#EnvHist Worth Reading: June and July 2018

Cat Burial Scene; Weir, Quebec, 1925. Credit: Library and Archives Canada / PA-. MIKAN No. 3349091.

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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 June and July 2018:

1. Reflections on Insect Loss: The Cockchafer, Part 2

The first two instalments of Seeing the Woods‘ new series about insects came out in July. In this second part, Birgit Müller and Susanne Schmitt reflect on the decline of the cockchafer, which is a large, brown European beetle. Müller and Schmitt both use personal reflections to discuss their own personal connections to this insect and to bemoan the disconnect between nature and humanity in comparison to the way they remember the world in their memories. “Fifty years ago cockchafers belonged to spring. It was the creature that reminded us that nature was awakening. But people live so differently nowadays that they don’t even realize the loss. Who still goes for a walk on a calm May night and observes the cockchafers buzzing around the streetlights? Who realizes what the type of agriculture we are practicing does to insects?” they write. The article also outlines the use of insecticides and the loss of habitat that has led to a decline in the insect species.

2. Toxic leftovers from Giant Mine found in snowshoe hares

Yellowknife’s Giant Mine has received a good amount of media attention as of late. The mine is famous due to the large amount of arsenic and other toxic contamination located at the site of the now abandoned mine. In this article, researchers Som Niyogi and Solomon Amuno look at the way these toxins have affected the small animal population in the area. “Small animals,” they write, “can serve as sentinels for environmental contamination.” Arsenic levels in the guts of snowshoe hares near the mine, they found, were 20-50 times higher than hares living elsewhere. These levels of arsenic explain why snowshoe hares in the area are in poor health. The authors also point out that these toxins also threaten hare predators, including humans.

3. Wildlife

“I belong to a growing body of Indigenous people who are increasingly alienated from our ancestral territories, with our cultural land-based teachings sometimes far removed from our everyday lives,” writes Crystal Fraser, a Gwichya Gwich’in PhD Candidate in History at University of Alberta. In this riveting, personal piece in the new Canadian Geographic Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, Fraser describes a trip home to her lands in Treaty 11 Territory. During this trip she tries to rebuild and foster new connections to her ancestral land. Fraser describes her and her family’s past and current connections to the land and the way in which she and the land have changed through time.

4. These Century-Old Photos Inspired Some of the West’s First Bird Refuges

This photo essay features the photography of William Lovell Finley (1876-1953). Finley is accredited as one of the first photographers to use their craft to promote conservation. Kenn Kaufman writes that “these vivid portraits, and his impassioned writing about key Oregon sites, helped persuade President Theodore Roosevelt to designate Three Arch Rocks, Lower Klamath, and Malheur among the first federal bird refuges in the West.” The Oregon Historical Society and Oregon State University recently worked together to digitize Finley’s work, which includes around 6,800 images, some of which are featured in this essay.

5. Loser Wolves: A Cat Fancy

This episode of Outside/In is an interesting piece of pet history. The episode explores issues and questions surrounding cat ownership and breeding with a focus on the history of one breed: the Bengal cat. “The Bengal cat is an attempt to preserve the image of a leopard in the body of a house cat… using a wild animal’s genes, while leaving out the wild animal personality,” the episode synopsis states. The episode effectively looks at the ways in which we domesticate animals to meet human needs and desires, the genetic science behind this breeding, and the ethics behind all of it.

6. Tom Wessels: Reading the Forested Landscape, Part 1 – 3

“Reading the Forested Landscape” is a fantastic three-part web series featuring Tom Wessels that is based on his book of the same name. Wessels takes viewers into the forests of New England and takes great care to show the viewer how to read natural and anthropocentric changes in forested landscapes.

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

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is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, and digital communications strategist. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. She is an executive member, editor-in-chief, and social media editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon. A passionate social justice advocate, she focuses on developing digital techniques and communications that bridge the divide between academia and the general public in order to democratize knowledge access. You can find out more about her and her freelance services at jessicamdewitt.com.

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