Professor of Environmental Studies

Macalester College

Christopher W. Wells

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About

Chris Wells is professor and chair of Environmental Studies at Macalester College. He is an environmental historian whose research focuses on the ways that technological and socioeconomic systems have reshaped the American environment, mediating and structuring people’s relationships with the natural world. His newest book is Nature’s Crossroads: The Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota (2022), co-edited with George Vrtis, which was recently published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. His first book, Car Country: An Environmental History (2012), focuses on the proliferation of car-dependent landscapes in the U.S. before 1956. His second book, Environmental Justice in Postwar America: A Documentary Reader (2018), documents the rise and evolution of the environmental justice movement, as well as its frequently uneasy relationship with the mainstream environmental movement.

Teaching

Courses & Syllabi

Fall 2022

ENVI/HIST 234

U.S. Environmental History

ENVI/HIST 340 

U.S. Urban Environmental History

Letters of Recommendation

Please see these guidelines when requesting a letter

Spring 2022

ENVI/HIST 340

U.S. Urban Environmental History

ENVI/HIST 343

Imperial Nature

Fall 2021

ENVI/HIST 234

U.S. Environmental History

ENVI 194

Introduction to Sustainability (FYC)

Spring 2021 Mod 3

Mods 4 & 5

ENVI/HIST 343

Imperial Nature

ENVI/HIST 234

U.S. Environmental History

Mod 2

Fall 2020 Mod 1

ENVI/HIST 234

U.S. Environmental History

Fall 2019-Spring 2020

On sabbatical during the 2019-2020 school year.

Spring 2019

ENVI/HIST 234

U.S. Environmental History

Fall 2018

ENVI/HIST 234

U.S. Environmental History

ENVI/HIST 340

U.S. Urban Environmental History

Scholarship

Books

Forthcoming 2022

Nature’s Crossroads: The Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, eds. George Vrtis and Christopher W. Wells (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, forthcoming Jan. 2023).  Minnesota’s Twin Cities have long been powerful engines of environmental change. This book features an interdisciplinary team of distinguished scholars who aim to open new conversations about the environmental history of the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. Nature’s Crossroads website.

2018

Environmental Justice in Postwar America: A Documentary Reader (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018). This edited collection presents a variety of primary sources from the postwar environmental justice movement, highlighting the sometimes tense relationship between environmentalism and social justice. Environmental Justice in Postwar America website.

2012

Car Country (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012). 

For most people in the United States, going almost anywhere begins with reaching for the car keys. Car Country tells the story of how car dependency became woven into the basic fabric of the American landscape. Car Country website.

Articles, Chapters, and Review Essays

Forthcoming 2022

“Unearthing Nature’s Crossroads: An Introduction,” and “A Tale of Two Waterfronts: Commerce, Industry, and the Environmental Transformation of Minnesota’s Twin Cities,” (both with George Vrtis) in Nature’s Crossroads: The Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, eds. George Vrtis and Christopher W. Wells (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, forthcoming Jan. 2023).

2020

“A War of Mobility: Transportation, American Productive Power, and the Environment during World War II,” in Nature at War: American Environments and World War II, eds. Thomas Robertson, Richard P. Tucker, Nicholas B. Breyfogle, and Peter Mansoor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). Co-authored with Thomas Robertson.

2014

Reading Signs: The Landscape as Text,” Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 1 (Fall 2014).

2014

Green Cities, the Search for Sustainability, and Urban Environmental History,” Journal of Urban History 40 (May 2014): 613-20.

2012

“The Campus as a Teaching Tool: A Case Study of Macalester College’s EcoHouse,” in Sustainable Development at Universities: New Horizons, ed. Walter Leal (Frankfurt: Peter Lang Scientific Publishers, 2012), 479-92. Co-authored with Suzanne Savanick Hansen.

2012

Fueling the Boom: Gasoline Taxes, Invisibility, and the Growth of the American Highway Infrastructure, 1919-1956,” Journal of American History 99 (June 2012): 72-81. 


[Selected as an “Editor’s Choice” article.]

2009

“La Morte del Modello T: Strade Pavimentate, Auto Coperte e Tecnologica Desueta” [The Death of the Model T: Smooth Roads, Closed Cars, and Technological Maladaptation], I Frutti di Demetra: Bollettino di Storia e Ambiente [The Fruits of Demeter: A Bulletin of History and the Environment] 21 (2009): 63-75. English translation available.

2009

Using a Class to Conduct a Carbon Inventory: A Case Study with Practical Results at Macalester College,” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 10 (July 2009): 228-238. Co-authored with Suzanne Savanick and Christie Manning.

2007

The Road to the Model T: Culture, Road Conditions, and Innovation at the Dawn of the American Motor Age,” Technology and Culture 48 (July 2007): 497-523. 


[Winner: Levinson Prize, Society for the History of Technology]

Other Essays, Digital Projects, and Resources

(No peer review)

2015

Minnesota Environments. A website fully optimized for use on a mobile device that lets you explore Minnesota’s environmental history from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Developed with George Vrtis (Carleton College) and in collaboration with many generous and insightful colleagues and students at Carleton, Macalester, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program.

