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Prominent Historian to Dissect the Ecology of U.S.-Mexico Trade

A special lecture series that examines “Nature and Politics in the Americas” will begin Thursday, Feb. 18 at Washington and Lee University and continue through March. The four programs, featuring nationally- and internationally-known guest lecturers, will examine ways in which the physical environment helped shape human history in Latin America, and will discuss the ecology of international trade, conservation and national parks, climate history and environmental justice.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the department of history and the programs environmental studies and Latin American and Caribbean studies at W&L, all of the presentations are free and open to the public. All lectures will be held on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Leyburn Library’s Northen Auditorium.

“We are fortunate to have on campus these superb guest speakers who have investigated these topics for years,” said Mark Carey, assistant professor of history and organizer of the lectures series. “Anyone interested in how climate, natural resources, national parks, forests, indigenous land rights, and international trade have influenced politics and people’s lives will enjoy these lectures.”

The series begins Feb. 18 with a look at international trade. Sterling Evans of the department of history at the University of Oklahoma will discuss “Nothing New about NAFTA: North American Connections and Their Historical Lessons.”

Evans joined the history faculty at Oklahoma in January 2009 in the newly endowed Welsh Chair. He is the author of Bound in Twine: The History and Ecology of the Henequen-Wheat Complex for Mexico and the American and Canadian Plains, which won the Theodore Saloutos Best Book Prize from the Agricultural History Society in 2008. His interest in the environmental history of Latin America prompted him to write The Green Republic: A Conservation History of Costa Rica, and to work on his current project, Damming Sonora: Water, Agriculture, and Environmental Change in Northwest Mexico.

The March 4 lecture on conservation is titled “Where are the Parks? Great Ideas, Cultural Contexts, and Conservation in Mexico” presented by Emily Wakild of the department of history at Wake Forest University.

The March 18 lecture is by Alton Byers of the Mountain Institute and is titled “50 Years of Climate, Culture, and Landscape Change in the Mt. Everest Region,” in which Byers provides comparisons with the Peruvian Andes.

The final lecture on March 25 on environmental justice is called “Peasants, Political Violence, and the Environment in Chile” by Thomas Klubock of the University of Virginia’s department of history.