The War Against Weeds: How Hormonal Herbicides Reshaped the Global Environment


ACLS Fellowship Program


Environmental Studies


Since their covert wartime development in the 1940s, auxinic herbicides, the most famous of which is Agent Orange, have been used in agriculture, lawn care, warfare, and invasive species management, with dramatic consequences for ecosystems and public health. The War Against Weeds explains how the proliferation of these “selective herbicides,” which kill dicots but not monocots, transformed agricultural and residential landscapes into grassscapes. This trans-disciplinary research – touching environmental history, history of biology, evolutionary ecology, and environmental justice – follows these herbicides from test grounds in Kenya to battlefields in Vietnam, disposal sites in the Pacific, and American backyards. It reveals how auxinic herbicides were produced, promoted, and used, and how they came to be understood as threats to human health.