B.S., Washington and Lee University; A.M., Brown University; Ph.D., Princeton University
James Morton TurnerAssociate Professor of Environmental Studies
Researcher on the recent history of U.S. environmental politics and policy, including public lands, climate change, and science and technology.
I have taught in the Environmental Studies Program at Wellesley College since the fall of 2006. My training is in environmental history and environmental studies.
Currently, I am researching the environmental history of batteries. Today, batteries are seen as crucial to a wide range of sustainable technologies, such as electric automobiles and renewable energy. But batteries have a long history as an enabling technology, making possible the systems of transportation and communication that transformed society in the twentieth century. By focusing on the history of this ubiquitous consumer product, this project reframes the social and environmental costs of the modern consumer economy and raises questions about the role of technological innovation in environmental sustainability. This research has been supported by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES #1230521).
My first book, The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964, is available from the University of Washington Press (2012). The book chronicles the expansion of the federal wilderness system since 1964 and the shift toward a broader agenda for public lands reform. It explores two nested questions: how have debates over the public lands affected modern environmental politics and how have debates over environmental reform affected American politics more broadly? A short video about the book is available here.
My teaching at Wellesley includes a range of courses in the Environmental Studies Program. I teach an introductory course focused on issues and concepts important to environmental studies which is organized around climate change. I teach two 200-level core courses: U.S. Environmental History considers the dynamic relationship between the environment and human history from the colonial period to present. Cultures of Environmentalism takes a comparative approach to environmentalism across history and cultures. And my U.S. Environmental Politics seminar examines the laws, stakeholders, and political and policy processes important to the federal environmental regulatory state through a series of contemporary case studies.
At Wellesley, I've enjoyed working with students on research projects pertaining to public lands politics, international nature protection, and public attention to climate change.
I received a B.S. from Washington and Lee University in 1995, an A.M. in American Civilization from Brown University in 1996, a Ph.D. in History (History of Science) from Princeton University in 2004, and a certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton in 2005.