#EnvHist Worth Reading: March 2023

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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 March 2023:

1. Did one photograph change the fate of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge?

In this article for The Washington Post, Finis Dunaway looks back on a photograph of a polar bear taken by Subhankar Banerjee in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The photo was presented to the U.S. Senate by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) on March 18, 2003. Boxer hoped that this photograph would convince her fellow senators to vote against oil drilling in the arctic and elsewhere. Dunaway discusses how Boxer’s use of the photo spiralled into a controversy involving the Smithsonian censoring Banerjee’s photography exhibit and how Banerjee’s broader work and this particular photograph fit into a larger history of the role of images in environmental activism. After you read this article, make sure you also check out Banerjee and Dunaway’s recent NiCHE post, “Postcards, Fortress Conservation, and the Venice Biennale.”

2. Empires of ice: how Edmund Hillary’s Antarctic adventure 65 years ago helped loosen NZ’s colonial ties to Britain

This Conversation article by Daniella McCahey marks the 65th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition to the South Pole. McCahey writes that she “believe[s] the expedition tells us about more than just Kiwi ingenuity and attitude. It was also about national competition and prestige, disputed sovereignty, and competing versions of masculinity.” McCahey outlines how the scientific agenda of the expedition was closely tied to nationalism, how Hillary’s celebrity shaped the way that New Zealanders and countries around the world viewed the expedition, and the role that vehicle technology played in reaching the pole.

3. What Is a Fungus? Mycology’s Dada Moment

In this Arcadia article, Nathan Smith looks at the history of mycological jokes and hoaxes, focusing on a 1962 article by Richard William George Dennis, head of Mycology at Royal Botanic Gardens, that jokingly identified abandoned golf bass as a new specie of fungi. Dennis’ hoax was next level because he was able to get the Golfballia ambusta fungi formally recognized under the rules of the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants. “In true Dadaist fashion, Dennis challenged (and undermined) the very understanding of what a fungus is by declaring that a fungus was whatever a mycologist decided it to be,” Smith writes.

4. The Impact of European Colonialism on Global Plant Redistribution

In this detailed presentation for the Linnean Society, Bernd Lenzner demonstrates how the impact of European colonization can be observed through looking at the distribution of alien fauna at a global scale. Lenzer shows that the “compositional similarity of the alien floras among regions that once were occupied by the same European empire is higher than expected by chance.”

5. Chemical Sensitivity Podcast – Episode 22: “Bodily Natures: Exploring Multiple Chemical Sensitivity”

In this episode of the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast, host Aaron Goodman speaks with Stacy Alaimo about the environmental history behind Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and the general proliferation of chemicals in our day-to-day environment from laundry detergent to the “new car” smell.

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: “Cheer Laundry Detergent” by JeepersMedia 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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