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 2022:
1. Wilderness Has a Purity Problem
This piece by Ande Peersen is part of Edge Effects‘ “Unpure Imagination” series. Peersen, a white European settler, writes from the perspective of a former student and current employee of the U.S. Forest Service. Although the knowledge that national parks and wilderness are constructed, colonial spaces is nothing new, the mythos of pristine wilderness is alive and well, and Peersen even finds herself seduced by it at times. Peersen recounts how her own experiences and personal emotions bristle up against this knowledge and how wilderness interacts with concepts of “purity,” asking what “impure” nature would look like.
2. Tackling Climate Change Through Teaching Environmental History
In this article for Al-Fanar Media, Jörg Matthias Determann, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, discusses how environmental history education can help tackle and educate about climate change in Qatar and elsewhere in Arabia. “Any prediction of future trends requires a thorough understanding of past interactions between humans and our planet,” Determann writes. He argues that the Middle East is a particularly good geographic area for the study of past climates due to the availability of thousands of years of written records. Determann discusses how he works these topics into his classroom.
3. ‘Learning to Look’: Latin American Plant Humanities
In the current climate crisis, Elizabeth Chant argues that Latin America is a particularly important region for historical and contemporary research on biodiversity, specifically plant diversity, because it is home to seven megadiverse countries, including Brazil and Columbia. In the environmental humanities, though, Chant contends that plants have largely been ignored, though this has begun to change in recent years. Chant discusses some historiography on the topic, her own pathway into plant humanities, and her experience at the recent “Latin American Plant Humanities Workshop” where she learned about several plant humanities initiatives.
4. Waste, Material Memory, and Diasporic Possibility in the Slave Fort
In this piece for Environmental History Now, Kuhelika Ghosh reflects on the material landscape and diasporic significance of slave fort heritage sites. “I wonder,” Ghosh asks, “can inanimate forms such as waste and dirt reanimate the enslaved as subject, forming an alternative archive and connecting with African American returnees’ desire for the diasporic elsewhere?” Looking closely at the memoir of Saidiya Hartman, Ghosh explores how Hartman interacts with the materialities of the slave fort, arguing that the material waste, dirt, and artefacts present at these forts offer an archive for historical inquiry and personal connection.
5. Cobalt | Crossroads: Beyond Boom & Bust
This fifty minute tvo documentary explores the history and present-day of Cobalt, Ontario, considered to be the “home of the Canadian mining industry.” A silver mining town, Cobalt is representative of the boom and bust experience of many mining towns in Ontario and elsewhere in North America. Today, an oil refinery promises economic revitalization, but continued dependance on resource extraction.
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: Cobalt Lake Mill, Cobalt, Ontario. Credit: Canada. Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys / Library and Archives Canada / PA-017814.
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