Bombs, teeth and climate

What do bombs, teeth and climate have in common?

They are all part of the two talks on Monday, April 17, at Sappington-Concord Historical Society. The two talks sponsored by SCHS are at Grant’s View Branch library at 2:00 and at 3:00.

The two talks are related to environmental history, and they are the first of seven talks in a speaker series, “Environmental History, St Louis and Beyond.” The speaker series is coordinated by St Louis Regional Historical Societies. There are seven talks, at six different historical societies in the St Louis area, over five days, Monday, April 17 to Friday, April 21.

See descriptions below of our two talks and then the other five talks also are listed below. All of the talks in the speaker series are free and open to the public. Full information on the speaker series is at

Descriptions of the seven talks

April 17, Monday afternoon, 2:00 pm
Andrew Hurley
“How Local History Can Help Urban Communities Prepare for Climate Change Impacts”
At Grant’s View library
With the Sappington-Concord Historical Society
This presentation will report on a community engagement project that employs historical research to help inner-city residents plan for the impacts of climate change. Typically, planning related to climate change impacts revolves around emergency preparedness at the scale of counties and municipalities. Yet, there is much that grass-roots organizations can do to build resilience capacity at the scale of neighborhoods. Low-income urban districts present a special challenge due to the vulnerability of populations and the numerous issues that compete with climate change for the attention of residents. Over the past year, faculty and students at the University of Missouri—St. Louis have partnered with grass-roots organizations in several inner-city St. Louis neighborhoods to identify climate-related liabilities and assets through the production of local landscape histories and citizen-generated photo narrations about meaningful places. This data has been fed into a variety of community planning exercises. The presentation will conclude with a more general assessment of how historical knowledge can enhance climate change preparedness at the neighborhood level.

April 17, Monday afternoon, 3:00 pm
David Lobbig
“Baby Teeth and the Bomb: The St. Louis Baby Tooth Survey and the Legacy of Atomic Weapons”
At Grant’s View library
With the Sappington-Concord Historical Society
Scientists, medical professionals, and lay people worked together to achieve one of the greatest accomplishments of the Cold War era: a survey of baby teeth that proved elevated exposure to deadly radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing. Their careful, heroic work to mitigate this danger led to the international Partial Nuclear Test Ban treaty in 1963. David shows how this effort for public education and engagement parallels a possible means to solve some of todays seemingly intractable problems, such as climate change.

April 17, Monday night, 7:00 pm
David Henry
“Historical Perspectives of Climate Change”
At Arnold Historical Society
With Arnold Historical Society
The issue of climate change is considered by some to be controversial. Yet, there is little controversy about it in the scientific community. The vast majority of climate scientists accept the basic facts of climate change: 1) that certain gases (such as carbon dioxide) trap heat within earth’s atmosphere; 2) that increases in these greenhouse gases cause increases in average global temperatures; 3) that small changes in global temperature can have profound effects on the global environment; and that 4) the increases in average global temperature we have seen in that past 200 years are due, primarily, to human activity.

Those who continue to debate the facts of climate change often do so by limiting the scope of their arguments. They may only consider changes in their local region. They will frequently limit the historical time frame to make their point. By limiting the time frame to recent years, they may argue that warming has ‘stalled’. By taking an overly broad perspective, they may argue that the climate has always changed – more than what we have seen in the past two centuries. In the political realm, some argue that climate change is a recent ‘liberal hoax’ made famous by Al Gore and that climate scientists have a ‘liberal’ bias.

This talk will cover the broader historical perspectives of climate change starting with the views of Alexander Von Humboldt from the early 19th century; considering the scientific discoveries that established the basic facts of climate change over the past two hundred years; and finishing with our current situation and the hard decisions we now face.

April 18, Tuesday night, 7:00 pm
Ed Smith
“St Louis’ Radioactive Legacy”
At Manchester Police Department in the courtroom building
With Old Trails Historical Society
The role St. Louis played in the production of nuclear weapons during WWII has been mostly forgotten, even as the region continues to tackle its environmental legacy more than seventy years later. The St. Louis region was ground zero for the processing of uranium used for nuclear weapons from 1942-1957. Our region even had a role in the ban of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing through The Baby Tooth Survey coordinated by Washington University in St. Louis. Join Ed Smith from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment to hear the story of St. Louis’ radioactive legacy and ongoing efforts to cleanup Coldwater Creek and the West Lake Landfill.

April 19, Wednesday night, 7:00 pm
Brad Walker
“The Lower Missouri River: A Century of Manipulation”
At the Bridgeton Community Center
With Bridgeton Historical Society
The presentation will chronicle the extensive physical alterations of the Lower Missouri River and their impacts upon the river and its floodplain since the mid-1950s. Some efforts have been made to lessen the impacts and restore portions of the impacted habitats and these efforts will also be discussed.

April 20, Thursday night, 6:00 pm
Marilyn Leistner
“Dioxin Disaster at Times Beach, the End Days for a Missouri Town ”
At Route 66 State Park Visitor Center
With Eureka Historical Society
In the middle of it all, Marilyn Leistner lived through the dioxin disaster that struck Times Beach, Missouri. She met all the players. She saw all their moves as they navigated their way through a mess so widespread that no solution could make the people and the town whole again. Marilyn, a Times Beach resident along with her family, was in the middle of it all as she saw family, friends and neighbors struggle to deal with the situation. Marilyn got more heavily involved as it eventually resulted in the removal of Times Beach, all buildings and contaminated soil, and the relocation of the residents. Attempts continue even today for the people to reclaim what they can of their lives. Marilyn is still there and is telling the story of the whole saga.

April 21, Friday night, 7:00 pm
Esley Hamilton
“A Brief History of Landscape Architecture in St. Louis”
At the Clayton Community Center
With Clayton Historical Society
Although St. Louis largely grew up without a plan, over two centuries many outstanding landscape designers have worked here, laying out neighborhoods, parks, institutions and individual properties. This talk is intended to draw attention to this liitle-known part of our heritage.