roundtable Scientists as Activists since 1945

American Society for Environmental History
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Parlor F (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
William R. Keylor, International History Institute, Boston University
The World Solar Energy Project: Maria Telkes after the Dover Sun House
Daniel A. Barber, Harvard University Center for the Environment and Graduate School of Design
Systems, Scientists, and Sovereignty: Dai Dong and the Limits of Transnational Environmentalism
Roger Eardley-Pryor, Center for Nanotechnology in Society, University of California, Santa Barbara
Amy M. Hay, University of Texas-Pan American

Session Abstract

Scientists as Activists since 1945

In the second half of the twentieth century, new organizations such as UNESCO, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Pugwash Conference(s), the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the Council for a Livable World, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Club of Rome, and the IPCC gathered diverse groups of scientists, activists, and policy makers to take on such issues as habitat loss, nuclear weapons,  population growth, and climate change. These organizations, and others like them, created a global network of scientists, intergovernmental agencies, and NGOs unlike anything that had existed before the Second World War, and they changed the public face of science in countless ways. A few of the broad questions this panel will explore: How did the scientists who worked with such organizations reconcile the tensions between the universalist claims of science and the more local claims of their respective nation states? As professionals, how did they reconcile the compartmentalized and dispassionate world of their respective disciplines with the more generalized and normative world of public advocacy? And, finally, how has the public perception of scientists as intellectual and moral authorities changed over the decades, and especially since the end of the Cold War? This panel will address these general questions by examining a diverse array of specific cases. Daniel A. Barber will explore the efforts of the architect Eleanor Raymond and engineer Maria Telkes to promote solar-thermal energy in the decade following World War Two. Richard Samuel Deese will trace the influence of Cold War Technologies such as nuclear weapons, space exploration, and cybernetics on the evolution of global environmentalism from the 1940s through the 1980s. Roger Eardley-Pryor will examine the groundbreaking environmentalist group Dai Dong against the backdrop of the Stockholm Conference of 1972 and the emergence of other transnational environmentalist NGOs in the 1970s. Finally, Katrina Lacher will present her pioneering study of the history of anti-environmentalist rhetoric and tactics from the late 1940s through the 1960s, with an eye to understanding the origins of the influential anti-environmentalist movement that exists today.