2012

Twin Cities Environmental History: A Bibliography of Published and Unpublished Sources (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2012). Co-edited with George Vrtis.

2015

Author’s Response,” H-Net Roundtable Reviews 5 (July 2015).

2008

Response to Donald E. Worster, ‘On John Muir’s Trail,’” Macalester Civic Forum 2 (Summer 2008): 15-21.

2011

The Early Conservation Movement,” TeachingHistory.org, Beyond the Textbook.

2013

Living in Car Country,” blog post at Streets.MN, April 23, 2013.

2011

Industrializing Women,” TeachingHistory.org, Ask a Historian.

2012

History Topic: Twin Cities Environmental History,” Minnesota Historical Society website. Co-authored with George Vrtis.

Reviews

Review of Ben Bradley, British Columbia by the Road: Car Culture and the Making of a Modern Landscape (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2017), Canadian Historical Review, January 2020.


Review of Brinda Sarathy, Vivien Hamilton, and Janet Farrell Brodie, eds., Inevitably Toxic: Historical Perspectives on Contamination, Exposure, and Expertise (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), Environmental History, January 2020.


Review of Bartow J. Elmore, Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2015), Business History Review, Spring 2016.


Review of Matthew T. Huber, Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), Journal of Historical Geography, January 2016.


Review of Christopher Morris, The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples from Hernando de Soto to Hurricane Katrina (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), The Historian, Winter 2014.


Review of Bernhard Rieger, The People’s Car: A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013), Journal of American History, March 2014.


Review of Joseph F. C. DiMento and Cliff Ellis, Changing Lanes: Visions and Histories of Urban Freeways (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013), Environmental History, January 2014.


Review of Alexis Madrigal, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2011), Environmental History, January 2012.


Web Site Review of American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/ecology/index.html (created and maintained by the Library of Congress), Journal of American History, December 2011.


Review of Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (New York : Metropolitan Books, 2009), Michigan Historical Review, Fall 2011.


Review of Cotten Seiler, Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), Technology and Culture, January 2010.


Review of David N. Lucsko, The Business of Speed: The Hot Rod Industry in America, 1915-1990 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), Journal of American History, December 2009.


Review of David Blanke, Hell on Wheels: The Promise and Peril of America’s Car Culture, 1900-1940 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007), Journal of American History, March 2008.


Review of Sally H. Clarke, Trust and Power: Consumers, the Modern Corporation, and the Making of the United States Automobile Market (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), Technology and Culture, January 2008.


Review of Mark H. Rose, Bruce E. Seely, and Paul F. Barrett, The Best Transportation System in the World: Railroads, Trucks, Airlines, and American Public Policy in the Twentieth Century, H-Urban, H-Net Reviews, April 2007.


Review of Kathleen Franz, Tinkering: Consumers Reinvent the Early Automobile (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), History: Reviews of New Books, Summer 2005.


Review of Peter Derrick, Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion That Saved New York (New York: New York University Press, 2001), Technology and Culture, October 2002.


Review of David Blanke, Sowing the American Dream: How Consumer Culture Took Root in the Rural Midwest (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000), The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Summer 2002 supplement.

Encyclopedia Entries

In Hugh Slotten, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of the History of American Science, Medicine, and Technology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)

1. “Household Technology”

2. “Motor Vehicles” (co-authored with Clay McShane)

3. “Internal Combustion Engine”

In Melvyn Dubofsky, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of American Business, Labor, and Economic History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

4. “Automotive Industry”

In Gary B. Nash, ed., Encyclopedia of American History, Volume 9, Postwar United States: 1946-1968, Allan Winkler (New York: Facts on File, 2003)

5. “Environmental Movement,” 101-02

6. “Baby Boom,” 29-30

In Stanley Kutler, ed., The Dictionary of American History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003)

7. “Automobile” (co-authored with James J. Flink), 366-70

8. “Trucking Industry” (co-authored with Don H. Berkebile), 230-31

In Mary Kupiec Cayton and Peter Williams, eds., Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001), Volume I

9. “Chronology of Cultural and Intellectual Events,” xxix-lxxvi

In Paul Boyer, ed., The Oxford Companion to United States History (New York: Oxford University Press,2001)

10. “Automobile Industry,” 56-57                    12. “John James Audubon,” 55

11. “Household Technology,” 348-49                13. “Courtship and Dating,” 164-65

In Tom and Sara Pendergast, eds., St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (New York: St. James Press, 2000)

14. “Automobiles,” 137-42

15. “Bicycling,” 245-46

16. “Sunday Driving,” 578-79

In Derek Jones, ed., Censorship: A World Encyclopedia (London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000)

17. “Negro World,” 1686-87

18. “The Hypocrisy of the U.S. and Her Allies,” 1132-33

Current CV

Contact

Christopher W. Wells

Department of Environmental Studies

Macalester College

1600 Grand Ave.

St. Paul, MN 55105

wells@macalester.edu

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Google Analytics is a web analysis service provided by Google. Google utilizes the data collected to track and examine the use of this site, to prepare reports on its activities and share them with other Google services.

Google may use the data collected to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.

Personal data collected: Cookie and Usage Data. Place of processing: USA. Find Google's privacy policy here.

Twitter @ChrisWells_Mac