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 March 2016:
Jumping into the fray of recent commentary on the American West’s public lands issues, environmental historian, Adam Sowards, reacts to comments made recently by Senator Ted Cruz. A major part of Cruz’s campaign in the West has been his promise to return federal lands to state ownership. Cruz points to his own state, Texas, which has control over its public domain, as a successful example. He argues that federal ownership of lands in the West was a “historical accident.” In this piece, Sowards provides historical background and commentary that support his argument that Cruz is “wrong: Texas itself is the real historical accident, and its history offers a cautionary tale, not a model, for Idaho and the rest of the West.”
This post is valuable for both its information and aesthetic properties. Slate’s history writer, Rebecca Onion, features two maps that were created in 1916. The maps illustrate the average date for killing frosts across the United States. These maps were created to assist farmers with their planting schedules. Onion ties these maps into data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency that demonstrates the lengthening of the growing season since 1895, with a distinct upswing in season length in the last thirty years.
As academics, it is often drilled into us that we should not let our personal experiences and our research intwine. Thus, I always enjoy when individuals bipass this (un)written rule and discuss their personal connection to their field of study. This Jacob Darwin Hamblin wrote a lovely piece, which reflected on his knowledge as an environmental historian and his experience Getting Lost in the Woods. Another post that explored the personal this month was written by Sean Munger. In this piece, Munger writes that “Weather is much more than just what’s going on outside your window. It’s a companion in our lives, every day of our lives, and the backdrop against which our personal and collective histories take place. While in my academic work I write about how weather of the past affected other people, some time ago I decided to try out my skills of weather history documentation and analysis on myself.” Munger explores his memories of a particular winter storm in November 1983 and compares these memories to sources from that time.
If you have been on social media during the past month, chances are you have come into contact with the hubbub over the birth of two eaglets on the American Eagle Foundation’s bald eagle cam. In this article on Atlas Obscura, Jessie Guy-Ryan looks at the recent increase in live animal cam popularity on the internet and use of this technology for publicity for organizations such as zoos and relates this to the longer history of animal photography and videography use for scientific research. The article ends with a brief consideration of the evolutionary biology behind our fascination with animals cams.
One of my favourite streams of environmental history to read for pleasure is animal history. To jump out of form to April for a second, Dolly Jørgensen published a great recap of animal history at ASEH on her blog. In March, Jonathan Saha released his “evolving annotated bibliography of readings on animals and empire” on his blog. This “Beastly Bibliography” is an excellent resource, and I encourage everyone to check it out and explore topics ranging from basic background historiography and methods to hunting to veterinary medicine.