Born and raised in the heartland of Coke country, Atlanta, Georgia, my interest in environmental history grew out of my experiences wandering through the American South. Much of my free time I spent in the wildlands and rivers of North Georgia--places such as the Cohutta Wilderness and the Chattooga River. My love of the outdoors continued into graduate school where I was fortunate to meet the great environmental historian, Ed Russell, who introduced me to the historical field I now call home.

After six wonderful graduate school years in Charlottesville, Virginia, I left the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for sunny California as a Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley, where I finished much of Citizen Coke, my first book.

From there I headed back to the Deep South, where I spent three years as an assistant professor of environmental history at the University of Alabama. Currently, I live in Columbus, Ohio, and teach at The Ohio State University, where I am an assistant professor of environmental history and a member of the Sustainable and Resilient Economy Discovery Group.

I was recently named a New America Carnegie Fellow for the 2017 academic year. This fellowship will allow me to work on my next book, Seed Money: How the Monsanto Company’s Quest for Power Remade Our World. The book will offer the first global environmental history of the St. Louis firm, tracing Monsanto's astounding evolution from making DDT to manipulating DNA, and will use the firm's actions to assess the future environmental sustainability of corporate capitalism.

Book Awards

Citizen Coke - Council of Graduate Schools Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities, 2016
Citizen Coke - Gold Medal, Best Business Commentary, Axiom Business Book Awards, 2015


Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2012
B.A., Dartmouth College, 2004

Courses Taught

History of American Capitalism: Making America Modern
American Civilization Since 1865
The Environment in American History
Coca-Cola Globalization: America and Global Ecological Change, 1800-Today
Coca-Cola Capitalism: History of American Business

Research Interests

Global Environmental History
History of Capitalism
Coca-Cola Globalization
Business History
Southern History

Editor, Histories of Capitalism and the Environment
West Virginia University Press

In recent years the history of capitalism has generated excitement both within and beyond the academy, including front-page coverage of the emerging subdiscipline in the New York Times. Very little of this attention, however, has drawn connections to the work of environmental historians. The new Histories of Capitalism and the Environment series will address this significant gap by bringing capitalism back to ground. It will highlight the environmental transformations wrought by capitalist enterprises in the modern era and also expose the ways in which nature shaped capitalism’s contours. Taking inspiration from field-defining books like Richard White’s Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, the series will unite two of history’s most vibrant subfields. Its subject matter will range from how nature was implicated in the ideological origins of capitalism to studies of capitalism at the scale of human bodies. Authors interested in submitting proposals for consideration should contact Bart Elmore at




Zubin Desai