Canadians Heading to Guimarães

Word Cloud of the WCEH program after removing some common words like Chair and Accepted.

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Five years ago Canadian environmental historians and historical geographers arrived by the dozen to present at the 1st World Congress of Environmental History in Copenhagen. New scholars travel grants from NiCHE allowed a large number of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, myself included, to make the trip to Denmark. Many more historians, geographers and environmental studies scholars from Canadian universities attended the congress. Now that the program for the second World Congress of Environmental History is available to read as a PDF, we can skim through the the nearly 500 presentations scheduled over five days from July 8 to 12 and see that Canadians and Canadian based scholars will again make a large contribution. This includes the eleven New Scholars funded by NiCHE travel grants.

Despite the continued prominence of the words  “United”, “States” and to a lesser extend “Kingdom” and “Canada” in the word cloud (above), the lengthy program reflects the diversity and geographic breadth of environmental history. There are papers on every region of the world and many more with transnational perspectives. Scholars from Canada are scattered throughout the program and presenting on many different regions, from Western Canada through to the Atlantic Provinces, but also on Latin America, China, India, Europe and the United States. It is also notable that many Canadian papers are found on comparative and thematic panels alongside historians presenting on other regions.

For those interested in getting their fix of pure Canadian environmental history, Bill Waiser (Saskatchewan) organized a panel on “Historical Studies of Ecology and Ecological Studies of History” with papers from Jennifer Jozic (Saskatchewan) and Ted Binnema (UNBC) and Tina Loo (UBC) organized a panel of the “Politics and Contingencies of Resource Management in Canada” with papers from Suzanne Morton (McGill), William Parenteau (UNB), James Kenny (RMC) and Dean Bavington (Memorial). Ben Bradley and Dale Barbour from the University of Toronto, along with Mary-Ann Shantz from Edmonton also have a panel on “Behaving Badly” in Canada’s great outdoors.

Beyond these three Canadian panels, you’ll find the Canadian content scattered throughout the rest of the program. Sinead Earley (Queens), for example, presents on British Columbia’s forests on a panel titled “Woods Old and New” and Christopher Miller (Concordia) and Matthew Evenden (UBC) will both contribute Canadian urban history papers to panels aptly named “Urban Nature” I and II. Matt Dyce (Winnipeg) and Jonathan Peyton (Manitoba) combine with Hanna Vikström (RIT, Sweden) and Max Ritts (UBC) on a comparative panel on “Visions of a Hydrocarbon Frontier”. John Thistle (Memorial) has a paper in a panel about “Twentieth Century Energy Transitions” titled “Extractive Industry in the Atlantic Subarctic”. Richard Unger (UBC), who will co-present on the same panel with Mar Rubio (UPN, Spain), has one of a number of comparative papers in the program which include Canada, with their study of aluminum production and hydroelectric development in Brazil and Canada. Additional comparative papers come from Stephen Bocking (Trent) with his paper on “Salmon Aquaculture in Europe and North America”, Kirsten Greer (Nipissing) and Andrew Smith’s (Coventry)  paper on “Redpath Sugar and the Connected Environmental Histories of Montreal and the West Indies” and Jessica De Witt’s (Saskatchewan) paper on the “Farm Park Concept” in North America. Merle Massie (Ottawa), Jocelyn Thorpe (Manitoba), Sean Kheraj (York) and Joanna Dean (Carleton) will present on methodologically focused roundtables and panels, but I’m sure they’ll bring some Canadian examples into these discussions.

Canadians and scholars based in Canada will also present on many other parts of the world, including a number of papers on Europe during the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period and Latin America. Richard Hoffmann (York) is in the program on numerous occasions as a chair, organizer and presenter. This includes two panels he organized on Aquaculture and chairing a panel organized by Bradley Skopyk (York/SUNY) on “Perceiving and Experiencing Climate Change” with a presentation by Dagomar Degroot (York/Western). Sara Morrison (Brescia University College), David Zylberberg (York) and Timothy Newfield (Sterling) contributes three more papers on Medieval/Early Modern Europe. Stuart McCook (Guelph) and Patrick Chassé (Saskatchwean) join Skopyk with two more presentations on Latin America. The list goes on: Michael Hathaway (SFU), Rebecca Woods (Columbia), Prateep Nayak (Waterloo), Jack Hayes (Kwantlen), Bradley Walters (Mount Allison), Eda Acara (Queen’s) and myself will present papers on Elephants in China, Soay Sheep in St Kilda, Fishing for Power in India, Mediterranean Fires, “Upland Environmental Change in St. Lucia”, “Nostalgias of Nature” in contemporary Turkey and London’s ghost acres. Geoff Cunfer (Saskatchewan) and the Sustainable Farm Systems project organized five transnational panels featuring their agro-ecological and energy regimes research, the last of which includes Cunfer’s own paper on “Changing Energy Profiles in North American Great Plains Agriculture”.

Finally, Graeme Wynn from the University of British Columbia, is the Programme Chair for the World Congress and appears on the programs a number of times introducing plenary sessions and the poster presentations. Did I miss someone? Please let us know in the comments below.

Word Cloud of the WCEH program after removing some common words like Chair and Accepted.
Word Cloud of the WCEH program after removing some common words like Chair and Accepted.
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Jim Clifford is an associate professor of environmental history at the University of Saskatchewan. He published West Ham and the River Lea: A Social and Environmental History of London’s Industrialized Marshland, 1839–1914 with the UBC Press in 2017.


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