#EnvHist Worth Reading: November 2019

Trout fishing at foot of Cameron Creek Falls, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alta. Credit: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

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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 November 2019:

1. The Planet is Burning

In this Aeon piece, environmental and fire historian Stephen Pyne reacts to a recent, global upsurge in wildfires and further argues for the concept of the Pyrocene. Fire, Pyne argues, is what connects the deep past to the present and future and unites all of humanity together. Right now we are living in what Pyne calls a ‘disturbed pyrogeography,’ which is defined not only by what is burning, but what isn’t burning. Suppressed fire regimes are as big of a player in this situation as mega-fires, Pyne argues. Further, Pyne breaks down the Pyrocene into three types of fire: Natural Fire, Humanity’s Fire, and the Fire Burning Fossil Fuel Biomass. “The three fires we see today – nature’s; those fires that people set in living landscapes; and those burning lithic landscapes – are competing and colluding in weird ways,” Pyne writes.

2.  Remarks by President Trump on America’s Environmental Leadership – Annotated

In this Environmental Data & Governance Initiative post the Environmental History Action Collaborative (EHAC) annotated a speech made by President Donald Trump on America’s environmental leadership. EHAC identifies a list of eight themes within the speech and provides forty-four extensive annotations complete with sources. This annotated speech is an excellent example of public-minded history.

3. The Little Ice Age Lessons

In this Aeon article, Dagomar Degroot pushes back against apocalyptic climate narratives and instead advocates for looking to the past for hope in our current climate crisis. When looking at climate science data, Degroot demonstrates that one finds that changes in Earth’s climate have always been present. In addition to looking at some of these climate science methods, Degroot also examines how past societies adapted and reacted to The Little Ice Age, using the Dutch as an example of a society that thrived in the face of climate change. “The past tells us that when climatic trends make it impossible to live in the same city, grow food in the same way or continue existing economic relationships, the result for a society is not invariably crisis and collapse,” Degroot writes. If past societies and communities have adapted to climate change, then we should approach our future with open minds and attempts at ingenuity.

4. Bending the Rules: Forest History in Northeast China

In this Environmental History Now piece, Kyuhyun Han both discusses her research experiences and challenges and provides a synopsis of her dissertation on the forest history of the People’s Republic of China. Han discusses her experience travelling to Yichun, Heilongjiang, China to conduct research, only to encounter local residents who insisted that there was nothing important about their community and that it had ‘no history.’ This incongruity with locals may seem familiar to many researchers, but Han’s experience with the archives in China being closed to foreigners is an experience that many of us will never encounter. This research, for Han’s dissertation, challenges the premise that the Mao era (1949-1976) was a time of state environmental neglect by “considering Chinese policy in the context of the international development of environmental consciousness during that time.”

5.  The Particular Sadness of Trout Fishing in America

This episode of Outside/In tackles the history and current state of one of North America’s favourite outdoor activities: trout fishing. The episode revolves around the fact that trout fishing today is a highly regulated and artificial pastime that attempts to disguise itself as an extension of the natural environment. Trout fishing is now fueled by fish hatcheries and dependence on science and technology. “Hatcheries were a story we told ourselves about how we could have it all, but we were wrong…” states Sam Evans-Brown. We thought that we could recreate the environmental conditions that enabled natural trout fishing, and this has led to further environmental degradation and harm to the fish themselves.


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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is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, and digital communications strategist. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. She is an executive member, editor, and social media editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon. 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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