#EnvHist Worth Reading: April 2016

Abandoned Military Site in Polar Bear Provincial Park. Source: Ontario Parks

Scroll this

Every month I 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. You can watch all of our #EnvHist Worth Reading videos right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from April 2016:

1. Toronto’s ‘Lost Rivers’ Reflect How We’ve Reshaped Nature

In the Toronto Star article, Michael Robinson profiles Helen Mills and the walking tour group that she founded called Lost Rivers Toronto. The walking tour serves as an excellent example of how to bring envirionmental history to the public. This piece highlights six ‘lost’ waterways, briefly describing their history and the manner in which they were affected by settlement and urban development. One of the highlights of the piece is the Mimico Creek Watershed map, which allows one to explore the way in which the watershed has changed since 1947.

2. The Southern Origins of Soil Conservation

In this article, Paul Sutter describes the events during the Dust Bowl that directly preceded the creation of the Soil Conservation Service in 1935, one of the signature conservation agencies of the New Deal. However, Sutter argues that “the remarkable coincidence between the massive spring dust storms of 1935 and the legislative process that produced the Soil Conservation Service has made it easy to assume a simple line of causation, but doing so obscures a deeper and more southern history of soil conservation advocacy in a cloud of dust.” For the rest of the piece, Sutter describes the soil research of Hugh Hammond Bennett and the way in which the severe erosion of the southern plantation regions led to early concern for soil conservation decades before the Dust Bowl.

3. Environmentalist. Conservationist. What’s the difference?

In this article, Paddy Woodworth talks to an Aldo Leopold biographer, Curt Meine about Leopold’s legacy and the way in which his ideas are employed today. Meine argues that it is a mistake to glorify Leopold’s body of work and to hypothesize how he would have reacted to contemporary issues. Meine contends that Leopold should be appreciated in the context of his time, but that that does not mean that his ideas are no longer relevant. Meine states that the main thing that needs to be remembered when analyzing  Leopold’s work is that he was a conservationist, not an environmentalist. Meine states that environmentalism “is primarily an urban movement, concerned with politics. It tends to be against things. We need to fight for things as well. Leopold said that there is ‘no hope for conservation born of fear’.”

4. Restoring Nature’s Balance in Polar Bear Provincial Park 

This post by Ontario Parks discusses the clean-up of several sites located in what is now Polar Bear Provincial Park, located in northern Ontario. The post states that “between 2011 and 2016, Polar Bear Provincial Park underwent the largest Environmental Remediation Project ever to be completed inside a protected area!” This remediation focused on abandoned Cold War era military sites. The post discusses the way in which these abandoned sites ‘disfigured’ the landscape and created chemical and physical hazards. This post, accompanying video, and project open up some interesting avenues to think about the unique ways in which the environment is managed in northern parks. It is also an addition to a growing interest in the environmental effects of military bases and war. I also recommend checking out this recent post on Vice These Insane Photos Show How An Abandoned Air Force Base Is Polluting Greenland” and Alex Souchen’s new project and blog, “Drowned at Sea: The Environmental History of Disarmament, 1918-1972.”

5. Environmental History of Mining Bibliography

Last month I featured Jonathan Saha’s annotated “Beastly Bibliography.” This month I am pleased to feature another excellent bibliographical source. This past month Mica Jorgensen unveiled a mining history bibliography on her new research blog, Ecologies of Gold. The bibliography includes a large number of resources and is conveniently broken down geographically. I like this new blog bibliography trend and am considering putting together my own based on my research; Jorgensen and Saha both provide excellent examples to follow.

Remember to follow #envhist hashtag and NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to keep up with the latest environmental history content.

The following two tabs change content below.
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.


NiCHE encourages comments and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments that fail to meet our guidelines including comments under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.