Edited collections provide a useful space for history graduate students to witness different historical approaches to similar topics in a way that single author texts do not allow. I found that the ability to pick and choose which pieces to focus on in both texts (Environmental Histories of the Cold War and  Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War) really allowed me the flexibility to find both historiographical approaches which I found useful as well as information which was pertinent to my areas of interest. I will readily admit that Environmental Histories both interested me more and, I felt, was more relevant to my discussion of Cold War America, however the inclusion of global perspectives this semester has been helpful in framing and placing the United States as both a part of a larger global community reckoning with changing technology during this period (as well as being a major influence around the world) as well as presenting the United States as something unique, with an exportable identity. However, both texts really worked to root the discussion of Cold War technology and science on a transnational scale, because of the interconnected nature of the world after World War II. There are also interesting claims throughout the texts as to the similarities between the goals of the ideologies of Communism and Capitalism, with the introduction to Entangled Geographies stating it most succinctly, that any claim to modernity must be rooted in a race to provide rationality, and that development of the “third world” was a center for the battle of these two diverging ideologies. For both sides, a strict adherence to ideology was never important, but instead it was all about the end goal of spreading their version of rational development.

There were many moments in Environment Histories which I found to be both exceedingly interesting, and useful, in my own research. “Creating Cold War Climates: The Laboratories of American Globalism” by Matthew Farish presented some interesting insight into the way which the laboratory which I had become familiar with in a corporate setting transcended the boundaries of the United States. Moreover the discussion of the Natick facility, and the ways in which the human body itself (specifically the masculine body, an idea which we have seen before in Apollo in the Age of Aquarius) become a new environment to mold and plan, much like the other environment which the United States military was trying to control. With the other discussions which we have had about the creation of an American identity, the importance of body itself has always been present, that maleness and physical strength are seen as ideal forms. I have done some reading on Aldous and Julian Huxley previously as a possible comparison to the brothers Vonnegut, so I found “The New Ecology of Power” by R. S. Deese familiar, and inline with the other texts which I have read about those two brothers.

However, it was two instances of discussion about the views of scientists about science and technology and the views of a wider public about science and technology in the immediate postwar period which I found to be the most enlightening, as well possibly confirming some things which I previously thought. In Jacob Darwin Hamblin’s piece “A Global Contamination,” he discusses a narrative counter to that presented by Vannevar Bush, an American engineer who participated in government scientific research in the 1940s. Bush paints a picture that American scientists and engineers were reluctant to use biological and radiological warfare, and yet, the evidence runs counter to that argument, since there was both a race against the Soviets to obtain such weapons (the idea that if they had them, we have to have them to protect ourselves) as well as the fact that those types of weapons were often cheap and lethal on a large scale.[1] It would seem that there was an active attempt to color the appearance of scientists and military personnel involved in these projects as reluctant to use the materials which they were creating. This is different, of course, from the scientists who were adamantly opposed to use weapons and were not taking part in their creation any longer after the dropping of the atomic bombs. In Kristine Harper and Ronald Doel’s piece “Environmental Diplomacy in the Cold War,” they open with a discussion of how weather control fit into a wider belief in the postwar period that any and every problem could be fixed by science and technology. It had already won World War II, so it seemed inevitable that it would win the Cold War.[2] I find that to be so interesting, that there is this moment in time where many Americans, including scientists and engineers, have these conflicting ideas about the purposes of science and technology. Clearly there is a reverence for what both can do, and yet because of the destruction that can be wrought, there is a need to distance oneself from fully owning either space.

[1] Jacob Darwin Hamblin. “A Global Containment Zone.” in Environmental Histories of the Cold War edited by J.R. McNeill, Corinna R. Unger (Cambridge University Press, 2010): 87

[2] Kristine Harper and Ronald Doel “Environmental Diplomacy in the Cold War” in Environmental Histories of the Cold War edited by J.R. McNeill, Corinna R. Unger (Cambridge University Press, 2010): 116