Episode 69: Environmental Racism and Canadian History
This post is part of an ongoing series called, “Whose Nature? Race and Canadian Environmental History” This series examines the intersections of race and environment in Canada’s past and asks how human-nature relations are affected by ideas of race and racism.
In recent weeks, political commentators and some Canadian politicians have questioned and even denied that Canada has a history of systemic racism. To most Canadian historians, however, systemic racism is an obvious and pernicious part of the history of this country. The same is true in Canadian environmental history and evident in the legacies of environmental racism.
As environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and others come to terms with their own legacies of racism, environmental history as a sub-field must also confront the ways in which racism is embedded in the histories we study. In Canada, this must begin with a better understanding of histories of environmental racism.
The field of environmental racism emerged in the 1980s in the US out of the scholarship on environmental justice and the work of the Commission for Racial Justice. It examines the ways in which racism shaped inequitable exposure to environmental hazards and access to natural resources. In Canadian history, environmental racism is mediated through the structures of settler colonialism upon which the country was founded.
Ingrid Waldron’s book, There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities focuses on case studies of environmental racism in Canada with particular attention to Mi’kmaw and Afro-Nova Scotian communities. This book inspired a 2019 Netflix documentary of the same name. To learn more about this history, I spoke with Dr. Waldron.
Waldron, Ingrid. There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities. Black Point, NS: Fernwood, 2018.
“Moments of Inspiration” by Akashic Records
“Rise and Shine” by Seastock
Aeration ponds, Boat Harbour effluent treatment ponds, Abercrombie Point, Nova Scotia (1990s). Source: Verne Equinox
Kheraj, Sean. “Episode 69: Environmental Racism and Canadian History” Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. 29 July 2020.
Latest posts by Sean Kheraj (see all)
- James Scott: How to Write Like a River - February 28, 2021
- The First Post-War Oil Pipeline Hearings in Canada - February 9, 2021
- 2021 Melville-Nelles-Hoffmann Lecture in Environmental History: Brittany Luby and Chief Lorraine Cobiness - February 8, 2021
- Top 5 Posts of 2020 - January 5, 2021
- Nature’s Past Episode 70: Environmentalism and the Company of Young Canadians - September 2, 2020
- Interview Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times - August 12, 2020
- Nature’s Past Episode 69: Environmental Racism and Canadian History - July 29, 2020
- Whose Nature? Race and Canadian Environmental History - July 7, 2020
- Nature’s Past Episode 68: Home and Environment - May 11, 2020
- Energy and Modern Canada Round Table Live - April 17, 2020