KANSAS CITY, MO, Oct. 1, 2013 -- The American Public Works Association (APWA) Abel Wolman Award was recently given to Dr. Christopher Sellers, Ph.D., M.D., professor of history at Stony Brook University in New York, at the APWA 2013 International Public Works Congress & Exposition in Chicago, Ill.
Established in 1987, the Abel Wolman Award is presented annually by APWA's Public Works Historical Society (PWHS) to recognize the best new book published in the field of public works history. Sellers' award-winning book, titled "Crabgrass Crucible: Suburban Nature and the Rise of Environmentalists in Twentieth-Century America," is published by the University of North Carolina Press. His book focuses on urban infrastructure and a history of the suburbs post-WWII. In the book, Sellers details the environmental history of the suburbs and the relevant infrastructure, which often remained un-worked (not a product of human hands).
"The story is engagingly told and offers insights into the evolution of public values that influence what a jurisdiction's residents want and are willing to pay for in their public works services. Additionally, the notes indicate that extensive use was made of personal interviews as well as archival sources," said Public Works Historical Society Awards Selection Committee member, Andrew C. Lemer, Ph.D.
In his book, Sellers notes that although suburb-building created major environmental problems, the environmental movement originated within the suburbs -- not just in response to unchecked urban sprawl. He shows how the philosophy, science, and emotions that catalyzed the environmental movement sprang directly from suburbanites' lives and their ideas about nature, as well as the unique ecology of the neighborhoods in which they dwelt.
Additionally, Sellers asserts that unless people today take notice and adjust to natural infrastructure, such as the aquifers underneath Long Island, the air hovering over Los Angeles, and the preexisting plants and animals and topography of the suburbs, there will be inherent difficulties such as tainted drinking water, invasive pests, or landslides. "The classic notions of infrastructure and public works need revising, to take into account ecologizing," Sellers said.