Men fighting bush fire, Bala, Ontario, August 1916, Credit: John Boyd / Library and Archives Canada /

#EnvHist Worth Reading: July 2017

Men fighting bush fire, Bala, Ontario, August 1916, Credit: John Boyd / Library and Archives Canada /

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 July 2017:

1. Lost to Progress: Upper Mississippi River and Minneapolis Parks Development

The Summer 2017 issue of the open access and interdisciplinary online journal, Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community, is filled with a plethora of fascinating articles. One of them, written by Anna Bierbrauer, looks at the history of development of Minneapolis’ park system in correlation to the history of the Upper Mississippi River. Bierbauer’s account begins in the 1870s with the first rumblings of park planning and then goes through time to look at the way in which parks were planned in order to take advantage of otherwise useless space and the way in which the location of parks shifted as the industrial economy of the city grew and receded during the twentieth-century.

2. “Vermin Are Like Weeds in Your Garden”: Fences, Poisons, and Agricultural Transformation in Colonial Namibia

Bernard C. Moore starts the article by stating that “in Namibia, and southern Africa broadly, “modern” agriculture was often conceived of as technologically innovative, leading to increased outputs,” and argues that vermin control illustrates these technological changes. Moore describes an archival find, which illuminated the fact that vermin control ideas represent a knowledge and technology transfer between the United States and Namibia. Moore details how Namibian farmers altered their vermin control strategy from defensive tactics to offensive tactics, such as fencing and hunting parties.

3. Why World War I cultivated an obsession with insects

In this article, Rachel Murray writes that during the World War I era “bugs – both real and metaphorical – came to shape the way people thought and wrote about the experience of war, and this prompted a surge of popular interest in insects more generally.” Soldiers were described as bugs because they wore bug-like masks and crawled on the ground. War also brought the soldiers in close proximity to insect pests on the battlefield, which led to a widespread insect extermination campaign. Murray also looks at the rise of insects in cultural outputs and the rise of popular entomology.

4. The Majestic Marble Quarries of Northern Italy

Luca Locatelli and Sam Anderson powerfully open this article on Northern Italy’s marble mines by stating that “rarely has a material so inclined to stay put been wrenched so insistently out of place and carried so far from its source; every centimeter of its movement has had to be earned.” This article, which is accompanied by vivid imagery, highlights the way in which these quarries are their own little worlds, and touches upon the geological science behind its formation, the use of it in art and architectural history, the development of removal technology.

5. Forest Fires: “Just a Spark” 1937 Chevrolet Division, General Motors

This video is not from July 2017, clearly, but it was published on YouTube last month. This film, which was released by the Chevrolet Division of General Motors in 1937, is a fantastic and reasonably entertaining source for environmental history, with connections to advertisement and gender history.

Remember to follow #envhist hashtag and NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to keep up with the latest environmental history content.

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NiCHE Social Media Editor. PhD Candidate in Environmental History at the University of Saskatchewan. Working on dissertation analyzing the comparative history of provincial and state park development in Canada and the United States. Editor of Folklore: Magazine of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society. Lab Assistant in the University of Saskatchewan HGIS Lab.

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