Climate Crucible

My dissertation & first book project is entitled Climate Crucible: American Choices in Germany, Japan, & the Making of the Great Acceleration, 1939-1953

This project offers a new interpretation of American responsibility in shaping trajectories of climate change and the planetary politics of climate (in)justice at a pivotal moment of the twentieth century.

Historians have long recognized links between the ascent of the U.S. to superpower status in the 1940s and the launching of the Great Acceleration – a global skyrocketing of carbon emissions and other anthropogenic environmental impacts starting soon after 1945. Much of the scholarship connecting political, environmental, and climate history of the Great Acceleration has focused on longer-term effects of American actions on climate.

My research expands understanding of these interconnections by recovering a largely-forgotten story of alternative choices and policy directions debated among those who helmed the American outward state during a pivotal moment of global political and environmental history: the culmination of the age of global hot wars, the emergence of the global Cold War, and the launching of the Great Acceleration.

Combining sources from U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence archives with economic and environmental data, I investigate how American policymakers from the late 1930s to the early 1950s considered and began to use American global power, in some cases, to reform large-scale patterns of industrialization and resource flows to address what they saw as the roots of global war. Policy directions stressed equity over divergence and sustaining peace over preparation for war.

To examine a planetary story, I focus where competing choices and risks appeared sharply for U.S. policymakers: debates regarding industrialization and resource use in Germany and Japan during war and occupation. While U.S. policymakers did not understand the climate impacts of their choices, they knowingly turned away from more equitable ideas of industrial geography and resource flows to accept risks of global inequality, resource exhaustion, and preparation for future war by the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Climate Crucible bridges historiography of the U.S. in the world in the twentieth century, environmental humanities scholarship, and the roots of contemporary challenges in the geopolitics of climate justice.

My research journey has been supported by grants from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Program in History and Philosophy of Science and Allied Fields at Stanford.

Natural Resources Section [part of the occupation government of Japan], Weekly Summary, cartoon and autograph page, Nov. 5, 1951 Hubert G. Schenck Papers, Box 3, Folder 6, Hoover Institution Archive

A map prepared by the U.S. Department of State in mid-1946 urging multilateral cooperation among the occupying powers of Germany by highlighting uneven distribution of population, resources, and industrial infrastructure (United States Economic Policy Toward Germany (1946), 33.)

For additional details and examples of primary source analysis related to American actions regarding industrialization and resource flows in Japan, check out my March 2022 talk at the American Society for Environmental History:

"A Rain of Ruin…the Like of Which Has Never Been Seen on This Earth": Occupied Japan and American Environmental Imagination for Renewing a War-torn Planet.

If your work engages related topics and you're interested in talking about overlapping research, I'd love to hear from you. I'm also happy to share primary sources I've gathered over the course of this project.