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UAlbany Author: Christopher L. Pastore Explores the Interaction Between People and Nature

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 12, 2016) —Christopher L. Pastore, assistant professor in the Department of History, grew up on Narragansett Bay, and for him that large Rhode Island estuary is much more than a geological formation.

In Between Land and Sea: The Atlantic Coast and the Transformation of New England (Harvard University Press), he presents an environmental history of the Bay, beginning with the first European settlement in 1636 and ending with the dissolution of the Blackstone Canal Company in 1849.

“I wanted to know how, over the long sweep of time, the Bay shaped people, like it had shaped me,” says Pastore, “and how those people who lived there shaped the Bay in return.”

Pastore shows that, over time, they transformed what had been a broad coastal margin into a more clearly defined edge or “coastline.” This relentless push for “improvement” made the edge of the sea less resilient. The work ultimately calls on the environmentally-minded to rethink their notions of progress to include room for impermanence and uncertainty in the natural world.

Between Land and Sea earned Pastore a spot on the shortlist for the Turku Book Prize, awarded by the European Society for Environmental History to the best book in environmental history. Since the work’s release in 2014, he has co-edited Unruly Environments, a special issue of the journal Rachel Carson Center Perspectives. It included his essay, titled “Line in the Sand: The Promises and Perils of Ordering the Ocean’s Edge.”

Building on ideas covered by the book, he has delivered 18 talks to public and university audiences. His next lecture and discussion on coastal environments will be held this Thursday at the Sea Education Association in Wood’s Hole, Mass.

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