#EnvHist Worth Reading: June 2021

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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 June 2021:

1. How a Bill Bryson Bestseller Changed the Appalachian Trail—For Better or Worse

This piece on Lit Hub is an excerpt from Philip D’Anieri’s 2021 book The Appalachian Trail: A Biography that focuses on the phenomena that was Bill Bryson’s 1998 bestseller, A Walk in the Woods, and the repercussions of its popularity. I remember buying my father a copy of this book back in the day. D’Anieri discusses the reasons Bryson wrote this book and the character of its content when it reached the publication stage. The book, which is the most-read book about the Appalachian Trail , was wildly popular. It led to a 45% increase in trail use the year following its publication. D’Anieri reflects on what this meant to the trail and how the popularity of the book incensed the Appalachian Trail community who viewed Bryson a disrespectful opportunist and interloper.

2. The Green Imagination in Board Game Landscapes

In this piece for Edge Effects, Evelyn Ramiel is on a search for board games that went beyond telling environmental stories to creating “social stories of environmental history” that made the board’s environment more important than simple decoration. “I wanted games whose boards, whose ecological maps, shaped player actions and did not portray nature as outside human history,” xey write. The results of this search came up with two games: Root and Oath, both designed by Cole Wehrle. Ramiel describes the games in detail and how they effectively build environmental histories, as well as their shortcomings. I, for one, want to try them both!

3. Why a Japanese Delicacy Grows Near Old British Columbia Internment Camps

Fuki, or Japanese butterbur, is a perennial plant that is often used in Japanese cuisine. Although native to Japan, fuki can be found in rural British Columbia. Its presence is a result and reminder of the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II, writes Marc Fawcett-Atkinson. Japanese settlers brought fuki with them in the early 20th century and it was common in Japanese-Canadian gardens by the 1930s. During internment, when food rations and goods were monitored and controlled, fuki seeds and roots became one of the only items that could be successfully smuggled in. The patch of fuki at the Tashme Museum, a former internment camp in Sunshine Valley, British Columbia, represents this legacy of resilience.

4. Park People: Conversation With A Historian

This National Parks Traveler article by Jennifer Bain profiles Parks Canada historian Meg Stanley. Stanley, who has an MA in public from Western University, worked in heritage consulting for 20 years before joining Parks Canada. Stanley describes her job as “the art of fitting a story into a space, and taking a story and expressing it in a three-dimensional way.” Bain describes the various projects that Stanley has been involved in with Parks Canada, including the redevelopment of Cave and Basin and an exhibit related to the Bar U Ranch’s root cellar. If you enjoy this profile of Stanley, consider checking out Tina Adcock’s Rhizomes series, which profiles environmental historians who are working outside of the professoriate.

5. Green Screen: Episode 36: Aliens

I find invasive species ecology and popular portrayals of invasive species to be especially fascinating, which is why my interest was piqued when this episode of Green Screen on the film Aliens was released. This is a great discussion of a popular movie that is so interwoven into our popular conscience. Environmental issues discussed in the episode, Sean and Cody write, are “center[ed] around invasive species: what they are, how they propagate, how (and how not) to eradicate them, and whether, as some characters in this film surmise, humans are the worst invasive species of all.”

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

Feature Image: “Appalachian Trail: Totts Gap to Mount Minsi (2)” by Nicholas_T is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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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-in-chief, 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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