Ice Blink: Navigating Northern Environmental History

Ice Blink: Navigating Northern Environmental History

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Guest blog by Stephen Bocking, Trent School of the Environment, Trent University

Headlines today tell of melting ice and scrambles over resources and boundaries – signposts of an Arctic experiencing unprecedented transformation. But these accounts require historical context. Ice Blink: Navigating Northern Environmental History,  recently published by the University of Calgary Press, provides this context, exploring a century of change across the north.

Ice Blink is the product of a new generation of scholars pursuing the environmental history of northern Canada. The stories they tell concern the evolving relations between people and the northern environment throughout the twentieth century. Some of the stories are of Indigenous people: their identities, ways of life and relations with the land and with the state, scientists and the world. Other stories concern newcomers to the north: railway promoters and miners, prospectors and pilots, Cold War technicians and climate scientists. There are the stories of the Canadian state: its efforts to impose a pastoral economy, supermarket food in place of fresh meat, or economic development in place of traditional ways of life. Above all, these are stories of people and their environment: how humans have shaped northern landscapes, even as the north has shaped cultures and knowledge.

Our authors have pursued these stories across the north: from Quebec and British Columbia to the territories and the High Arctic, while paying careful attention to the links between these places and the rest of the world. Their work exhibits the interdisciplinary character of environmental history: linking environmental change to social and political history, geography, anthropology and the history of science and technology. As they demonstrate, the social sciences and humanities remain essential to understanding the past, present and future of the north. We'll be presenting this book at Congress on May 30; all are welcome to attend and learn more!