Nature’s Past on Wildlife Conservation and Urban Parks

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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.

Animals, as it turns out, have little respect for the political boundaries established by humans.  The subject of animal and wildlife in a country as vast as Canada is inherent to the story of the environmental history of the nation. In this collection, I have selected podcasts episodes that highlight the roles of animals and wildlife  in the context of public history, not only across Canada, but with an international theme. I found this topic interesting given that I reside in Toronto which has its own large swathes of urban parks and a fabulous ravine system, both of which I have extensively explored, but more so as it relates the nearby multitude of provincial parks and recreational cottage system which residents of the Greater Toronto Area flocks to en masse each year, myself included.

The first episode (Episode 11),  features a near philosophical discussion with two authors on the role of animals in traditional public history and the re-imagination of this interpretation. Episode 27 flows nicely with this discussion, covering the future of historians in exploring the history of animals and how we interpret these animals in relation to ourselves as humans. In episode 56, an engaging story of urbanization in Canada, the animals that have thrived within cities and their relationship to us as humans is explored. Episodes 14 and episode 49 focus more specifically on Canadian environmental history, discussing respectively the political failure of the collapse of the Newfoundland cod fisheries in the late twentieth century and the unique wildlife conservation efforts in a complicated political context of mid-nineteenth-century  Quebec. The final episode (Episode 21) in the theme of animal conservation focuses on the international efforts of North American governments to preserve Pacific migratory bird habitats in the early twentieth century.

Wildlife Conservation 

a fishing schooner that has just arrived from Newfoundland, Halifax Nova Scotia
Dried cod being unloaded from a fishing schooner that has just arrived from Newfoundland. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Episode 11: Animals, History, and Environment

Episode 14: Management of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse

Episode 21: Migratory Birds on the Pacific Flyway

Episode 27: Wildlife Histories

Episode 49: Wildlife Conservation in Quebec

Episode 56: Animal Metropolis

In addition to wildlife conservation, I have selected a few episodes that highlight urban environments in Canada. A topic that comes up throughout these episodes is that when discussing environmental history, it is sometimes ignored that large urban centres are a part of the environment as well, and in fact a hugely influential one. The direct environmental impact on “nature” of these urban centres may be somewhat self-evident, but a larger consideration is the impact they place upon the surrounding rural settings and the exploitation of them to satisfy the demands of the nearby cities.

In episode 19, power brokers in Canada’s economic centres shape the fate of the hinterlands and their communities in the quest for the industrialization of their resources. A discussion of the historical and ongoing relationship in Canada between large urban centres and the development and exploitation of the vast swathes of Canadian wilderness ensues. In episode 28, the resort style development of the southern edge of Lake Winnipeg for the leisure of Winnipeggers by the Canadian Pacific Railway is explored, a fascinating conversation with author Dale Barbour of Winnipeg Beach in his book of the same name in detailing the early twentieth-century urban “road trip”. Finally, episode 39 features the creation of Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park. The almost accidental development of the park driven by the ambitions of, again, the Canadian Pacific Railway is discussed in the context of the colonial expansion of early western Canada.

Urban Environments

Image of Diving competition, Regatta Day, Winnipeg Beach, 1910.
“Diving Competition, Regatta Day, Winnipeg Beach

Episode 19: Metropolitanism and Environmental History

Episode 28: Winnipeg Beach

Episode 39: The Environmental History of Stanley Park

Photo Credit:

phone-2056485_1920” by Goumbik

“Diving Competition, Regatta Day, Winnipeg Beach” by University of Alberta Libraries

“Dried cod being unloaded from a fishing schooner that has just arrived from Newfoundland. Halifax, Nova Scotia.” Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Item ID: 4301928

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