#EnvHist Worth Reading: June 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 June 2024:

1. After disaster strikes, how much is it worth to rebuild?

In this Narwhal article, Steph Kwetásel’wet Wood examines the history and current realities of the former lake bed of Semá:th Xhotsa (Sumas Lake), located in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, which is prone to flooding. Recent research efforts by University of British Columbia researchers and members of the Sumas First Nation have concluded that the best step forward for preventing or mitigating future flooding events is to buy back private land and reflood part of the lake-bed. I learned about the term “managed retreat” from the article, which is a useful concept. Wood provides an overview of the history of the draining of the lake and the potential impacts on people living in the area if the lake is reflooded.

2. Beavering

This Springs piece by Mary Beth LaDow provides a rich, personal exploration of the lives of beavers, their ecological impact, and their symbiotic relationship with humans. “Our evolving relationship with the beavers has come to feel somewhat like that, a passage out of a murderous North American past, touched with shades of science and seeds of wonder,” LaDow writes, as she acknowledges the violence done to beavers in the past and offers ways of moving forward more gently – together – into the future.

3. Death on the Aude: River Pollution, the French Formica Company, and Local Fishers in 1983

In this essay for Environmental History Now, Lucile Truffy looks at the 1983 decimation of the fish stock in the Aude River as a result of a toxic spill caused by the French company, Formica. Truffy notes that the proportion of this spill and the media coverage that it received set it apart from similar events. Truffy explains her archival investigation into the question as to who was perpetrator of this polluting spill, which was ultimately not deemed to be the Formica company. Ultimately, Truffy concludes that this reflection on this event “invites the historian to transcend the hegemonic paradigm of economic, social, and material progress in late twentieth-century France, which Formica furniture embodies.”

4. The Birth of Cool: How Refrigeration Changed Everything

In this episode of Gastropod, co-hosts Cynthia and Nicky trace the history of refrigeration, which they smartly refer to as “portable, on-demand winter,” and how this technology changed our food systems, and ironically, has contributed significantly to climate change.

5. Trudeau’s biggest failure divided Alberta & Canada

My discovery of the Land and Lore YouTube channel was a highlight of my entire June. The creator (who knows who it is?!) has a back catalog of absolutely brilliant Canadian environmental history videos. In June, the channel released the second part of their series on the oil sands, which covers the 1960s-1980s, paying particular attention to the impact of the 1970s oil crisis and Trudeau’s policies. It is difficult to make political history visually appealing, but this video does a really good job and breaks down some complex history in a really accessible way.

Feature Image: “Satellite View of Oil Sands Development, Alberta” by SkyTruth is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 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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