Category Archives: events

Discussing Environmental History in Philadelphia and St. Louis

The end of winter has dynamic meetings and discussions of environmental history, and 2018 is no exception – though the format departs from my usual routine of ASEH meetings. I had the pleasure to visit a couple of exciting programs the past couple of weeks. At the end of February, I was a guest in Scott Knowles and Chuck Haas’s City of Systems course as part of Drexel University’s new Urban Strategy M.S. program.

Drexel_talkThe program is a cross-disciplinary approach to urban problems and solutions, and the course is team-taught by a historian (Scott) and environmental engineer (Chuck). As part of their module on waste, they assigned Clean and White, so I agreed to join them for a public talk and conversation with the seminar about the social and cultural dimensions to municipal waste management. The program is the kind of exciting mix of social sciences, engineering, and public policy that Carnegie Mellon in general (and Joel Tarr in particular) exposed me to during my graduate training, and I suspect the Philadelphia region will benefit greatly from its students in the years to come.

WUSTL_posterOne week later, Washington University in St. Louis hosted me as part of its Mellon Sawyer “Wastelands” Seminar. Like Drexel’s program, this seminar focuses on a set of issues investigated by scholars working in and across several disciplines. After an exciting set of rescheduled flights due to Northeastern weather, I made it to St. Louis in time for my public lecture on establishing the long history of environmental racism based on the chronology of Clean and White. That was my second event of the day; immediately after stepping off the plane, I was able to make it to campus in time for an engaging conversation with Heather O’Leary’s Environmental Anthropology class.

The following morning, I got to workshop my current research project on Newtown Creek, getting terrific feedback from the participants. Particular thanks to Nancy Reynolds and Heather O’Leary for inviting me and contextualizing my work in the seminar’s activities, Waseem-Ahmed Bin-Kasim for our conversations about urban sanitation, and Vasiliki Touhouliotis for both cogent comments on the Newtown Creek piece and handling logistics for my visit.

I particularly value these discussions because this year is a departure from my annual routine: I am missing the ASEH meeting in Riverside this year. While I am heading to California, I will be in the Bay Area for the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law’s symposium and related events honoring Franklin Zimring’s career in criminology. Paraphrasing the Haggadah, “next year, in Columbus!” I look forward to resuming the routine in 2019.

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Aluminum Upcycled at the Society for the History of Technology meeting in Philadelphia, October 26-29.

zimringpostedThe Society for the History of Technology is holding its annual meeting in Philadelphia this year, and I will discuss my book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective (available now) as part of the “Envirotechnical Responses to Pollution Concerns” panel with Hugh Gorman, Ellen Spears, and Scott Knowles on October 28. The panel begins at 2pm.

Johns Hopkins University Press will have copies of the book for sale at the conference. The Press describes my history of sustainable design strategies this way:

Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015. 

By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire,  Upcycling Aluminum is for anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.

Environmental Justice and Human Rights Conference in St. Louis, October 11-12.

StLouisArchMeet me in St. Louis. The theme for Webster University’s annual human rights conference is “Environmental Justice and Human Rights,” and I am joining an array of journalists, activists, and environmental studies and humanities scholars on the program. (See the link above for the full schedule, location, and other details.)

The title of my talk is “The Dirty Work of White Supremacy in the United States after the Civil War: Considering the Historical Context of Modern Environmental Inequalities,” and it is based on my book Clean and White. I may have new paperback copies of the book for sale (cash only).

Since Carolyn Finney and I are two of the speakers, the recent H-Environment roundtable discussion of our recent books could be a good preview of discussions that may emerge. If you are in the St. Louis metro area, come be part of the conversation.

 

Making and Unmaking the Environment in Oslo, September 8.

UofOsloI will discuss Aluminum Upcycled at the Design History Society Annual Conference entitled “Making and Unmaking the Environment” in Oslo, Norway on September 8. Details:

Time: 9-10:30am
Panel: Upgrading Waste

Papers:
“Upcycling in Historical Perspective” Carl Zimring, Pratt Institute.

“The Re-Used Shipping Container: Environmental Design and the Cargotecture Phenomenon” Rachel Harkness, The University of Aberdeen.

