Christmas Wish List

Waiting for Santa, 1954, Glenbow Museum (Calgary)

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Besides peace on earth, infrastructure powered by renewables, and a gift card to the local independent organic café, what would you, as teachers of environmental history, want for Christmas?

What courses in environmental history would you add at your institution, if you could?
What do you think is missing? What needs to be taught?

Or, in a dream world, what would you teach, if your slate was cleared (no Canada since 1867 duty), and any prep possible?

Here’s what a few NiCHE editors had on their lists. Add your own in the comments!


Claire Campbell, Bucknell:

With a few environmental historians on hand here, we’ve been tossing around possible classes in: energy history, climate history, the history of environmentalism, the North, and landscape and identity in North America.

I may team-teach a class on climate in the next few years, and probably do a seminar on the same next year. I’d really love to teach a class on the Gulf of the St. Lawrence … but would anybody in Pennsylvania care?!


Dan Macfarlane, Western Michigan:

Since I teach in an environmental studies department, I’m lucky in that everything I teach is about the environment, and I already get to teach variations of some of my “dream courses” — i.e., in addition to intro courses on “nature and society,” I’m doing a senior/grad course on Freshwater Policy, and a senior seminar on Great Lakes Water Policy. The challenge for me is to smuggle in as much history (and Canadian content) as possible, though that usually isn’t too difficult (actually, I prefer teaching in environmental studies rather than history, but that is another story for another blog post).

In my institution’s History Department, which I’m affiliated with, there are two other environmental historians; environmental history is therefore very well represented and there are already a number of EH courses on offer. Aside from getting my water courses cross-listed with History, the course I would like to add is one I taught at a previous university, but would like to teach again and expand upon: the history of Canada-US environmental relations. This class would focus on environmental issues that cross the border – the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence obviously, but also other water bodies, the IJC, wood, minerals, oil and gas, etc. – and would be a mix of transnational, borderlands, and environmental diplomacy. Another class that I’ve thought about would be on North American energy history and policy — which apparently is already getting taught at York University (see below) among other places.


Sean Kheraj, York:

Here are the undergraduate courses we currently have on the books:

  • Ecology of Empire: Europe and the Conquest of North America
  • The Nature of Cities: The History of Urban Environments in North America
  • Power and Change: The History of Energy and Fuel in North America
  • Canadian Environmental History

These are our graduate courses:

  • North American Environmental History
  • Environmental History of Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Ca. 500 – ca. 1750 CE)
  • Coming soon: Global Environmental History before Industrialization; Global Environmental History since Industrialization

Here’s my EH course wishlist:

  • Animals, People, and Environments: Human-Animal Relations in Environmental History
  • Historical Perspectives on Contemporary Environmental Crises
  • The Nature of Canada: Rethinking Canadian History
  • History of Disasters

So many courses, so little time.


Tina Adcock, Simon Fraser:

Right now at SFU History, we’re adding a suite of 100-level thematic courses in an attempt to draw more non-History majors and non-Arts students through our doors. Jay Taylor and I have just put together a Global Environmental History course which, pending its approval, I’ll pilot in spring 2017. Like Dan, I regularly smuggle large dollops of environmental historical content into my Canadian history courses. We talk about farming, forestry, mining, and parks in my social history class, and we consider notions of bioregionality and cultural landscapes in my courses on the Prairies and (forthcoming in 2016) the Arctic and BC.

I’m looking forward to teaching my first Arctic seminar on “polar bears, pipelines, and people” this coming semester. Environmental historical courses I’d love to teach in the future include global comparative courses on “intemperate environments” (i.e. arctic, desert, tropical, alpine, the deep sea, outer space), and/or “cold places,” like those offered by colleagues at Bucknell and Pomona recently. Like Sean, I’d love to teach a course on human-animal relations. And, like everyone else, I’d love to teach a course on energy history, perhaps with a focus on the North American history of oil and gas exploitation. (Hopefully by the time I get around to doing so, Darren Dochuk’s book on oil and conservative religion in America will be out.)





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Professor of History at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where I revel in Canadiana and environmental history. Also a lover of exploring, maps, Jane of Lantern Hill, and Scandinavia.

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