#EnvHist Worth Reading: April 2019

Photograph showing a librarian telling an Ojibwa legend to a roomful of children at the Queens Borough Public Library. Credit: Jessie Tarbox Beals, New York, 1910. Library of Congress, PR 13 CN 2008:111, no. 2.

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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 read all of our past #EnvHist Worth Reading lists right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from April 2019:

1. Storytelling is key to understanding climate change

This article on Yale Climate Connections is an important read for environmental historians and humanities scholars who are grappling with the role of narrative and activism in our work. The article features an interview with author and activist Jeff Biggers, founder of the Climate Narrative Project, which trains climate storytellers. Biggers states that “storytelling empowers us to envision change in real ways, from regenerative solutions like renewable energy and carbon-neutral buildings to walkable urban designs and local food production.” He discusses how we all need to be invested in climate activism for the long haul and emphasizes that storytelling can take many different forms and mediums. Storytelling is particularly effective at spurring individual action, which is the basis for larger movements.

2. Records of Environmental Change: Why the Stories Matter

This post on the Whistler Museum blog is based on a talk given at the museum by Dr. Ian Spooner, head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Acadia University. Spooner and his student assistants have worked on collecting lake sediment cores from Alta and Lost Lakes for the past five years. “By dating the different layers,” the blog states, “Spooner and his student Dewey Dunnington were able to tell a lot about how the lake has changed over time and, by connecting the dates to historical records and stories told by locals, what might have contributed to these changes.” The blog highlights some of the findings from these sediment cores and their connection to historical events. The blog then discusses how critical stories are to understanding the scientific data and how the two sources of information bolster each other.

3. Ten thousand-year old Indigenous libraries are society’s best hope for environmental vitality

This interview features La’goot Spencer Greening, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Environment at Simon Fraser University, from the Tsimshian community of the Gitga’at First Nation (Hartley Bay) on the northern coast of British Columbia. Greening “studies the relationship between Gitga’at traditional ecological knowledge, language, and history in the context of Indigenous resource management.” Greening describes Tsimshian territory and his familial and personal connection to the region and community. Greening describes how his research interweaves many different disciplines in order to understand the broader context in which Indigenous resource management has developed. Throughout the interview Greening provides important and fascinating insights into the differences between Indigenous and western conceptions of nature and his experience working within his community.

4. Cultures of Energy: The Energy Humanities Podcast, Episode 173: Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Cultures of Energy Podcast, co-hosted by Dominic Boyer and Cymene Howe, continues to be one of my favourite environmental humanities podcasts. In this recent episode, Dominic and Cymene interviewed Dina Gilio-Whitaker, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, instructor of American Indian Studies at Cal State San Marcos, and policy director and senior research associate at the Center for World Indigenous Studies. Gilio-Whitaker is the author of the new book As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock (Beacon, 2019). They discuss environmental politics in relation to energy politics, colonialism and colonial unknowing, environmental justice, and other topics.

5. Around the World in 80 Books: A Guide to Ecological and Climate Themes in Fiction

Many of us are putting together our summer vacation reading lists, and this is an excellent place to start. The author states that “‘Around the World in 80 Books’ is a sampling of novels and short stories that explore our planet’s climate and ecological changes. Eco-fiction is the study of how humans, nature, and literature mingle together, with topics ranging from plastic islands to fossil fuels to food security to wildlife and landscape preservation to outdoor adventure.” What I particularly like about the list is that it balances western literature with literature about other global regions. Happy perusing!


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

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Jessica DeWitt is an environmental historian of the American and Canadian environment, editor, and digital communications strategist. She is an editor and social media editor for NiCHE.

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