#EnvHist Worth Reading: June 2017

"Ode to Cyberpunk" by Eleonora Gorini, Flickr Commons

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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 June 2017:

1. Environmental History and the History of Emotions

Andrea Gaynor argues in this popular post that environmental historians have failed to fully flesh out the possibilities of emotion analysis in their research. This is an important oversight because emotions have always informed the way in which humanity has interacted with the environment, and analysis of past emotional connections to nature offers a way to better understand contemporary reactions to environmental issues. Gaynor argues that one area that environmental historians could further research is the way in which colonial cultures outsourced environmental devastation. Gaynor also discusses how emotion history research has its own set of unique challenges, including the fact that historical resources have to be read differently in order to pull out emotional evidence.

2. How Republicans came to embrace anti-environmentalism

In this Vox post, Christopher Sellers asks “so how has the current Republican anti-environmentalism come so far so fast? Why this extreme Republican animus toward the environmental state?” Sellers then traces the first inklings of anti-environmentalism in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Sagebrush Rebellion in the West, the anti-environmentalism of the Reagan Administration, and the way in which the rise of the environmental justice movement further pulled Republicans away from environmentalism. He concludes by discussing the ways in which the contemporary environmental movement needs to reorganize to become more effective.

3. Cyberpunk and Hope in Environmental History

In this thoughtful post on xyr personal blog, The Tiger Manifesto, Evelyn Ramiel explores the connection between the genre cyberpunk and the field of environmental history. Ramiel comments that on the surface, the two do not seem to have a lot in common. Ramiel argues that cyberpunk is better when informed by ecological and historical knowledge and describes an RPG cyberpunk setting that xe are creating, which incorporates the city’s natural setting and animal bodies. Ramiel refers to NiCHE’s recent series on hope, and concludes that “environmental history informed by cyberpunk and other techno-pessimist projections is one that can embrace a certain degree of positivity while noting that, in the Cthulucene and Anthropocene/Capitalocene era, there are no technical solutions and the systems that degrade the resilience and health of ecosystems are only going to be better-armed and fiercer in the future.”

4. The Map Hidden in the Pacific Northwest’s Tree Rings

This article describes a new scientific method for tracking past rainfall amounts and climate conditions. Paleoclimatologists, Erika Wise and Matthew Dannenberg, have figured out how to read tree rings to discern the paths of rainstorms in the past. The article includes some really interesting data visualisations. The article states that “using the correlations observed from those 50 years of known meteorological data matched to tree rings, they were able to back-track. They estimated years of storm tracks from the additional 275 years of data in the tree rings.”

5. The Great Thing About Mass Wildebeest Drownings

In this article, Ed Yong looks at the research of Amanda Subalusky, an ecologist. Subalusky researches the migration of wildebeest through the Serengeti. This migration, she argues, is likely one of the deadliest of its kind because the massive herds of animals have to cross the Mara River, and many do not make it. Annual mass drownings are common, and Subalusky demonstrates, critical to the ecology of the region. Most important to environmental historians is the way in which this research challenges traditional ideas of what a “pristine” water system looks like. Destruction of mega-herds, like North American bison, may have significantly altered, not only the landscape, but also the waterways because of the absence of decaying bodies. Yong writes that “when we watch the wildebeest migration, we’re looking through a window into the global past—into a planet where mega-herds routinely traversed bodies of water and lost their lives in huge numbers, to the benefit of the surrounding ecosystem. And that, Subalusky says, should force us to reconsider our view of what those ecosystems ought to look like.”

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, project manager, 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). Additionally, she is the Managing Editor for the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon and a Coordinating Team member of Showing Up for Racial Justice Saskatoon-Treaty Six. 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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