Time and a Place: Environmental Histories, Environmental Futures, and Prince Edward Island

Event Date: Jun 13 2010 – Jun 18 2010
Venue: University of Prince Edward Island
City: Charlottetown, PEI
Country: Canada
Primary Contact Name: Irene Novaczek
Contact Email: inovaczek@upei.ca

Nowhere that plowcut worms
heal themselves in red loam;
spruces squat, skirts in sand
or the stones of a river rattle its dark
tunnel under the elms,
is there a spot not measured by hands
~ from Milton Acorn’s The Island

Walk anywhere on Prince Edward Island, the postage-stamp of a province on Canada’s east coast, and you know that it’s been walked before. The Island has been home to Mi’kmaq for ten thousand years, French and English settlers more recently, and now Canadians. It has experienced intensive resource use for centuries and its forests, fisheries, and farmlands carry the wounds of soil and water contamination, urban and shoreline development, and coastal erosion. The Island is such a cultural artifact that one can be forgiven for thinking that its nature is nothing but history, time masquerading as space. And yet what has survived is a place still so pastoral, so beautiful that it attracts a million visitors every summer.

PEI’s long and well-documented history, its small size, its status as a distinct political entity, and, of course, its islandness make it a compelling case for studying how past environmental attitudes and practices have shaped a place’s society and ecology. This weeklong workshop brings together more than 60 local, national, and international participants to uncover the links between the Island’s past, present, and future. The goals of the event are both local and global, pragmatic and

  • to develop understanding of PEI’s environmental history, and to bring together scholars working around that field
  • to assist future environmental planning on PEI, and
  • to explore the value of islands for the study of environmental history and more broadly for crafting comprehensive plans for sustainability.




Archived Presentations

NiCHE has archived 14 presentations from this event. Held in various locations on Prince Edward Island, these presentations were part of the week long Time and a Place workshop held in June of 2010.

Citation: Dunaway, Finis. “Seeing Connections: Environmental History and Visual Culture.” Time and a Place. 13 June 2010.
Bio: Finis Dunaway is Associate Professor of History at Trent University, where he teaches courses in modern United States history, visual culture, and environmental studies. He is the author of “Natural Visions: The Power of Images in American Environmental Reform” (2005) and of articles in American Quarterly, Environmental History, Raritan, and other journals. He is writing a book tentatively titled “From the Atomic Bomb to Global Warming: The Environmental Crisis in American Visual Culture.”
Abstract: Why do images matter to environmental history? This lecture will draw on a wide array of visual texts — including landscape paintings, photographs, mass media, and contemporary art — to examine crucial methodological issues that arise at the intersection of environmental history and visual culture. I will explain how images can enrich our understanding of major problems in the field, from shifting cultural perceptions of the natural world to material changes in the environment and the emergence of various forms of environmental politics. Although most of my examples will be taken from U.S. history, I will discuss and attempt to model interpretive strategies applicable to diverse settings and contexts.

Citation: Wynn, Graeme. “Time, Place and Trees: Forest Scenes and Incidents in Eastern North America.” Time and a Place. 15 June 2010.
Bio: Through the four decades of his professional career, Wynn has sought to understand human transformations of the earth. The core of his work has always been interdisciplinary, rooted in geography and history and engaged with the environmental sciences. A fair part of his work has turned on the histories and geographies of forest exploitation, conservation, preservation and management. Wynn’s academic writing has been directed, over the years, to both specialist scholars and the educated lay public (through such contributions as the extended chapter he was invited to write for The Illustrated History of Canada) in the conviction that it is important to communicate the fruits of academic research to an audience beyond the academy. His research contributes to debate and discussion on, and understanding of, the development of European settlements overseas, the history of migration, the connections between environment and empire, and the developing field of environmental history.
Abstract: There have been very few environmental histories of the forests that blanket much of Atlantic Canada. This lecture plunges into the forests of the Canadian Maritime provinces to sketch something of their changing form, extent, appraisal and importance through time. To provide a long view, while remaining sensitive to the diversity of this region, it focuses on trees in particular times and places or specific forest scenes and incidents. Dr Wynn argues for the signal importance of forests in the development of this area, as well as for the value of historical and geographical perspectives in the quest to understand human-environment interactions.

