#EnvHist Worth Reading: August 2014

Source: J. DeWitt's Bookshelf

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Every month we 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. Here are our choices for items most worth reading from July 2014. 

1. Can New York City Survive the Sea?

There seemed to be a notable increase in climate change and climate history-related articles this past month. One of these climate-related articles was written by Ted Steinberg for Dissent. Steinberg takes a historical look at the city’s complicated relationship with its landscape and the water that surrounds it, examining the way in which city planners and developers sought to subdue the environment in order to continue to expand the city’s reach, draining wetlands and building in floodplains. Steinberg connects this development to New York City’s current climate-change predicament and concludes that “now is the time for de Blasio to show some leadership not just in addressing the pressing social issues of our time, but the ecological ones as well. At a minimum, he needs to recognize that the arbitrary boundaries of the City of New York are not helpful for addressing the problem of coastal flooding… He must transcend the boundaries of city and state and adopt a more ecological approach; he must recognize that a metropolis has grown up in the estuary of the Hudson River, a place consisting of an intricate, vast, interconnected tidal network.”

2. How to Track Climate Change? Digitize a Century’s Worth of Moldy Old Records

Another article related to climate change that received some traction in August appeared in The Atlantic. In this post, Rose Eveleth discusses the wealth of old meteorological data that exist in the forgotten corners of weather stations and meteorological offices. The article states that “the International Environmental Data Rescue Organization (IEDRO) estimates that there are 100 million paper-strip charts—records that list weather conditions—sitting in meteorological storage facilities throughout the world.” These documents hold priceless climate change data. Although this assertion is not new to environmental historians, it is nice to see more attention given to the subject. For more on climate history check out the posts and resources related to NiCHE’s Canadian Climate History project and Dagomar DeGroot’s historical climatology website. 

3. The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress

In this month’s installment of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast, Jan Oosthoek interviews Cameron Muir, a researcher at the Australian National University, about his new book which tackles Australian environmental, agricultural, cultural, and political history.

4. Treating Humans as Unnatural 

In another instalment of her thoughtful research blog, Dolly Jørgensen reflects on her experience at the Society for Ecological Restoration Europe 2014 meeting. Jørgensen discusses the reluctance of many ecological restoration practitioners to acknowledge the anthropogenic nature of the the landscapes they are attempting to recreate. Jørgensen takes particular issue with the use of the term ‘non-native’ because the use of the term is typically paired with an implication that humans and their activities are also unnatural.

5. How the Don River Defined Toronto

Another noteworthy piece of urban environmental history this past month was an interview with Jennifer Bonnell, a professor at the Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University, about her book, Reclaiming the Don: An Environmental History of Toronto’s Don River Valley. In the interview, Bonnell talks about the environmental history of the Don River and the way in which the river shaped the development of Toronto.

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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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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