#EnvHist Worth Reading: February 2024

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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 February 2024:

1. A Fluid Border: The River Tamar and Constructed Difference in Travel Writing of Cornwall

The Winter 2024 issue of Opens Rivers came out in February, and it has a lot of gems, including this piece by Tim Hannigan on the Tamar, a small river in the United Kingdom. Hannigan writes that “the Tamar … provides a significant case study of the border function of rivers and of the complexities and ambiguities that close inspection of such a function may reveal.” As a border river, Hannigan emphasizes the importance of crossing the river, rather than traveling along it in the historical record, as well as its role as a natural geographic border and divider between ethnic groups.

2. ‘They lied’: plastics producers deceived public about recycling, report reveals

Although many of us have known or suspected that something was fishy with the plastics recycling industry for a while now, there is mounting evidence to back up our cynicism. A new report came out recently, published by the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), that shows that “plastic producers have known for more than 30 years that recycling is not an economically or technically feasible plastic waste management solution.” In this article for The Guardian, Dharna Noor provides an overview of this report, the history behind the development of the plastic recycling myth, and what the legal ramifications for these lies may be in the near future.

3. Step by Step: Thinking through and beyond the repair manual.

This political ecology article by Shannon Mattern for Places Journal is an in-depth look at the history of the repair manual that is an interdisciplinary dream that should attract discard studies scholars, environmental historians, tech historians, and the like. Mattern argues that right now “seems a crucial time to recover the history, politics, and aesthetics of the repair manual as a didactic genre and creative form,” as folks become more aware of our consumer society and more hesitant to throw things out as opposed to fix them. Mattern talks about repair as a social activity, as a mid-twentieth century marker of middle-class life, as a product of grassroots media collectives, and so much more!

4. Pulled From the Deep: Scientists Found a ‘Lost’ Deep-Sea Mining Site off the SC Coast. What Secrets Does it Hold?

I learned from Clare Fieseler, in this article for the Pulitzer Center, about the first successful deep sea mining attempt, which took place in 1970 off the coast of South Carolina. Fieseler shares how the companies that organized this mining venture thought it was a predictor for fortunes to come, but Chris Garside, a British oceanographer, feared that deep sea mining would be an ecological catastrophe. This particular project and the expected billions never panned out, but there is renewed interest in this site due to current corporate and government efforts to invest more in deep sea mining projects. One of the problems with deep sea mining is that we have little scientific data on the impact of the extractive activity. Fieseler then provides details of the work of  Jason Chaytor to research this site of deep sea mining from the 1970s to help us understand what impacts today’s mining may have in the decades and centuries to come.

5. How Shells Tell Native History

In this episode of PBS’s Sovereign Innovations, Cheyenne Bearfoot shares the history and legacy of wampum beads, which are made out of shells, in North American history. Talking with Indigenous artist Lydia Wallace-Chavez, Bearfoot explores current wampum art and the craftsmanship behind this practice, as well as the history of its use as a colonial currency.

Feature Image: “Pollution (plastic bag)” by garrettc is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
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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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