#EnvHist Worth Reading: July 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 July 2021:

1. Report outlines ‘violent, fraught’ history of Wood Buffalo National Park and impact on First Nation

An 182-page report commissioned by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and written by Willow Springs Strategic Solutions (Sabina Trimble, lead author) outlines the history of colonial violence undergirding the creation of Wood Buffalo National Park from 1922-1926 and afterwards. Dene people were uprooted from their homes and cut off from their traditional food sources in order to create Wood Buffalo, leading to lasting hardships and the breakup of families. “This story gets me mad,” said Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief, “Our people have suffered ever since then.”  This report is sure to be a critical addition to the available literature on the colonialism of the park-making process.

2. NFTs by chimpanzees, like 1950s primate art, raise questions about the nature of creativity

In this Conversation piece, Keri Cronin reacts to recent news about non-human primates creating NFTs (non-fungible tokens) by providing an overview of the history of animal art, focusing on primates. “The launch of these NFTs is the latest chapter in a long and complex history of non-human animals in the art world,” Cronin writes. Chimpanzee artists can be traced back to the 1950s when primate artists Betsy and Congo gained international fame. Cronin discusses debates around non-human animals’ ability to be artists and to make abstract art, as well as the ethical debates surrounding this collaboration of humans with non-human animals and the commodification of their art.

3. The Anglophone Dilemma in the Environmental Humanities

Transnational discussion of climate change and other environmental issues is dominated by English, assert Dan Finch-Race and Katie Ritson in this Seeing the Woods post. The primacy of English is due, in large part, to the desire to be able to reach as many people globally as possible. However, because language is imbued with cultural meanings and biases, the dominance of English in environmental writing means that English-speaking worldviews hold a central position, pushing out other cultural worldviews. “Ecological processes are entangled with a range of cultural issues that touch on different regional and national languages,” they write. “We therefore believe that multilingualism should be an important feature of research into interactions between the human and the more-than-human.” This post is accompanied by a recording of a roundtable on this same topic held by the Rachel Carson Center in 2020.

4. Ecohorror, Teaching, and Collaboration: A Conversation

In this ASLE post, Christy Tidwell and Carter Soles sit down to chat about ecohorror and their new edited collection, Fear and Nature: Ecohorror Studies in the Anthropocene. In this volume, they write that the ever-more-popular ecohorror genre “reflects our anxieties about science and the nonhuman while revealing how much we value these things.” Tidwell and Soles discuss the rise in ecohorror’s popularity and why it is the perfect genre for our contemporary times, how they got interested in ecohorror, how they teach the genre, their favourite examples of ecohorror, and much more.

5. How to Study: Pearls of the Past

This blog post by Tamara Fernando is part of a larger Museum of Zoology blog series, edited by Anna Guasco, that examines the methodology that Cambridge postgraduate researchers use to study life in the ocean. Fernando, who studies the history of natural pearl fishing in the Indian Ocean, discusses the marine historical ecology and archival methods that she uses to research and analyze this topic, how she became interested in pearl fishing, and why it is important. “I suggest that using a historian’s tools to explore these stories of underwater change, ecosystem variance, and how they intersected with human lives and labour can give us useful models for how to think about our place in relation to the ocean,” Fernando writes.

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: “Views of herds of buffalo; Large buffalo,” Wood Buffalo National Park, 1937. This page includes photographs taken at Wood Buffalo National Park, which is located in northeastern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories. Credit: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada / Library and Archives Canada / e010864701-v8.
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is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, project manager, 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). Additionally, she is the Managing Editor for the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon and a Coordinating Team member of Showing Up for Racial Justice Saskatoon-Treaty Six. 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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