#EnvHist Worth Reading: December 2016

Source: Black Hour (Flicker Commons); "The people want environmental justice: The second annual "Love Yo Mama" celebration in East Oakland put environmental justice back into Earth Day (April 2010)

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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 December 2016:

1. Mapping Three Decades of Global Water Change

This New York Times interactive feature was one of the most popular items amongst environmental historians this past month. “Scientists,” the article states, “with the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, working with Google engineers, have used millions of satellite images to illustrate how rivers, lakes and other bodies of water have changed over three decades.” The preview of the project available in this article includes a visualization of changes in Lake Mead water levels in Nevada, as well as maps from India and Bangladesh, Brazil, and China.

2. Environmental Knowledge and Environmental Politics in the “Post-Truth” Era

Writing in relation to the latest edition of Rachel Carson Center’s Perspectives, “Environmental Knowledge, Environmental Politics: Case Studies from Canada and Western Europe,” that they edited, Liza Piper and Jonathan Clapperton use this post on Seeing the Woods to highlight the way in which the the atmosphere surrounding environmentalism has turned from one of optimism to pessimism since they wrote the issue’s introduction a year ago. In this “post-truth” world, in which Trump has been elected and activists have been harmed protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, they argue that historians need to stay relevant and vocal and that community-engaged scholarship must continue to grow.

3. Environmentalism Was Once a Social-Justice Movement

In this piece, Jedediah Purdy explores the contemporary and historic relationship between the environmental justice and mainstream environmental movements. He begins the article by arguing that: “The incoming Trump administration is likely to see the greatest revival of environmentalism as a confrontational, grassroots, sometimes radical movement since at least 1970, when more than a million people took part in the first Earth Day.” He states that at one point the two movements were intertwined and explores the way in which the two movements split over time, paying particular attention to the environmental movement’s failure to fully understand and adequately consider social justice issues.

4. Lethal Legacy

Related to the topic of environmental justice, “Lethal Legacy” is an in-depth look at a history of contamination at Peterborough’s General Electric plant. Sara Mojtehedzadeh interviews many former plant workers who are now living with the dire health consequences – cancer and other terminal diseases – of their occupation and who justifiably feel that the system has failed them. Mojtehedzadeh addresses decades of the plant’s history of chemical usage, worker claims, and environmental degradation.

5. Decentering “the human” at the interfaces of anthropology and science studies?

Kristina Lyons opens this post by asking “In what ways do seeds, soils, bees, microbes, and rivers matter when Native, Black, brown, queer, and trans human bodies are systematically under assault?” Lyons uses the rest of this post to explore this question. Although she is writing primarily about anthropology, the distrust of the discipline’s whiteness that she describes is a criticism that environmental historians also have to tackle and answer for. Lyons post weaves together a number of interesting arguments, but overall she aims to demonstrate that emphasis on the ‘human’ “continues to negate the full humanity of specific peoples and communities,” and that, as the title explains, scholars should begin to decenter the human in their studies.

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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