Citation: Pauly, Daniel. “Crisis and Opportunity: The history and Future of Global Fisheries.” Time and a Place. 16 June 2010.
Bio: Daniel Pauly, a French citizen, became a Professor at the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia in 1994. This followed two decades of fisheries and marine research in the tropics, and university studies in Germany. Dr. Pauly has authored over 500 scientific articles, book chapters, reports and shorter contributions, as well as numerous books. These documents, mainly dedicated to fisheries management, ecosystem modeling and increasingly, food security issues, have garnered numerous scientific awards.
Abstract: The period following the end of the Second World War saw massive catch increases, but crashes due to overfishing began to be reflected in global catch trends in the 1970s, and intensified in the 1980s and 1990s. In response, the industrialized countries moved their effort toward deeper waters, and toward the coasts of developing countries. This global expansion is complete and global catch, which peaked in the late 1980s, continues to decline. Several factors prevent the public in developed countries from realizing the depth of the crisis fisheries are in: over-reporting by China; strongly increasing aquaculture production; increased consumption of seafood from developing countries; and widespread denial by governments of the gravity of the global fisheries crisis. This crisis will be aggravated by global warming, whose likely effects on global fisheries will be presented. This talk will end with a discussion of some positive measures to address some of these issues, notably a refocusing on artisanal fisheries.

Citation: Ritvo, Harriet. “Silent Partners: Animals, Domestication, and Environment.” Time and a Place. 17 June 2010.
Bio: Harriet Ritvo is the Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at MIT, where she teaches British history, environmental history, and the history of natural history. She is the author of The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and Victorian Environmentalism; The Platypus and the Mermaid, and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination; The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age; and the forthcoming Noble Cows and Hybrid Zebras: Essays on Animals and History.

Abstract: The history of our species has unfolded in constant relation to that of other animals, even before we began to live with them. Domestication produced enormous changes in human economies and societies, as well as in environmental conditions, affecting land use, biodiversity, and susceptibility to disease, among other things. These impacts have continued to the present time, in forms that have shifted to reflect the various cultures in which humans and animals cohabit. Beginning in the early modern period, British livestock husbandry emphasized efficiency and profitability, concerns that also

characterized British culture more generally. They resulted in the improvement or intensification of strategies of both breeding and animal management, and were transmitted, albeit with significant modifications, to the British colonies in eastern North America.

Citation: Hatvany, Matthew, Joshua MacFadyen, William Glen, Mathieu Landry. “Roundtable: Modeling Conflicting Values in the Past, Present, and Future.” Time and a Place. 18 June 2010.

Citation: MacDonald, Ed, Jean-Paul Arsenault, David Barrett, John MacQuarrie, George McRobie. “Roundtable: Learning from Environmental History.” Time and a Place. 18 June 2010.

Citation: Hatvany, “Maps, History, and Environmental Histories in PEI Marshfield.” Time and a Place.
Abstract: Privatization of natural resources, intensive agriculture, demographic pressures and urbanization are at the root of environmental problems such as the loss of biological diversity, pollution of waterways, soil erosion and exhaustion, and related concerns. Governments have become concerned with reversing such trends and achieving “sustainable development.” Historical geographers and environmental historians suggest that for society to move forward, it must first look backward.

Citation: Beck, Boyde. “Go Fish: The Historical Fisheries of PEI.” Time and a Place. 16 June 2010.

Citation: Schreier, Hans. “Land Use Change and its Impact on Water, Using GIS and Scenario Modeling.” Time and a Place. 18 June 2010.
Abstract: Historic land use changes can easily be linked to changes in hydrology and water quality but each type of activity has unique impacts. Cumulative impacts have not been well documented. Analysis of historical land use based on GIS techniques and combined with scenario modeling reveal alternative options for the future. Examples from the Himalayas and British Columbia will be shown.

Citation: Sobey, Douglas. “The Forests of PEI: an Historical Study.” Time and a Place.
Bio: Douglas Sobey, University of Ulster.

Citation: Marshall, Albert et al. “Ta’ntelo’lti’k Mi’kmaq Knowledge + Two-Eyed Seeing.” Time and a Place. 14 June 2010.

