#EnvHist Worth Reading: October 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 October 2023:

1. Axes on the Ground: Wolves and Women on the North American Frontier

I absolutely love fellow NiCHE editor, Caroline Abbott’s research into the gendered history of wolves in North America, so I was very excited to see this new article in Arcadia. Abbott opens the article with the 1897 tale of the Gewehrson’s family’s encounter with a wolf and the wife’s galliant and successful effort to defend her child from the being with an axe. Abbott uses this tale as a jumping off point for talking about the way in which the “frontier disrupted European gender norms and their accompanying, folkloric binaries,” connecting stories like that of the Gewehrson’s to nationalistic reimaginings of gendered and more-than-human relations in the nineteenth century.

2. What’s in an Ecosystem?

We here at NiCHE love an ecological metaphor, and I, personally, have never been one to shy away from them either, which is why I was very interested in Ashwin Ramaswami’s article for Reboot. Ramaswami traces the origins of ecology and ecological vocabulary, as well as the rise of using this vocabulary to describe and illustrate systems outside of ecological science. In the 1960s, Ramaswami points out, anthropologists started using the term “cultural ecology” and “human ecology,” in 1968 “media ecology” was coined, and in the 1970s “information ecology.” These developments laid the groundwork for the prevalence of ecological language in the digital world. Ramaswami calls into question the careless ways in which ecology has been employed to illustrate the digital world, and provides suggestions as to how we can be more respectful and actually use ecological thought to dictate our digital habits. “As with the natural world, approaching the digital world is also ultimately a choice of stewardship versus exploitation,” Ramaswami writes.

3. The sordid tale of L.A.’s forever war on smog

As the title suggests, in this long-read for The Los Angeles Times, Patt Morrison provides an overview of the history of smog in Los Angeles. The first documented smog attack in LA occurred in July 1943, the air was so bad that people donned gas masks that were originally purchased in case of a World War II invasion. Since then the city’s smog has become almost as infamous as its Hollywood connections. The premise of Morrison’s article is that the causes of this smog act similarly to the possible murderers in a murder mystery. “In the 80 years since, we have rehabilitated some of those killers, and locked some of them up. Others, we have put quietly to death. But some are still out there, still committing mayhem on our landscapes and our lives,” Morrison writes. Morrison then provides a thorough overview of the industrial causers of this smog through LA’s history.

4. Inventing Antarctica

In this piece for JStor Daily, Matthew Willis revisits Alessandro Antonello’s 2017 Environmental History article, “Engaging and Narrating the Antarctic Ice Sheet: The History of an Earthly Body.” Willis opens with noting that our conceptualization of Antarctica and its ice sheets is relatively new in the grand scheme of things. A complete mapping of Antarctica was not even completed until the 1990s and 2000s; and now that the ice is rapidly melting due to climate change, it looks like we were just in time to document something that is soon to be a part of the past. Willis recounts Antonello’s research into the exploration and documentation of Antarctica, concluding that “we had barely gotten to know Antarctica before realizing that it’s in greater flux than at any other time in human history.”

5. In Northern BC, the Case of the Mummified Mining Town

In this article for The Tyee, Amanda Follett Hosgood looks at the history of Kitsault, British Columbia, a once booming mining town that has been abandoned for forty years. Unlike many ghost towns, however, the grounds and buildings of Kitsault are still maintained and act as a memorial to a past time when industry was the vanguard of progress and development in the region. Hosgood provides a wealth of photos that illustrate the eeriness of Kisault’s preservation. Hosgood discusses the story behind the town’s development and swift abandonment in the 1980s.

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: Bridge across Kitsault River at Alice Arm, B.C. August 1928. Credit: Canada. Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys / Library and Archives Canada / PA-014175.
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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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