Environmental Science and Public Policy

The environment is a universal human concern, and the Environmental Science and Public Policy concentration seeks to tackle issues surrounding it from multiple perspectives, including the hard, life, and social sciences. Houghton and its historical collections contain a variety of materials about the environment that can aid ESPP concentrators to put modern problems in perspective. The library’s humanist focus also provides usually unheard points of view on nature and our species’ interaction with it. Much like ESPP, Houghton’s approach to the environment is multidisciplinary, and, through the library’s collections, students can explore their concentration from many different vantage points.

As a receptacle of American history, Houghton has a plethora of documents about nineteenth-century naturalism and the early conservancy movement. Houghton holds many items that belonged to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Harvard College alumni who became the most important voices of Transcendentalism. Both of them were also naturalists, and Emerson can, according to Michael Popejoy, a Harvard philosophy fellow, be considered one of the founders of American Naturalism. In fact, Houghton owns his Naturalist journal (MS Am 1280H [99], 008290191), a fascinating handwritten volume with the luminary’s observations about multiple scientific fields and physical treasures—a preserved oak tree leaf and a wax impression of a butterfly.

Emerson’s pupil and his naturalist endeavors are also ubiquitous at the library. Students interested in the intersection between the humanities and environmental science might want to check out some of his manuscripts, which include fragments of journals used to compose Walden (MS Am 278.5 [16], 009065351), a Transcendentalist classic and one of the most important works in American literature.

One of Houghton’s most important figures, Emily Dickinson, can also be studied from an environmental science vantage point. The celebrated poet was a botany enthusiast, and her passion for the natural world is not lost in the portion of the Houghton archive dedicated to her: the collection includes two of her herbaria (MS Am 1118.11-1118.12) and some of her botanical specimens (MS Am 1118.13, 009890756).

Progressing through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, ESPP concentrators can also peruse a 1901 autographed copy of Our National Parks (Lan 902.205*, 001269106), by John Muir—one of American history’s most celebrated conservationists. On the topic of early twentieth-century preservation efforts and national parks, Houghton is lucky to own a huge collection of items related to Theodore Roosevelt, Harvard alumnus and 26th President of the United States. One of the items in that collection, a collection of political cartoons (MS Am 3056, 014558714), contains a lot of material related to Roosevelt’s conservation efforts whilst in office. Also at Houghton is the Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence, and the publishing house’s archives include letters to and from Rachel Carson (MS Am 2105 [42], 006401474), an extremely valuable resource to undergraduates concentrating in ESPP.

On the more curious, unusual side of the collection, Houghton owns meteorological records from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences spanning the years 1754-1865 for multiple cities in Massachusetts (MS Am 1360-1361, 000601772), which can be used to study local weather patterns and climate change, especially through comparisons with current records.