Nature’s Past on Mining and Hydroelectric Dams

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Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series that focuses on thematic collections of episodes of Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast. Find all the posts in this series here.

Hi, I’m Wendy Bhim and I am an undergraduate student at York University doing a placement with NiCHE as a part of my studies. I have been engaged in updating and modernizing the back episodes of Nature’s Past, the podcast for NiCHE featuring interviews and discussions with authors and academics from the field of Canadian environmental history.

Watch Wendy edit a page from the Nature’s Past archive here.

One of the challenges of a digital platform in general, and perhaps more so for an academic setting, is the general upkeep of digital projects. My experience in updating these pages has shown that in order to remain relevant and explorable as a curated digital history project, a dedicated presence is necessary. Links to products, (books in the case of NiCHE), being promoted, and the inherent legal responsibilities regarding the use of copyright images and music in presenting the website and podcasts requires a level of upkeep that is not readily available for an organization solely run by volunteers, such as NiCHE. The dedicated service of the volunteers contributing to the front-line production of the site will at some point need to be supplemented by back-end upkeep.

Challenges aside, I have had the privilege of delving deep into the knowledge afforded through these many episodes, and I have the opportunity now to present to you some themed collections of podcasts about Canadian environmental history.

Hydroelectric Dams

A topic that Nature’s Past has examined several times is the well-known environmental impact of hydroelectric dams and their effects on Canadian society and the environment. The first episode (episode 2) is one of the earliest episodes produced, dating back to 2009. A discussion of the importance of local knowledge and conversely the destruction of the source of local knowledge by the very construction of those hydro-electric dams ensues. The second podcast (episode 52) discusses the rapid embrace and build out of hydro-electric power in the context of the Second World War as a necessity of war-time conditions for Canadian and Western society.

Hydro Electricity

Episode 2: Natural Resource Development in British Columbia

Episode 52: Hydro-Power and War


Here is another collection featuring podcasts dedicated to the field of mining history in Canada. Natural resources have historically been the driving force of the settler Canadian project, and the ensuing podcasts discuss both the legitimate rationale of the times and the lasting effects of those decisions. The collection begins with episode 13, a discussion of the abandonment of mines and the environmental footprint left behind. Professor Liza Piper joins in episode 12 to discuss the industrialization of Canada’s Subarctic region where government and corporations extracted new resources including fish, fossil fuels, uranium and more. Episode 63 discusses the abandonment of failed resource development projects in Northwestern British Columbia and the environmental consequences they nonetheless have caused. The town of Asbestos in Quebec and the mineral itself are discussed in episode 55, with a historical perspective of what was once a miracle product that divulged into a toxic legacy. Episode 66 examines Giant Mine and the legacy of arsenic contamination at the site. Together, they present a part of the story of mining and its environmental consequences in Canadian history.


Episode 12: Industrialization in Subarctic Environments

Episode 13: New Directions in Urban Environmental History & Abandoned Mines

Episode 55: Asbestos Mining and Environmental Health

Episode 63: Unbuilt Environments

Episode 66: Communicating Toxic Legacies

Photo Credit:

headphones-5830855_1920” by Nejc Soklič from Pixabay

“Site C dam site Fort St John 2017” by jasonwoodhead23

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