#EnvHist Worth Reading: September 2023

Scroll this

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 September 2023:

1. The Father of Environmental Justice Exposes the Geography of Inequity

In this Scientific American interview, Yessenia Funes speaks with Dr. Bob Bullard who is most well-known as the “father of environmental justice.” Funes writes that “Bullard was the first scientist to publish systematic research on the links between race and exposure to pollution, which he documented for a 1979 lawsuit.” Funes asks Bullard about his experience in the early days of his research and public response to his work. They talk about how one takes the concept of environmental justice to a larger scope in order to think about global issues. Finally, Bullard describes the new environmental justice projects that he is currently working on.

2. Smoke and Plastic: Feeling the Environmental Past

In this piece for Environmental History Now, using a tweet by Smokey the Bear criticizing Barbie’s fire safety in August as a jumping off point, Catherine Peters takes on the twin histories of these two pivotal childhood figures who both rose to prominence in the 1950s, the same decade that the Anthropocene Working Group has chosen as the time period in which the impact of human activity reached global proportions. Peters looks critically at how these two figures “condition play while upholding sociocultural assumptions regarding what it means to care for the environment as well as ourselves.” Peters concludes that these figures tell us a lot about what we have prioritized in our society through time.

3. Voices of the East

In September on Public Lands Day in the United States, the Wilderness Society released a storytelling anthology project called “Voices of the East.” “This project captures the stories of five individuals who live, work, and play in these lands, revealing what makes their chosen home special through the timeless tradition of oral storytelling,” they state. The five storytellers represent different regions of the eastern United States, as well as different experiences of living on the land. The stories are around five minutes long, and the project is really nice example of making environmental oral history accessible to the public.

4. The history of coal production in the United States

Ever since we featured the Visualizing Energy project on our site in March, I’ve been in awe of the powerful data visualizations and accompanying articles that they have released this year. In this particular article, published in September, Cutler Cleveland focuses in on the history of coal production in the United States, highlighting three visualizations of this history, including a map of cumulative coal production by state, a graph of this coal production, and a visualization of the leading coal producing states through time. I was genuinely surprised to learn that my home state of Pennsylvania has led coal production over the past two hundred years! I never associated Pennsylvania with coal production; I knew coal production occurred, of course, but I always assumed places like West Virginia produced more coal.

5. Kohei Saito: Marx in the Anthropocene – Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism

In this video for The Empire Inquirer, Marxist scholar Kohei Saito outlines his interpretation of Karl Marx’s Capital as a “book about metabolism between humans and nature” or how humans interact with nature through labour. He further uses this analysis of Marx to support an argument for degrowth communism. Saito provides a clear explanation of the capitalist system’s relationship to metabolism, labour, and nature.

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: “Barbie Journal 1992 (Finnish)” by vaniljapulla is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
The following two tabs change content below.
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.


NiCHE encourages comments and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments that fail to meet our guidelines including comments under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.