William D. Bryan


The Price of Permanence: Nature and Business in the New South

Southerners have long been caricatured as being so desperate for jobs that they have given little thought to protecting the region's environment. Yet southern business leaders and public officials did not see profit and environmental quality as mutually exclusive goals, and they promoted methods of conserving resources that they thought would ensure long-term economic growth. Southerners called this idea “permanence.” But permanence was a contested concept, and the region's businesspeople clashed with other stakeholders as they struggled to find new ways of using valuable natural resources. The Price of Permanence shows how these struggles over the meaning of conservation indelibly shaped the modern South.

This book writes the region into the national conservation movement for the first time and shows that business leaders played a key role shaping the ideals of American conservationists. It also dismantles one of the most persistent caricatures of southerners: that they had little interest in environmental quality. Conservation provided white elites with a tool they used for social control, and this is the first work to show how struggles over resource policy fueled Jim Crow. The ideology of “permanence” protected some resources but did not prevent degradation of the environment overall, and The Price of Permanence ultimately uses lessons from the New South to reflect on sustainability today.


Will Bryan is an historian and author in Atlanta. He received a Ph.D. in 2013 from Penn State, and his research explores the story of land, water, and wildlife conservation in the United States. Will's writing has appeared in publications that include The Washington Post, Atlanta's Saporta Report, Southern Cultures, Edge Effects, and Environmental History. His first book, The Price of Permanence, which is based on his award-winning Ph.D. dissertation, was published by the University of Georgia Press. He is finishing his second book, which explores the origins of ecotourism and its effects on people and landscapes in the United States and the developing world. As an educator, Will has taught more than two dozen classes on the college level at Penn State, Emory, and Georgia State University. Will currently works at the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA), where he does research and analysis to support SEEA's initiatives. You can learn more about Will's work at his website