Canadians in San Francisco

St. Laurent, signing the UN Charter in San Francisco as Mackenzie King looks on, 26 June 1945. Flickr

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Canadians are going to San Francisco this week and “crossing divides” with environmental historians at the 2014 ASEH annual conference. All but one of the NiCHE executives are on the program in San Francisco, and several other active members are delivering papers, posters, and workshops on environments in Canada and beyond.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Pacific is well represented on the program, and far beyond California there is a particularly strong focus on people and environments in East Asian and Andean countries. Canadians who study energy, water, and other resources will appreciate the histories and field trips that focus on San Francisco, which like all “cities reach far into their hinterlands to pull in the resources that sustain them.”

What are Canadians doing in this meeting of “blue jeans, BPA-free water bottles, and fleece,” as the 2014 program describes ASEH meetings to the uninitiated? Plenty! You might find them at the plenary session “Lost in Translation: Environmental History in a Global Context” reminding Americans of the other Americans on the continent and arguing that environmental history is unique, multilingual, and multicultural when viewed from the north.

View of San Francisco, 1945
View of San Francisco, 1945 Flickr

On Wednesday you will also find them at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis CESTA, at Stanford University, for the pre-ASEH workshop on Digital History and the Environment. Because of its role in the “Does the World need more Canada” workshop at the annual conference in Toronto last year, NiCHE is closely involved in planning this year’s pre-conference event. The workshop is organized by Paul Hirt, (Arizona State University) and by Alan MacEachern and ASEH President Gregg Mitman. Sean Kheraj was also one of the workshop planners, and William Turkel and I are each leading sessions at the workshop. Bill is discussing digital history research methods and I will be sharing a session with Cody Ferguson on teaching EH.

As the regular conference kicks off, NiCHE members should check out some of the excellent new books by Canadian authors at the book fair as well as Hayley Goodchild’s (McMaster University) poster on “Labour and Landscape in the Ontario Dairy Industry.” Other interesting posters include topics ranging from The St. Lawrence Seaway and “Data Quality, and Historical GIS” to Depression era relief work in Rocky Mountain parks. I’m also looking forward to taking in some of the “neighbouring” histories of Detroit, Maine, and the Bering Strait.

Several Canadians are at work on Thursday’s panels including Joy Parr and Michael Egan, and Climate history gets extended treatment on Thursday morning with a panel on perceptions and four responses to “The Climate of History” including one from Anya Zilberstein (Concordia University).

NiCHE executives Colin Coates, Alan MacEachern, William Turkel continue the digital humanities discussion on Thursday afternoon, while Sara Elizabeth Morrison (University of Western Ontario) presents on the “animals know no boundaries” panel, and Caleb Wellum, (University of Toronto) and Michael Clemens (McMaster University) discuss representations of nature in the “age of ecology.”

The day winds down (or ramps up?) with two papers on the north, but you will have to choose as Sue Heffernan, (Laurentian University) presents on “Moosonee as a Pinetree Radar Base: An Interdisciplinary Study of the Cold War and a Northern Cree Town” and Thomas Schilling (MIT) presents in a different panel on “The Science of “Salvage”: Beetles, Maps, and The Politics of Forest Ecology in Northwest British Columbia.”

Over twenty Canadians and their sympathizers will then gather with NiCHE at Puccini and Pinneti for drinks on Thursday, and from there we will plot the annexation of California.

On Friday morning, two Canadians — Etienne Faugier (University of Lyon and Laval) and Andrew Denning (UBC) are among those discussing auto-mobility in Canada, Africa, Chile, and Indochina. Some close neighbours and cross border research seem likely to interest Canadians, presented in papers by Lynne Heasley, (Western Michigan University) “The Accidental Reef: Coal Clinkers, Lake Sturgeon, Zebra Mussels, and Scuba Divers in a Great Lakes Watershed”; Cody Miller (University of Maine) “Farmers, Cans, and Culture: The Rise of the Canned Sweet Corn Industry in Northern New England” and Brian Payne (Bridgewater State University) “Food, Not Fish: How Canning Altered the Interpretation of Seafood.”

On Saturday morning Daniel Ross, (York University) presents on “Managing Public Space Downtown: Pedestrians, Pollution and Vice on Toronto’s Yonge St. Mall, 1971-74”; Stephane Castonguay, (UQTR) discusses “Imagined Riverine Communities. Shifting Spatial and Temporal Boundaries of the People of the St Maurice River Valley”; and Lisa Cox, (University of Guelph) delivers a paper on “Transnational Disease, Transnational Management: Bovine Tuberculosis in North America, 1890-1950.” Other neighbouring papers discuss Standard Oil on the Great Lakes and Timber Cruisers in Wisconsin.

In the afternoon Liza Piper (University of Alberta) explores the connections between “Public Health, Epidemiology, Race and Place in Canada’s Arctic” and Daniel MacFarlane (Carleton University) discusses a “Fluid Border: The St. Lawrence Seaway, Environmental Diplomacy, and Envirotechnical Manipulation.”

So I hope to see you in San Francisco; I hear Colin Coates will have flowers in his hair. Andrew Cardinal will, for sure.

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I am an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Prince Edward Island where I teach in the Applied Communication, Leadership & Culture Program in the Faculty of Arts. My research focuses on the history of biomass energy and agriculture. From 2012-2014 I was the NiCHE project coordinator, and I served on the NiCHE editorial board until 2018.

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