Please mark your calendars for our next Resident Scholar lecture, which will be presented by Joshua McGuffie on Tuesday, October 7th at 2:00 PM. The talk will take place in Willamette East.
McGuffie is a M.A. candidate in the History of Science and Graduate Teaching Assistant in OSU’s School of History, Philosophy and Religion. His presentation is titled “A Landscape Up for Grabs: How Hanford’s Environmental Scientists Recreated Nature at the United States’ Most Polluted Place.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, environmental scientists at the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) Hanford Site in Washington State took on a decisive role in determining the site’s mission and future. They did so amid an identity crisis at Hanford. By 1972 all the original plutonium production reactors had been shut down. Once the flagship of the AEC’s defense-related plutonium production line, Hanford no longer had a core mission. In the ensuing search for purpose, the environmental scientists at Hanford’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL) began to define a mission for the site through their research. In 1968, they launched the Arid Lands Ecology (ALE) Reserve, a 120-square-mile sequestered natural area on the site’s western boundary. ALE Reserve became the nexus of PNL’s involvement in the International Biological Program (IBP). In their work for the IBP, the environmental scientists began to study the land and its ecosystems in their own right, rather than in relation to the nuclear establishment at Hanford. Through their research, they eventually came to see ALE Reserve as a pristine landscape that preserved native flora and fauna. They worked to not just study the reserve, but to ensure its preservation as a constitutive part of Hanford. In 1999, ALE Reserve became part of Hanford Reach National Monument. The values and virtues first annunciated by the environmental scientists in the ‘60s and ‘70s evolved into the creation narrative for the national monument. In this way, the scientists used their research to create a pristine landscape right next to the nation’s most polluted place.