The energy transition of 150 years ago took Americans' focus from the sea and whaling to seemingly limitless supplies of oil and coal. In the ensuing decades, petroleum has wound into the fabric of everyday American life in an unprecedented fashion. Today, nations compete for the remaining reserves and even go to war to ensure access while many scientists warn of the impact of burning fossil fuels.
In the early days, the harvest of "black gold" was a striking oddity that made some worry that the Earth would stop spinning; today, our dependence on it fuels real fears of rising competition and the impact of pollution and climate change. Black's comments will encapsulate Americans' unique historical story with petroleum while also considering today's complex energy conundrum, from wind farms to fracking and tar sands to blowouts.
He will be available to sign copies of his books: PETROLIA: The Landscape of America's First Oil Boom and Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History.
Brian Black writes and speaks widely for public and academic audiences about the intersection of issues of the environment and history. He currently teaches Environmental Studies and Environmental History while serving as Penn State Altoona's Head of the Division of Arts and Humanities.
Black is the author of ten books, including the award-winning Petrolia: The Landscape of America's First Oil Boom (Johns Hopkins, 2003) and Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), which was selected by CHOICE as an outstanding academic book for 2012. Additionally, he has contributed essays to more than twenty books and is the editor of a number of others, including the new four-volume Climate Change: An Encyclopedia of History and Science (ABC-Clio, 2013). In addition, he served as one of the editors the Spring 2012 special issue of the Journal of American History on "Oil in American Life," which was inspired by the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.
Black's training emphasizes the importance of place in our historical narratives. In Spring 2014 Black's long-awaited book, Gettysburg Contested, will be released by GFT Books. The first book-length exploration of the preservation process of one of America's most cherished sacred landscapes, Gettysburg Contested reveals the battlefield in astonishingly new ways. Black is currently completing Declaring Our Dependence: Petroleum in 20th Century American Life, which is scheduled for a trade release with University of Chicago Press.
The lecture is part of a series of lectures at the Museum on "Technologies and Discoveries of the Victorian Era." The lectures are $25 for members, $30 for non-members. The price includes lecture, lunch and a mansion tour. Lunch is courtesy of Michael Gilmartin's Outdoor Cookers. The chair of the Lecture Committee is Mimi Findlay of New Canaan.
The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum's 2013 cultural and educational programs are made possible by generous funding from the Museum's Distinguished Benefactors: The Xerox Foundation, Klaff's, Mrs. Cynthia C. Brown and The Maurice Goodman Foundation.