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 February and March 2018:
This article by Amal Ahmed begins by looking at Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network and its Green ReEntry Program, which assists former inmates by helping them find environmentally sustainable jobs. Ahmed connects this program to a nationwide network of environmental justice programs and uses it as a jumping off point to explore the history of the concept of environmental justice. Much of the article is based on the words and work of Robert Bullard who is considered to be the ‘father of environmental justice.’ Ahmed writes that “whereas environmentalism is steeped in the language of wildlife, wetlands, and nature, Bullard explains, environmental justice adds the built environment to the list of places that should be protected: where we live, work, play, learn, and worship.” The rest of the article looks at the long history of environmental injustice and justice.
I was lucky enough to read this piece by Laura Perry just before seeing Annihilation. Perry’s analysis of the movie helped me pick out nuances that were not readily apparent to the individuals with whom I saw this ecological thriller based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel. Perry traces the origins of referring to invasive species as alien invaders within conservation biology and ecology, beginning with Charles Elton’s 1958 book, The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. Perry also looks at more recent ecological writing that questions the othering of supposed alien species. Perry effectively uses the example of Annihilation to demonstrate the way in which science fiction can help explore these ecological ideas.
In this High Country News article, Adam Sowards shows that the recent hullabaloo around The Antiquities Act is not entirely new. The Antiquities Act, as Sowards writes, was passed in 1906 in reaction to a pressing need to protect Native American artefacts. The act enables presidents to protect objects of historic or scientific value without going through the legislative process; it “gave proclamation power to the executive branch because the legislative process is designed to be slow-moving,” Sowards states. Sowards’ article explores two specific events in American history – Franklin Roosevelt’s creation of Jackson Hole Monument in 1943 and Jimmy Carter’s use of the Antiquities Act in Alaska in the late 1970s – which both inadvertently led to Congressional declarations that weakened the Antiquities Act.
In this post, Daegan Miller illuminates the history of a little-known radical community made up of anarchists and socialists called Kaweah. The logging community, which Miller describes as practising ultra-radical sustainability, was located in a twelve square-mile piece of land near the famous California giant sequoia, known as General Sherman, but renamed by the Kaweahans as “Karl Marx.” Miller recounts how conservationists and the Southern Pacific Railroad worked together to push the Kaweahans off of their land by pushing through legislation that expanded Sequoia National Park to include much of the commune’s land.
“Because Barker is normally a dry, green space, most homeowners in the neighborhood had no clue that their properties were inside an area susceptible to flooding during extreme storms,” states this article about a Houston area suburb, Canyon Gate, and the Barker reservoir that flooded and devastated the community during Hurricane Harvey. The article traces the history of the reservoir and community. Barker reservoir was built in the 1940s to protect downtown Houston and the land around it was not developed until the 1980s. The strength of this piece lies in the extraordinary images and graphics that effectively show how past decisions and contemporary weather events led to the flooding of the community.
I’m partial to any article or post that includes a Spotify playlist. If the playlist has an environmental history theme, then even better! This post on Leif Fredrickson’s recently launched Enviro-History website announces a new “series of essays that will explore the relationship between music, especially specific songs, and the environment and history.” So far the series has three posts, which I recommend perusing, and they are looking for individuals willing to contribute to the series in the future.
I’m also partial to podcasts, and I have been listening to many of the podcast feeds offered by the New Books Network recently. I recommend subscribing to New Books in Environmental Studies, which is hosted most frequently by environmental historians. In this episode Brian Hamilton interviews Urmi Engineer about her new book Yellow Fever, Race, and Ecology in Nineteeth-Century New Orleans. Their discussion is fascinating and covers a wide-array of topics that relate to environmental history, urban history, history of medicine, and other topics.
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