#EnvHist Worth Reading: October 2019

Feral Hog 2, The Hunter, stefpet, 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 read all of our past #EnvHist Worth Reading lists right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from October 2019:

1. A’Se’k – Boat Harbour: A Site of Centuries’ Long Mi’kmaw Resistance

In this ActiveHistory.ca article, Colin Osmond opens with a recent protest in Nova Scotia. On October 4th, Mi’kmaq and settler protesters marched from Pictou Landing First Nation to A’Se’k or Boat Harbour, Nova Scotia in order to demand that the Nova Scotia and Federal governments take steps to both stop pulp mill toxic waste flowing into a tidal lagoon and clean up the site. Osmond argues that one cannot fully understand this present-day protest without understanding the broader history of Mi’kmaw resistance against colonial land management. Osmond recounts some of this history beginning in the late 18th century, and demonstrates how they maintained their presence in this region despite constant challenges. “Through all of this history, the Mi’kmaq have fought for their land, and today they to continue the fight to protect A’Se’k. They walk in the footsteps and shadows of generations of Mi’kmaq who have done the same,” Osmond concludes.

2.  Second Decade: Year Without Summer Part I and Part II

In this two-part (so far) episode of Sean Munger’s Second Decade Podcast, he provides a fairly comprehensive history of the “The Year Without a Summer” or 1816. Munger is a climate historian, and his expertise really makes these two episodes stand out in the overall excellent Second Decade library. Munger approaches the topic with thoughtful consideration and covers many details and stories from this time period that I have not heard elsewhere. The show notes also provide further information and note which other episodes of Second Decade connect to these two episodes. If you want to learn about “The Year Without a Summer” in Canada–which Munger does not cover–make sure to check out “Canada’s Year Without a Summer” collection compiled by Alan MacEachern and Michael O’Hagan.

3. Our obsession with insects in horror films says a lot about our fear of destroying the planet

Elizabeth Horkley examines the history of a sub-genre of ‘socially-conscious horror’ in this Quartz article. This sub-genre is the ‘ant-sploitation’ flick in which ants stand in for broader societal anxieties, or, as Horkley puts it, they stand in for “projections of collective, domestic anxiety steeped with guilt.” Horkley first looks at the 1953 film Them!, which featured ants the size of dinosaurs that reflected society’s anxiety over nuclear radiation and possible nuclear conflict. Horkley then moves on to look at the 1970s films Phase IV and Empire of the Ants, which were developed post-Silent Spring and in the atmosphere of the early environmental movement. Ants as horror monsters are significant because in day-to-day life they are usually not threatening creatures. “Ants-ploitation movies begged audiences to consider their symbolic might: a metaphor for the potential of insignificant matters and small actions to swell and become unmanageable threats,” Horkley argues.

4. The real David Attenborough

There are few figures that have stood at the center of human knowledge and understanding of the environment for as long as David Attenborough. As Patrick Barkham notes in this article, it seems that Attenborough has always been around because, at 93 years old, he has, and he has been making television nature programs since the dawn of the medium. This article takes an extensive look at Attenborough’s important career and its influence on the world. Most notably the article traces Attenborough’s switch from avoiding discussion of human society and anthropocentric ecological change in his nature documentaries and avoiding making political statements to becoming one of the leading voices for environmental action in our present-day.

5. Reply All: Feral Hogs

This episode of Reply All begins with the tweet that lit up the internet this past summer: “Legit question for rural Americans – how do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 min while my small kids play.” P.J. Vogt begins the podcast by interviewing the author of this tweet, Willie McNabb, and uses it as a springboard to look at a very real problem in the United States: the feral hog epidemic. The episode traces the colonial beginnings of this crisis and brings it up to today. They explore how the popularity of hog hunting (as represented by The Hunter video game screenshot in the feature photo above) has actually led to the spread of the animals because hunters keep moving them into regions so that they can hunt them. The episode explores how one state, Texas, is dealing with the problem and also illuminates the disconnect between rural and urban realities.


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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