#EnvHist Worth Reading: September 2017

"View of the old homestead on Alex. Knox's plantation, Mount Pleasant, near Charleston, S.C." Source: Library of Congress

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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 August 2017:

1. Are Cold Places, by Nature, Exemplars of Environmental History?

In this post on White Horse Press’ blog, Andrew Stuhl, unveils some of the ideas in an article he co-wrote with Pey-Yi Chu for an upcoming issue of Environment and History. Stuhl opens by discussing how scholars assume that the connection between nature and society is quite clear in the analysis of life in cold places; this assumption, Stuhl argues, leads historians to overlook more complicated and nuanced stories related to the Arctic and other cold regions. Stuhl argues that historians should look at cold places, not just because they are examples of the way in which society and nature are inextricably intertwined, but also because cold places “compress, in time, some of the most transformative processes in modern history, both human and more-than-human.”

2. An elder among elders: Saying goodbye to a historic tree

Firstly, this article from The Globe and Mail stands out because it is made up entirely of an Instagram image thread. This article is one of the first times that I’ve seen this method used, and I think it both works well and offers an interesting way to integrate social media into blogs/articles, thus reaching potentially two different sets of audiences. This article is about the “Garneau Tree,” a historic tree in Edmonton with particular cultural significance for the Métis, which was recently cut down. The post includes the history of Laurent Garneau, the person who planted the tree, and the tree itself. The images are a beautiful memorial to this tree and its cultural significance. The final post ends with: “At the end, it came down quickly. The smaller branches were cut first, falling softly to the ground in broad fans of leaves. Then came the thicker branches, the limbs, heavy chunks of wood felled from the top, piece by piece, until the growl of the chainsaw grew quiet and the cool fall air smelled of sawdust and green, and there was just pale blue sky where a tree used to be.”

3. The Early Master Plans for National Parks Are Almost as Beautiful as the Parks Themselves

This article from Atlas Obscura is also visually-focused. Anika Burgess features some master plans for American National Parks in the 1930s, which are particularly aesthetically appealing. For most environmental historians, particularly those that study parks, the importance of master plans comes as no surprise. In my own research, master plans are essential for understanding the character of a specific park. However, I like that this article points out the fact that these plans were created by landscape architects and that they were attempting to ‘construct entire communities into an existing landscape.’ These master plans demonstrate that parks are highly planned and managed environments.

4. Environmental History — First Class of the Term

Stephan Bocking is sharing all of his lecture slides for both his “Environmental History” class and his “Environment and Development” class on his personal blog. These posts are great resources for other historians who are planning or hope to plan similar classes in the future. I recommend keeping up with these class presentations as Bocking rolls them out.

5. Gone with the Land: Environmental History in Civil War and Reconstruction Classes

Erin Steward Mauldin begins this post for The Journal of the Civil War Era with a reflection on how the public and non-environmental historians have trouble grasping what environmental historians do. Mauldin argues that outside of specialised conferences, there is still confusion about the way in which environmental history is written and what value it serves. Mauldin, who researches southern agriculture during the Civil War era, uses the rest of the post to show how she teaches environmental history in the classroom to help broaden students’ perception of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Mauldin discusses how she encourages students to grapple with these concepts by way of targeted readings, and she discusses some examples of the kind of primary resources, such as slave narratives and soldiers’ letters, that she uses in her classes.

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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