“Designing Maintenance: Martin Pawley’s Garbage Housing in the 1970’s”
Curt Gambetta, Princeton University.

For information on Making and Unmaking the Environment, please visit the conference website.

Illinois Recycling Association Symposium in Chicago Thursday July 19 at 6pm

CharlesRayEamesAluminumChairThis Thursday, Steven Corey and I will discuss the past, present, and future of waste management, recycling, downcycling, and upcycling in a symposium for the Illinois Recycling Association.

Join the IRA for an entertaining evening of conversation about the history of waste reclamation, and how that history may inform a more sustainable future. Subjects will include many of the cool things we’ve made out of recycled material, from sports cars to guitars, as featured in Carl A. Zimring’s new book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective.

Dr. Zimring, professor at Pratt Institute, will be joined by Steven Corey, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Humanities, History and Social Sciences at Columbia College/Chicago. Dr. Corey served as curator for the noted exhibition “Garbage! The History and Politics of Trash in NYC” while completing his doctorate.

Join the Conversation:
Thursday, July 20 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Auditorium Building, 435 South Michigan Avenue, AUD #420

$35 general admission
$20 Student fee
Questions: info@illinoisrecycles.org

I’ll discuss some of the ways aluminum has been upcycled, including in guitars, cars, and furniture like the designs Charles and Ray Eames made for Herman Miller (see the above image). For more information and to register, click here.

On the Upcycle in Zagreb: ESEH 2017 June 29

zagreb-squareThe European Society for Environmental History holds its biannual conference in Zagreb, Croatia this summer, and I am participating in two panels related to the history of waste.

At 11am Thursday June 29, I will chair the panel “Cultures of Waste – How Waste has Played out in Different Settings.”

Room: ARCH-11
Chair: Carl Zimring, Pratt Institute, USA
Waste and Authority: Articulating State Responses to the Problem of Littering in Norway and Singapore, 1950-2000. Finn Arne Jørgensen, Umeå University, Sweden
Waste Management in North-East India: Mizoram in Colonial Times. Jagdish Lal Dawar, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, India
Waste Studies at the OECD – in Search of a Comprehensive Waste Management Policy. Iris Borowy, Shanghai University, China
“Garbage Imperialism” or “Voluntary Exchange”? How to Make Sense of the World’s Hazardous Waste Trade. Simone M. Müller, Rachel Carson Center LMU, Germany

Immediately afterwards (at 2pm), I am presenting a paper based on my book Alumimum Upcycled in the session “Waste Or Valuable Material?”
Room: GEO-4
Chair: Marco Armiero, KTH – Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
On the Upcycle? Sustainable Design Strategies in Historical Perspective. Carl Zimring, Pratt Institute, USA
Urban Landscapes and Garbage: Public Policies for Urban Solid Waste in Brazil. Esther Mayara Rossi, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil
Waste Management after production and Consumption in Anamorava’s Region.
Sadbere Biçku, Independent scholar
Shpejtim Bulliqi, University of Prishtina, Kosovo Florim Isufi, University of Prishtina, Kosovo

For more information, please visit the ESEH website. I am delighted we have so many presentations on aspects of waste history and look forward to the conversations in Zagreb.

 

“What We’re Throwing Away” Talk at Chicago Humanities Festival Noon Saturday

zimringpostedOn Saturday, I will be at the Chicago Humanities Festival for my talk “What We’re Throwing Away” from noon-1pm. I’ll have copies of Aluminum Upcycled available for purchase, and will do a signing after the talk.

Sat, Apr 29 | 12 – 1 PM
Venue SIX10
Feinberg Theater
610 S Michigan Ave | Chicago, IL | 60605
  • Members: $12
  • Public: $15
  • Students and Teachers: $10

Carl Zimring wrote the book on garbage. Well, several actually. He has written about environmental racism and scrap recycling and edited the two-volume Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage. His most recent work is Aluminum Upcycled, which explores how discarded materials are fashioned into goods of greater value, focusing on aluminum and its crucial role in post-WWII design. With an eye to how attitudes about waste shape culture, institutions, and inequalities, Zimring will offer a uniquely well-informed perspective on the past, present, and future of garbage.

Preorder your copy of Aluminum Upcycled through the CHF box office and save 20%.

A book signing will follow this program.