Currents of Change: Thinking about the Environment and History in Portland, Oregon

For the next few days I’ll be attending the National Council on Public History (NCPH) conference in Portland, Oregon. Not only is this city the furthest west I have ever been, it is also the first time I’ve ever been in Oregon. The topic of this year’s conference is “Currents of Change” and involves looking at the connections between history and the environment. The conference is particularly exciting because this year it is in conjunction with the American Society of Environmental Historians. You can see the program at but I’ll pull out a few highlights over the next few days (and will be tweeting @pc_presnation). Until then here are a few thoughts from the first day of the conference which also includes a celebration of NCPH’s 30th birthday.

Sustainability is something we at the National Trust for Historic Preservation have made a priority. We’ve had tweets, and resources and discussions at various events including the National Preservation Conference. I know its something we care about on many levels. On my way in from the airport I overheard a snippet of a radio conversation that asked about why young people aren’t involved with the fight against global warming like they were back in the 1960s for Civil Rights. The commentator whose name I didn’t really catch, wanted to know where the sit ins, the protests, the civil disobedience to urge government action. His conclusion: That its not happening because no one has put forth a call.

I think a bigger question is: If someone puts out a call how will historians and preservationists answer?

Which of course leads me to more practical questions: how does the green movement and history interact with the public? more importantly what strategies and ideas are currently being used to reach people on the local level? How can we use our knowledge of the history of the environment in America to reveal how historic preservation is also green?

I’ll be look for answers when I attend a panel that talks about historic preservation and sustainability, the opening plenary session with Adam Hochschild and my Friday tour of an organic winery, and much much more. So stay tuned!