Annotated Bibliography – KW

Preface: The assignment asks how the works presented here will help to write the research paper. I do not honestly know how or if each of these works would help to construct the actual text of my argument because I am still refining what that is. What each of these texts does do is build the historiography around my topic. They show me what has already been done and will hopefully point me towards a new direction to narrow down and develop my research questions and thesis.

Knoblauch, William M. “Selling the Second Cold War: Antinuclear Cultural Activism and Reagan Era Foreign Policy.” Order No. 3503950, Ohio University, 2012.

This dissertation has a chapter discussing the interplay of Sagan’s idea of nuclear winter and Reagan-era anti-nuclear culture. The following chapter explores the push back that attempted to discredit Sagan’s work because of how he turned to popular media to disseminate his message. The first chapter argues that historians and even Sagan’s biographers have focused exclusively on the scientific element of his anti-nuclear activism, citing the extensive biography by Keay Davidson. That assertion places the chapter as a fairly definitive part of the historiography of Sagan’s nuclear activism and so I must be careful to avoid unnecessarily retreading the same ground. This work could instead focus my research towards a specific facet that it has not already covered. An earlier idea I had for this project was to attempt a cultural history reading of Sagan’s work. To take one of several of his works and read them as a cultural text. This dissertation does that to a limited extent, but it is more focused on placing Sagan’s work among the cultural texts which may have influenced him.

Badash, Lawrence. A Nuclear Winter’s Tale: Science and Politics in The 1980s. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009. Accessed October 6, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central.

This book is a history of the concept of nuclear winter that charts its scientific and political history. For the purpose of my paper it precludes me from telling a direct history of the concept from the scientific and political angles. I would need to devise an original thesis to test in the context of such a history. What it does provide is context to Sagan’s research, his position among other scientists examining the fragility of the climate, and the community of scientists which raised the alarm over their concerns.

Michael Turgeon, “Carl Sagan,” Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, last modified December 26, 2017,

A small history of Sagan’s environmental advocacy list among their “Environmental Activists, Heroes, and Martyrs” biographies. The Markkula Center is affiliated with the Jesuit Santa Clara University in California. This short piece could act as a springboard for my thinking. It also begins the process of linking several important ideas to Sagan’s environmental work: ethics, a cosmic perspective, and the particularity of his focus on existential threats. It explicitly but very briefly makes the link between Sagan’s participation in the search for extraterrestrial life and his concern for life on Earth. That is a subject I have been interested in expanding upon in a general consideration of the foundations for Sagan’s environmental views, but in the context of this environmental justice course I think the ethical basis for environmentalism that the Markkula Center expounds may be more fruitful to mine.

LeVasseur, T. “”the Production of Post-Supernaturalistic Mythopoesis in Contemporary Nature Religion”.” Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion 16, no. 1 (2012): 50-72. doi:

One area that I had toyed with exploring previously was the use of spiritual sounding language in Sagan’s science communication. This paper explores the emergence of “religious-like sentiments and narratives” in post-supernaturalistic constructions of how to understand life and the universe, including the example of Carl Sagan. The perspective provided by this essay could provide concepts and language useful for discussing Sagan’s thoughts on the environment and how he communicated them. An area that may be fruitful to examine is the meeting of these religious-like sentiments with the concept of apocalypse in the case of climate catastrophes such as nuclear winter and global warming.

Matthew R. Francis, “When Carl Sagan Warned the World About Nuclear Winter,”, posted November 15, 2017,

This reasonably long article details the history of Sagan’s involvement in the initial nuclear winter report, how he publicized its findings through popular media, his influence on the political discussion of the topic, and the push back he received. I find the claims that he helped write the nuclear arms control segment of Carter’s farewell address and was credited by Gorbachev as a major influence for ending nuclear proliferation interesting testaments of his ability to reach policy makers. Going to the primary sources could give me an opportunity to put my own reading on them and possibly find something new to say on the topic. The article also asserts that there is a link between the tactics and organizations which pushed back against Sagan and other environmental advocates in the past and those used today to attack climate science. Exploring these links and setting them in parallel to the Sagan’s history as a climate scientist and environmental communicator may provide footing for new claims about the relation between uncomfortable scientific claims and those who seek suppress them, something summed up in the idea of scientific “Cassandras”.

I had hoped to find more sources on Sagan and anthropogenic climate change, but in most cases the sources to that purpose are pretty sparse and shallow. They often amount to a claim that Sagan “told us so” and paragraphs from one of his books or a link to a video in which he discusses the idea of human activity causing climate change. Last semester it was the primary sources I found that ultimately cemented the subject of my paper and in the course of searching out these secondary sources I found a good quantity primary sources that hold some promise.

Tags: Nuclear, Global, Air, Environmentalist, Popular Culture