Every month I carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. You can watch all of our #EnvHist Worth Reading videos right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from February 2016:
In this post on HistoricalClimatology.com, Dagomar Degroot begins his discussion with two assumptions that are often made about climate change. Firstly, that the earth’s climate has always been relatively stable until recently, and secondly, that anthropogenic climate change did not begin until the onslaught of the industrial revolution. He uses the cooling of the sixteenth-century as a example to undermine the first assumption. Degroot then undermines the second assumption by discussing the way in which the Spanish Empire colonial activities and the ecological effects of the resulting Indigenous genocide may have had an effect on the climate, leading to sixteenth century cooling.
2. The Ice King
In this podcast and accompanying article by 99% Invisible the mid-nineteenth-century frozen water or ice industry in New England is discussed. At one point, ice was harvested from New England and shipped around the world. The podcast discusses the tools and technology used to cut and ship the ice, the property disputes that resulted, and the decline of the industry with the introduction of refrigeration and factory-made ice.
This new slideshow by the Center for Western Priorities is an excellent example of how environmental history can be made both accessible and relevant. As a report in the Deseret News states, the slideshow was “compiled by the Center for Western Priorities after President Barack Obama established three new national monuments in California on Feb. 12 and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, reacted angrily, decrying the move as another usurp of local sentiments and control. ‘Chairman Bishop is carrying on a proud tradition of anti-park naysayers that dates back to the founding of our first national parks, when critics warned that protecting the Grand Canyon from mining was a ‘fiendish and diabolical scheme,” said Greg Zimmerman, policy director for the Center for Western Priorities.” The slideshow provides historical examples of opposition to parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and follows these historical remarks with contemporary statistics and quotes that contradict the original assumptions.
In this post, Sarah Ruth Wilson begins with a discussion of ecofeminism in the 1980s and the “rape of the land” concept, explaining how ecofeminists connected patriarchal society to environmental damage. This connection extended to the body of the land being connected to the body of the woman. Wilson then asks how this theory relates to present-day concern about “rape culture,” and argues that there is still a theoretical link between the environment and physical rape, at least in the United States. She connects doubts aimed at the existence or severity of environmental problems to the the doubts cast on rape or rape culture victims. She states that, “if rape culture is rooted in a suspicion that the assertions of the victim is valid, or a blatant indifference for its existence in contemporary culture, then an “ecological rape culture” may also be real.” Wilson concludes by stating that ecofeminism needs to evolve to contemporary societal conditions.
This final post highlights a potentially useful new source for environmental historians. As the articles states, “The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is now teaming up with the National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP) to digitize its aerial photographs from World War II and make them available online.” Aside from interesting browsing material, these aerial photographs offer opportunity for future land use change projects, particularly of the digital and historical GIS variety.