Nature’s Past Episode 34: Histories of Canadian Environmental Issues, Part IV – The Canadian Environmental Movement II

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Episode 34: Histories of Canadian Environmental Issues, Part IV – The Canadian Environmental Movement

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The environmental movement is one of the most popular topics in Canadian environmental history. At present, the environmental movement in Canada is at a bit of a crossroads. Having finally moved beyond simply outlining worst practices and their consequences, the last decade has witnessed proactive solutions and workable alternatives to every kind of environmental problem. Yet, this comes at the same time as economic turmoil and ideological opposition from government. Recently, David Suzuki has even gone so far as to argue that “Environmentalism has failed.” Given this crossroads, environmental historians offer the context needed to understand the state of the environmental movement in this country today

On this second part of our look at the history of the environmental movement in Canada we speak with a group of leading environmental historians, including Jonathan ClappertonFrank ZelkoRyan O’Connor, and Mark McLaughlin about the origins of the movement and its transformations since the end of the Second World War.

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Jonathan Clapperton
Mark McLaughlin
Ryan O’Connor
Frank Zelko

Suggested Readings:

Dale, Stephen. McLuhan’s Children: The Greenpeace Message and the Media. Toronto: Between the Lines, 1996.

Elton, Sarah. “Green Power.” University of Toronto Magazine, Winter 1999

Emond, D. Paul. “‘Are We There Yet?’ Reflections on the Success of the Environmental Law Movement in Ontario.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal Vol.46, No.2 (Summer 2008), pp. 219-242.

Keeling, Arn. “Sink or Swim: Water Pollution and Environmental Politics in Vancouver, 1889-1975.” BC Studies Vol.142/143 (2004), pp. 69-101.

Keeling, Arn and John Sandlos. “Environmental Justice Goes Underground? Historical Notes from Canada’s Mining Frontier.” Environmental Justice Vol.2, No.3 (2009): 117-125.

Killan, Gerald, and George Warecki. “The Algonquin Wildlands League and the Emergence of Environmental Politics in Ontario, 1965-1974” Environmental History Review Vol.16, No.4 (Winter 1992), pp.1-27.

McLaughlin, Mark J. “Green Shoots: Aerial Insecticide Spraying and the Growth of Environmental Consciousness in New Brunswick, 1952-1973.” Acadiensis Vol.40, No.1 (Winter/Spring 2011), pp. 3-23.

Mutton, Don. “Dispelling the Myths of the Acid Rain Story.” Environment Vol.40, No.6 (July-Aug 1998), pp.4-34.

Paehlke, Robert. “Eco-History: Two Waves in the Evolution of Environmentalism.” AlternativesVol.19, No.1 (1992), pp.18-23.

Read, Jennifer. “’Let us heed the voice of youth’: Laundry Detergents, Phosphates and the Emergence of the Environmental Movement in Ontario” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association  7, no. 1 (1996), pp.227-250.

Suzuki, David. “The Fundamental Failure of Environmentalism” David Suzuki Foundation Blog. May 3, 2012.

Van Huizen, Philip. “‘Panic Park’: Environmental Protest and the Politics of Parks in British Columbia’s Skagit Valley.” BC Studies Vol.170 (Summer 2011), pp.67-92.

Warecki, George M. Protecting Ontario’s Wilderness: A History of Changing Ideas and Preservation Politics, 1927-1973. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2000.

Zelko, Frank S. “Making Greenpeace: The Development of Direct Action Environmentalism in British Columbia,” BC Studies, Special Double Issue “On the Environment”, Vol.142/143 (Summer/Autumn 2004), pp.197-239.

Zelko, Frank S. Make it a Greenpeace! The Rise of Countercultural Environmentalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Works Cited:

Sean Kheraj, Canadian History & Environment
Environment and History Special issue on local and regional parks

Music Credit:

“The Universe and My So-Called Life” by Pitx
“D124-GTR_DADGAD_Groove” by Javolenus
“2012” by unreal_dm

Photo Credit:

“separate oil and state” by Dave McLean


Kheraj, Sean, Stacy Nation-Knapper, and Andrew Watson. “Episode 34: Histories of Canadian Environmental Issues, Part III – The Canadian Environmental Movement II” Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. 21 January 2013.

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Sean Kheraj

Associate Professor and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University
Sean Kheraj is a member of the executive committee of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. He's an associate professor in the Department of History and Vice-Provost Academic at Toronto Metropolitan University. His research and teaching focuses on environmental and Canadian history. He is also the host and producer of Nature's Past, NiCHE's audio podcast series and he blogs at


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