Citation: MacFadyen, Josh. “Cultural Values Mapping.” Time and a Place. 18 June 2010.

Citation: Karlsdóttir, Anna. “Icelandic Fisheries.” Time and a Place. 16 July 2010.

Citation: Oliviera, Ana Maria. “Williche history and the environment of Chiloe Island, Chile.” Time and a Place. 14 June 2010.


Rapporteur’s summary:

by Alan MacEachern

I had intended to blog daily from the weeklong “Time & a Place” – aka, TnP – event on PEI, but there was something about the limited internet access at my parents’ place, the 6am wake-up calls (thanks, Dad), & the 10:00pm arrivals back home that talked me out of it. Here instead is a flock of tweets from the week:

  • To create an environmental history event dedicated to a place, and to places, start with the best local ingredients (ex. Ed MacDonald, Kate MacQuarrie, Helen Kristmanson). Combine with national and international flavours (ex. Harriet Ritvo, Daniel Pauly, Graeme Wynn). Fold in students from across Canada, plus a dash from the US. Take out of classroom at mid-day and place on bus. Stir. Stuff with seafood and scones. Periodically marinate. Remove from daily routine. Feeds 55-60.
  • The Minigoo Fisheries, 45-days young when we visited.
  • Pun of the week: Colin Duncan re “bully pulpwood”. Nineteenth-century forestry humour.
  • As always, impressed by Donald Worster, trouper. He was harbouring a chest infection when he arrived on PEI, and it lasted for his entire stay. Yet he gave a sparkling public lecture on “North Americans in an Age of Limits,” tracing from
    Scarcity and Growth to Limits to Growth, and from Columbus to Copernicus along the way. You’ll read it, eventually, I’m sure. Then, Don was off to the Edinburgh to pick up Scotland’s biggest literary prize for A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir. Congratulations, and thanks for coming, Don.
  • A highlight for me was showing PEI off to Don Worster and Colin Duncan the day before TnP began. I used it as an excuse to pop into DeSable to see a historical plaque a few miles away from where I grew up, but which I’d never visited: the birthplace of Franklin K. Lane, who was the US Minister of Interior that helped set up the US National Parks Service (not to mention the only US Minister of Interior quoted in Nabokov’s Pale Fire). Don, however, thinks of Lane as John Muir’s nemesis during the Hetch Hetchy controversy, and wondered whether I was trying to provoke him. Never.
  • I introduced Harriet Ritvo by citing the first sentence of her great book, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age: “When in 1679 a London woman swung at Tyburn for bestiality, her canine partner in crime suffered the same punishment on the same grounds.” I drew attention to the economy of “swung”, and suggested a lesser writer, like me, would have taken considerably more words to make considerably less effect. After, I realized that I’d proven myself right, by going on in detail about the sentence. Same here. Sigh.
  • Michael DelVecchio, did you get a look at that rooster? (For those who weren’t there, you had to be there. You weren’t.)
  • Interested in Canadian forest history? Get your hands on the comprehensive, three-volume work done by Douglas G. Sobey, Early Descriptions of the Forests of Prince Edward Island. It’s very impressive.
  • Much enjoyed meeting George Main of the National Museum of Australia. Here’s his “Waterhole Project” research blog. Thanks for recommending Tom Griffiths’ Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica, George.
  • Of all the public talks, Graeme Wynn’s on “Time, Place, & Trees” was perhaps both the most wide-ranging and the most focused on PEI. That’s Graeme, able to move from the macro – forestry over the past five centuries in eastern North America – to the micro – nicely-turned phrases, a la “difficult lives on thin soils” – and ending with a top-10 list to ensure his points are made, heard, and understood. There are lessons there for any speaker.
  • Boyde Beck’s 45-minute bravura, extemporized talk on the history of fishing on PEI, as told through the cod, mackerel, and lobster fisheries – wish I could have bottled it. But wait, we did! His and many other TnP talks will soon be on our website. I knew Boyde a lifetime ago, when he was an introvert and I wasn’t.
  • How important to a good networking event is food? Calories to remember: lobster at the Bluefin, of course; mussels at the Greenwich beach shelter; rhubarb crisp at Sweet Clover Farm. Conversations while chewing, to remember: Rosemary Curley (favourite place on PEI? Alaska – look it up); Lauren Wheeler (re Helio Hose, outside Canmore); Minister of Environment, Energy, & Forestry Richard Brown (re jobs for Islanders); Claire Campbell (how can someone so kind be so snarky, or vice versa?).
