#EnvHist Worth Reading: November 2020

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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 2020:

1. Legacies of the Sagebrush Rebellion: A Conversation with Jonathan Thompson

In this episode of Edge Effects‘ podcast, Robert Lundberg spoke with Jonathan Thompson, contributing editor for High Country News about the history of land management and public lands in the American West, focusing on the histories of the Sagebrush Rebellion and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and their connections to frontier mythology. Beginning with its origins, Thompson and Lundberg discuss the ways in which the Sagebrush Rebellion and its legacy is still active today. “There is a dark history behind these public lands, so I think we need to unravel those myths and go beyond them and think about how we can remedy some of these things,” Thompson comments.

2. IHS Climate in Context – Book Roundtable on The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, Carolyn Merchant (1980)

This roundtable on Not Even Past features three essays by graduate students in Dr. Megan Raby’s class, History of Science and the Environment. All three essays examine different aspects of Carolyn Merchant’s classic 1980 text, The Death of Nature. Atar David closely examines Merchant’s phrase “death of nature,” Khristián Méndez Aguirre focuses on the text as a precursor to contemporary intersection ecofeminism, and Rafael David Nieto-Bello examines how Merchant reframes “a predominantly patriarchal history of early modern science” by focusing on women and the “feminine.” This roundtable is an excellent example of how to employ public publications as part of a graduate or undergraduate curriculum.

3. The Maya built the Western Hemisphere’s first water filtration system

This article in Science magazine discusses recent archaeological and scientific research that has revealed that the Maya built a complex water filtration system at the city Tikal long before other ancient civilizations. This discovery was made through the excavation and examination of the sediment in several of Tikal’s reservoirs. Researchers found that some reservoirs were cleaner than others. The ones that were cleaner had quartz crystals and zeolites, which are used to purify water to this day. Although the Mayans likely did not know that the zeolites were in the rocks, they would have understood that rocks that contained them were effective filters. “The discovery is a potent reminder of the Maya’s technological capabilities,” one of the researchers stated.

4. New Books Network: Communist Pigs: An Animal History of East Germany’s Rise and Fall with Thomas Fleischman

In this New Books Network interview, Steven Seegel speaks with Thomas Fleischmann about his book Communist Pigs: An Animal History of East Germany’s Rise and Fall (University of Washington Press, 2020). In the book, Fleischmann “uncovers three types of pig that played roles in this history: the industrial pig, remade to suit the conditions of factory farming; the wild boar, whose overpopulation was a side effect of agricultural development rather than a conservation success story; and the garden pig, reflective of the regime’s growing acceptance of private, small-scale farming within the planned economy.” Fleischmann effectively demonstrates how the pork industry and pig agriculture played a pivotal role in the shaping of East Germany’s economic and political trajectory.

5.  Problems of Place: Navigating Displacement of Self and Community in a New Environment

Environmental History Now‘s ‘Problems of Place‘ series remains one of my favourites. It is a delight to see how different people approach the topic. In this November installment, Tiffany González reflects on the common post-dissertation malaise of uncertainty and how a move to New Orleans for a postdoctoral fellowship led to a change of scenery and a resulting change in her sense of self. “I am experiencing displacement of self. Navigating the displacement is now foundational to my identity,” González writes. In navigating these displacements, both physical and metaphysical, we, as an academic community, can build resiliency, she argues.


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


Feature Image:  Sagebrush Rebellion, July 4th, 1980, Grand County, Utah. TheRealDeJureTour, Wikimedia Commons.

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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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