Hurricane Katrina: Unnatural Disaster?

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Ted Steinberg, the Adeline Barry Davee Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University, will visit campus April 19-20 to deliver two lectures. His main lecture on “Drowning in Neoliberalism: The Origins and Lessons of Hurricane Katrina" will be offered at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main, with a reception afterwards. On Friday, April 20, he will discuss “Your Lawn or Your Life: The Rise and Fall of Perfect Turf” at 1:30 p.m. in Room 25 of Ozark Hall.

Both lectures are being sponsored by the Hartman Hotz Lecture Series in Law and the Liberal Arts.

Steinberg has worked as a U.S. environmental historian for nearly 20 years. In his publications, he focuses on the intersection of environmental and social history. His 2006 book, American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, chronicled how Americans spend more than $10 billion every year on pesticides, fertilizers and other lawn products. Publishers Weekly wrote he was “aiming for the grassy equivalent of Fast Food Nation, with one key difference - while people know junk food isn't good for them, they may not be aware that most lawn care products are not only unnecessary but may actually harm soil and turf. He particularly damns the lawnmower industry, revealing how manufacturers 'worked tirelessly to mislead the American public’ for years in order to avoid the expense of installing safety features that could prevent severed fingers.”

Other works include Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History, winner of the National Outdoor Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize nominee in history; Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America, winner of the Outstanding Publication Award from the Ohio Academy of History; Slide Mountain or the Folly of Owning Nature and Nature Incorporated: Industrialization and the Waters of New England. An updated edition of Acts of God, with a new chapter on Hurricane Katrina, was published in 2006 by Oxford University Press.

Reviewing Acts of God, historian Donald Worster wrote: “This compelling book blows away many obscuring clouds of misunderstanding and denial in our national environmental memory. Steinberg forcefully argues that what we have called 'natural disasters’ have really been acts of social and economic injustice committed by government and private enterprise. He combines superb research with mordant wit and moral bite.”

Steinberg received his doctoral degree from Brandeis University. He is the recipient of a 1996 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2000 American Council of Learned Societies Burkhardt Fellowship. He was the 2006 B. Benjamin Zucker Fellow at Yale University.

Steinberg is on the editorial board of Environmental History and the executive committee of the American Society for Environmental History. He has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Natural History and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including “Martha Stewart Living Radio” and “CBS Sunday Morning.”

The University of Arkansas Hartman Hotz Lectures in Law and Liberal Arts were established by Dr. and Mrs. Palmer Hotz of Foster City, Calif., to honor the memory of his brother, Hartman Hotz. Hartman Hotz was a graduate in history from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. After graduating from Yale University Law School, he joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law, where he made significant contributions to the study of law.

Many distinguished speakers have participated in this lecture series, among them Chief Justice Warren Burger, G. Edward White, Shirley Abbott, Daisy Bates, Thomas Grisso, George Fletcher and George McGovern.

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