2021: NiCHE’s Year in Images

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2021 was NiCHE’s fourth year on Instagram. Managing our Instagram account is a lot different from our other social media accounts. A focus on the visual and, to a lesser extent, audio aspects of our site’s content leads to new and unique aspects of the material coming to the forefront. It also leads to a different kind of engagement with our readers and followers and draws new people into environmental history content.

Our “Top Nine” on Instagram is more than a statistical analysis of our digital popularity; it is an indication of the topics and images that resounded the most with our audience and a chance to look back on the past year. Here are our nine most-popular images from 2021:

#9: Northern Carmine Bee-Eater

Our ninth most popular image of 2021 was this photo of a northern carmine bee-eater, a majestic little bird found in Africa. This image was featured in Jacqueline Scott’s March 2021 piece, “When eBird Meets Black Birders,” which examines the racial dimensions of the free, online birding community, eBird. Scott has found that eBird is dominated primarily by white birders, despite the robustness of the Black birding community. Scott’s post is part of our ongoing Whose Nature? Race and Canadian Environmental History series.

#8: Kenora Powerhouse

Our eighth most popular image of 2021 was a photo of the Kenora Powerhouse taken by Brittany Luby, which was the feature image for episode 71 of our podcast, Nature’s Past, on “Water and Anishinaabe Territory.” In this episode, Sean Kheraj spoke to Luby and Chief Lorraine Cobiness about Luby’s new book Dammed: The Politics of Loss and Survival in Anishinaabe Territory.

#7: 1923 Coal Truth Office Advertisement

A full-page newspaper ad from the Alberta COAL TRUTH OFFICE (published in the Winnipeg Tribune on Nov. 13, 1923)
A full-page newspaper ad from the Alberta COAL TRUTH OFFICE (published in the Winnipeg Tribune on Nov. 13, 1923)

The seventh image to capture our audience’s imagination was this full-page newspaper ad from the Winnipeg Tribune, published by Alberta’s Coal Truth Office in 1923. As Dave Cournoyer explains in “The Truth, the Coal Truth, and nothing but the Truth,” the Alberta government established the Coal Truth Office in Winnipeg to proliferate propaganda that aggressively marketed Alberta coal for domestic use in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, even going so far as to claim that Alberta coal was more ethical and efficient than coal from other regions.

#6: The Winner of our Inaugeral Best Article in Canadian Environmental History Prize: Shannon Stunden-Bower

Shannon Stunden-Bower

In June, we announced that Shannon Stunden-Bower, Associate Professor in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta, was the winner of our first Best Article or Book Chapter in Canadian Environmental History Prize. Stunden-Bower’s winning article, “Irrigation Infrastructure, Technocratic Faith, and Irregularities of Vision: Canada’s Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration in Ghana, 1965–1970,” appeared in Agricultural History in 2019.

#5: Tourists in Waterton Lakes National Park

A well-dressed white hetero couple rest beside a waterfall with mountains in the background.

Our fifth most popular image this past year was this photograph of a couple at Waterton Lakes National Park in 1949, which was the feature photo for Jessica DeWitt’s “Parks and Profit” call for papers. The image of two well-dressed and attractive white visitors perched beside a picturesque stream with mountains in the background represents the quintessential mid-century national park ideal. The Parks and Profit series explored the varied ways that park and parkmaking is intertwined with different types of profit.

#4: A.Y. Jackson’s “Radium Mine” (1938)

A.Y. Jackson's 'Radium Mine' painting

A 2013 post by Carmella Gray-Cosgrove, “Picturing Uranium, Producing Art: A.Y. Jackson’s Port Radium Collection,” gained new life this past year when the featured painting by Jackson, “Radium Mine” (1928) gained momentum on Instagram. In this piece, Gray-Cosgrove looks closely at Jackson’s Port Radium Collection, and writes that “while Jackson’s landscape paintings can be read as “devices of colonial legitimation,” his Port Radium scenes are unique in their depiction of industrial action in the very unpeopled wilds decried by anticolonial critics.” One can learn more about the legacy of the Group of Seven in this mini-series from 2020.

#3: An Abandoned Mine

Few phenomena capture the public’s attention more than abandoned mines. Videos and images of abandoned mines almost always enjoy widespread popularity, hinting at our collective fascination with these eerie structures of the past that blur the line between human and natural history. This image is the feature image for the Abandoned Mines Project page, which was created to study the historical impacts of abandoned mines on First Nations communities in northern Canada.

#2: The Cover of Canadians and Their Natural Environment

In March, our editor Jamie Murton introduced his new book, Canadians and Their Natural Environment: A History (Oxford University Press, 2021). Murton writes that “At the heart of the engagement of people with nature in this place… is getting the things we need to survive: things like food, water, and shelter,” and it is this idea that is at the center of Canadians and Their Natural Environment.

#1: Cover of Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire

And our most popular image of 2021 was the cover of the ever-popular seminal text in the field of queer ecology: Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire edited by Catriona Sandilands and Bruce Erickson (Indiana University Press, 2010). This cover is featured in Nicole Seymour’s popular 2020 NiCHE article, “Black Lives, Black Birds, and the Unfinished Work of Queer Ecologies.” In this concluding piece of the Succession: Queering the Environment series, Seymour reflects on the development of queer ecological scholarship, how the posts in the series fit into this scholarship and move the field forward, and how queer ecology still has much work to do in regards to race.

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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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