  • Daniel Pauly’s “Pauly-graphs” about global fishing. …1/4 of the world’s catch is discarded …. 36% of world catch is turned into animal (often fish) food … for years, China overreported its catch, as a sign of strength …until the 1960s, Canadian fish management and science was world-respected … the great cod catch of the mid-60s to early 80s …. See the Sea Around Us Project.
  • Graeme Wynn calls for us to turn from talk of “sustainability” to the (more realistic?) talk of “resilience” – of what is more likely, or has already proven, to work for a longer time.
  • At Greenwich, with the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the background, we listened to Anna Karlsdóttir of the University of Iceland talk about her nation’s experience with the introduction of Individual Transfer Quotas (ITQs) in the fisheries in the 1990s, and what it meant to the island’s economy and ecology. Most striking was one economist’s discussion of how the process had turned fish into fully-capitalized entities, and so “became alive.” (I would love the full quotation, Anna, and links to your work.)
  • I look forward to seeing the published version of geographer Matthew Hatvany’s transcription & annotation of the 1836-82 diary of Marshfield, PEI farmer David Ross.
  • It was a thrill to have George McRobie, associate of EF Schumacher, and author of Small is Possible, at TnP. McRobie spoke of being greatly inspired by PEI’s (too-short) turn to alternative energy in the 1970s, as manifest in the Ark and the Institute of Man & Resources (I wrote about those here). On TnP’s final day, McRobie was able to catch up with ex-Premier Alex B Campbell, who had been so responsible for setting PEI on that path in the ‘70s.
  • I loved Stephen Mannell (Dalhousie U, College of Sustainability) observation that Canada 1964-78 was an “irony-free zone”, a time when we wanted to make changes and believed we could.
  • One of the people I felt fortunate to meet and learn from on PEI was Hans Schreier, professor at UBC’s the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC. His talk on land use change & its impact on water was a revelation. It made me want to learn more about permeable concrete, about the relationship between impervious surfaces and biodiversity, about Kelowna’s new bylaw that new houses must have 1 foot of topsoil, to hold water, about planting trees people don’t want in developing countries so they don’t cut them down, and, admittedly, about ToolBook software. Visit Hans here.
  • Bill Glen’s argument that, on PEI, native species should be planted on “unploughed forests”, but that exotic species are fine on “ploughed [ie, 2nd-growth] forests.”
  • The “Learning from Environmental History” policy panel – Deputy Minister of Environment, Energy & Forestry John MacQuarrie, Executive Secretary of the PEI Commission on the Land and Local Governance JP Arsenault, and environmental consultant and self-proclaimed “policy wonk” Dave Barrett – was a splash of water on the faces of scholars and students who had spent the week listening their way through the province’s history. What do environmental historians and historical geographers have to offer policymakers? How can our work inform policy today and tomorrow? Arsenault spoke to the importance of the built and cultural heritage on PEI (to tourism, but more importantly to the way-of-life), and felt that those with historical interests could do more to develop interest in the cultural landscape on the Island. All the panelists were polite, of course, but by the end I was feeling a twinge of “relevence envy.” Then Dave Barrett came up to me. He wondered if I remembered him: he had taken a correspondence course in Environmental History from me 15 years ago at Queen’s. He’d liked & remembered it. It’s easy for academics, obsessed with our own research, to forget, but it’s often – most often – in our teaching that we’re likely to have the most impact.
  • Related to the previous, perhaps? I was directed to Don Mitchell’s “Confessions of a Desk-Bound Radical”.
  • Thanks again to Irene Novaczek for organizing this on the ground, with her crew of Jonathon Driscoll, Alison, Fogho, Joan, and all. And special thanks to Josh MacFadyen for representing NiCHE on the ground during the past months.
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