#EnvHist Worth Reading: May 2022

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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 May 2022:

1. How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland

In this The New Republic article, authors Dania Francis, Darrick Hamilton, Thomas Mitchell, Nathan Rosenberg, and Bryce Wilson Stucki trace the systematic disenfranchisement of Black farmers in the United States in detail. The article opens up by recounting the decades long influence of Jamie Whitton, a representative from Mississippi and avowed white supremacist, on the United States Department of Agriculture. “While Whitten was less abashed in his racism than many of his fellow lawmakers, they were no less committed to defending rich white farmers. From the start of Whitten’s political career to the present, lawmakers in both parties have set their differences aside to send the exceeding majority of federal funds to commercial farmers, almost all of them white men,” the authors write.

2. Climate Change and the Military: Examining the Pentagon’s Integration of National Security Interests and Environmental Goals under Clinton

In this National Security Archive briefing book, editor Burkely Hermann provides an overview of recently declassified Pentagon documents from the Clinton Administration related to international climate change and environmental policies. “The Pentagon’s role in U.S. environmental policy expanded during the Clinton presidency as the Pentagon became a more active player at international climate change conferences and pressed for acceptance of policies favorable to the U.S. military,” Hermann writes. All of the declassified documents mentioned in the report are cited throughout and links are available to the document PDFs at the end of the report.

3. Within the Liminal: The Derwent Estuary and Southeast Coast

In this piece for The Living Archive: Extinction Stories from Oceania, Ann- Marie Ezzy uses the concept of liminal space, the space between and of transition, to explore the complexity of Tasmania’s Derwent Estuary. “Tasmania’s coastlines of rocks and sand can be considered liminal space, caught between land and water,” Ezzy reflects. Weaving personal and familial memories and connection into her narrative, Ezzy traces this landscape’s changes through time, focusing on the legacy of whales and whaling. Ezzy challenges the reader to move beyond the anthropocentric narrative of this industry in the estuary, to instead imagine a space in which humans are not at the top of the hierarchy, where whale perspectives are valued, and the complexity of the ecosystem as a whole is respected.

4. One Medicine: Animal Experiments and the Making of Modern Medical Science

In this episode of Dig: A History Podcast, Marissa Rhodes and Elizabeth Garner Masarik explore the intertwined history of animals and medical science. In the second half of the 19th century, they discuss, human and veterinary medicine were closely linked. Animal experimentation was critical in many medical breakthroughs and, relatedly, also played a major role in the shaping of ethical standards in medicine and animal rights.

5. Environmental Racism: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver often tackles some of the most critical issues and topics in society, using interspersed humour as an effective mode of communication and education. In May, they tackled the topic of environmental racism. “Black Americans are exposed to 38 percent more polluted air than White Americans and are 75 percent more likely to live in communities that border a plant or factory,” Oliver states at the top of the show. The episode features Black Americans in communities that have experienced environmental racism, including in Louisiana’s cancer alley, and discusses why mainstream environmentalism needs to make room for environmental justice.

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: “Iron Pot Light and Mt. Wellington, Derwent Estuary” by Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office is licensed under CC BY-NC 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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