ASEH 2020: A Listener’s Guide to Canadian #EnvHist

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Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of posts leading up to the ASEH’s annual meeting in Ottawa in March 2020 that aims to introduce visitors to the environmental histories and historical geographies of this place, and of Canada more broadly.


Last month we published a list of recommended books in Canadian environmental history to help our non-Canadian colleagues prepare for the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History which will be held in Ottawa this March.

In this second post, I’d like to recommend some listening. Since 2008, NiCHE has published a podcast series in Canadian environmental history called Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. It features interviews and round-table discussions about environmental history research in Canada.

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We now have an archive of 66 episodes covering the last 11 years of Canadian environmental history scholarship. Here are the five episodes of Nature’s Past that everyone should listen to before ASEH 2020:

Episode 54: Reclaiming the Don, From Dissertation to Book

The first episode of Nature’s Past featured an interview with then PhD candidate, Jennifer Bonnell, about her dissertation on the environmental history of Toronto’s Don River Valley. In this episode, I catch up with Jennifer nearly eight years later after she published her award-winning book Reclaiming the Don: An Environmental History of Toronto’s Don River Valley. Jennifer and I discuss the process of transforming her dissertation into a book and her work on the environmental history of this small, but consequential river in Canada’s largest city.

Episode 61: Why Graduate Students Study Environmental History

In 2018, I produced one of my favourite episodes of the podcast, which featured conversations with four graduate students who study environmental history. The episode is a great snapshot of graduate studies in environmental history that explores the motivations for pursuing graduate studies and what draws students to the field. The four accomplished women I interviewed also represent the next generation of environmental history scholars and a glimpse into the future of the field.

Episode 12: Industrialization in Subarctic Environments

Ten years ago to the day, I published this interview with Liza Piper, author of the award-winning book, The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada. This was one of the first “live” recordings of the podcast. We recorded it at an event in the Department of History at UBC when I was a post-doctoral fellow. This book introduces one of the most useful ideas in environmental history that I return to on a regular basis, the assimilation of nature by industrial technologies. Have a listen and hear Piper explain her concept in her own words.

Episode 39: The Environmental History of Stanley Park

This is the only episode of Nature’s Past that I did not host. In 2013, I published my first book, Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History. Years earlier, I made an agreement with fellow podcaster Jan Oosthoek that when we published our books, we would interview each other and take over as guest hosts. In this episode, Jan takes over and asks me about the environmental history of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

Episode 38: Histories of Canadian Environmental Issues, Part VIII – Tar Sands

This episode was the eighth in a special series we published on Canadian environmental issues. The whole series is worth a listen, but this episode was particularly interesting. It features an interview I did with Andrew Weaver, a climatologist from University of Victoria who is now leader of the BC Green Party. Weaver discusses his book on global warming and the challenges Canada then faced in 2013. The episode also has a recording of the plenary session on the Canadian tar sands from the last meeting of the American Society of Environmental History that was held in Canada.

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Sean Kheraj is the director of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. He's an associate professor in the Department of History and associate dean of programs in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University. His research and teaching focuses on environmental and Canadian history. He is also the host and producer of Nature's Past, NiCHE's audio podcast series and he blogs at http://seankheraj.com.

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