Environmental Humanities Colloquium: “Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania before the Marcellus Shale Boom”

March 20, 2019 - 4:30pm

Location and Address

Pitt Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning

Please join us for the last meeting in 2018-19 of the Environmental Humanities Research Seminar, sponsored by the Humanities Center at the University of Pittsburgh and the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research at Carnegie Mellon University. Special thanks for additional support for this meeting to the History Department at Pitt, and to the English Department at CMU. This series will return in 2019-20; for more information, contact John Walsh, Associate Professor of French at Pitt. 

Marcy Ladson, Doctoral Student in History at Pitt, will give a very short presentation, "Scholars, Activists, and Appalachian Natural Gas"
James Wynn, Associate Professor of English at CMU, will respond.
After that, discussion is open to the whole group.

We'll meet at 4:30pm in the Humanities Center at Pitt, 602 Cathedral of Learning.

Link to pre-circulated reading


Abstract: For the United States, natural gas is an important domestic resource, an alternative to dependence on imported petroleum. Nevertheless, natural gas comes with its own disadvantages and risks, which make its extraction and consumption highly controversial. Pennsylvania has maintained generally favorable legal, social, and economic conditions by which the gas industry can capitalize on new technology and the discovery of new reserves. One reason among many for the state’s persistently favorable landscape of opportunity, which facilitated the Marcellus boom, is the failure of activists to prioritize the issue of natural gas during the second half of the twentieth century. Scholarly literature of the mid-twentieth century had exposed the environmentally and socially exploitive nature of Appalachian energy extraction. However, concerning extractive industries, the main focus of scholars was on timber and coal. Compared to the ravages of coal mining and clear-cutting, natural gas drilling evidently was not on the radar. This paper will consider the voices and efforts of scholars and activists who contributed to debate about natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania during the mid-to-late-twentieth century.

The  Environmental Humanities Research Seminar series was established in 2017 as a joint initiative between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The aims of this cross-disciplinary seminar series are to create a space for dialogue and mutual understanding across disciplinary frames of discourse, especially on environmental problems with multiple approaches, sources of material, and styles of analysis; to support curious, lively, and intellectually generous discussion and debate in a venue that encourages the sharing of original research-in-progress; to provide mentoring and networking for graduate students and early-career scholars whose work and interests in environmental research move between the disciplines and fields of their home departments and those of other departments and academic centers. The intellectual emphasis of these seminars is to link problems related to the environment with questions of global and cross-cultural awareness and sustainability. Presenters and respondents come from a range of disciplinary backgrounds in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. 

with Marcy Ladson (Doctoral Student in History) with a response from James Wynn (CMU, English)