New issue: Histoire des Alpes / Storia delle Alpi / Geschichten der Alpen

A new issue of Histoire des Alpes / Storia delle Alpi / Geschichten der Alpen, the annual journal of the International Association for Alpine History, has been published. The issue is dedicated to the study of the use, management, and exploitation of natural resources in the Alpine range. Below you may find its table of contents.

— European Society for Environmental History

EH Book Chat on Adrian Ivakhiv’s Ecologies of the Moving Image

The third edition of the Environmental Humanities Book Chat is devoted to Adrian Ivakhiv’s Ecologies of the Moving Image: Cinema, Affect, Nature. Anna Åberg (Royal Institute of Technology) and Seth Peabody (Harvard University) discuss the book with moderator Hannes Bergthaller (National Chung-Hsing University and Würzburg University).

Ecologies of the Moving Image was published by Wilfred Laurier University Press as part of its Environmental Humanities series in 2013. For further details, visit the publisher’s website.

Anna Åberg defended her PhD in 2013 at the Division for the History of Science, Technology and Environment of the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm. Her thesis, “A Gap in the Grid”, explores the role of natural gas in late 20th century Sweden. She recently was awarded the Fernand Braudel post-doctoral fellowship for a project on fusion energy research in France and the Soviet Union in which she will examine the narrative and imaginative strategies used by different actors to promote, criticize, and interpret technological development. In April 2014, she organized a combined film festival and conference, “Tales from Planet Earth,” as a cooperation between KTH’s newly-formed Environmental Humanities Laboratory and the Center for Culture, History and the Environment at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Seth Peabody is a graduate student at Harvard University’s Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, where he is working on a Ph.D. thesis on German “Mountain Films” of the Weimar Period. He has been affiliated with the Berkeley-Tübingen-Wien-Harvard (BTWH) research network on modernity in German culture since 2009, and spent the past year as a research fellow at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. His research focuses on German cinema.

Hannes Bergthaller is associate professor at National Chung-Hsing University in Taichung, Taiwan, and currently an Alexander von Humboldt research fellow at the University of Würzburg. He is the author of Populäre Ökologie: Zu Literatur und Geschichte der modernen Umweltbewegung in den USA (Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2007) and co-editor of Addressing Modernity: Social Systems Theory and US Cultures (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011) with Carsten Schinko. He is immediate past president of EASLCE and book review editor of the journal Ecozon@.

— European Society for Environmental History

Parks and Ecology: Stanley Park Nature and History Walk Guides, 1990


Cover of Stanley Park Nature and History Walk Guide 1

For most of its history, ecology has not been a guiding principle for the management of Stanley Park. This is one of the observations that I made in my book Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History. Throughout the twentieth century, Park Board officials and Vancouver residents struggled over how to manage the various uses of the park: passive leisure, active recreation, urban infrastructure, tourism promotion, scenic preservation. Ecological sciences and the desire to preserve ecosystems in this large urban park did not begin to influence park management policies until the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1990, Peter Hamilton published a series of pamphlets on the history and ecology of Stanley Park called Stanley Park: Nature and History Walks. Hamilton is the founder of Lifeforce, a local ecology organization in Vancouver that was established in 1981.  Along with other environmental organizations, Lifeforce began to pressure the Vancouver Park Board to protect the ecological values of Stanley Park. In particular, it was at the forefront of opposition to the Board’s plans to expand the Stanley Park Zoo in the early 1990s. That opposition resulted in a 1993 referendum decision to close the zoo. In the wake of the referendum, the Stanley Park Zoological Society reconstituted as the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

The pamphlets are a fascinating window into this period of Stanley Park’s history and the history of environmental activism in the Lower Mainland in the late twentieth century. With Hamilton’s permission, I have scanned and posted the ten-pamphlet series below. He also answered a few of my questions about the pamphlets and his own role in pushing the Park Board toward the adoption of ecology as a management principle for Stanley Park:

SK: Why did you produce these pamphlets? Why Stanley Park? What made this park of particular interest to you in the early 1990s?

PH: Throughout the decades Stanley Park faced many attempts to further commercialize it with intrusive businesses including an expanded zoo and the Vancouver Aquarium. It was time to raise public awareness of the need to protect the natural beauty and diversity of wildlife. Stanley Park has a diversity of wildlife living and migrating through. It was time that the public became aware of this free ecology classroom to enjoy and respect the wonders of nature.

SK: How would you characterize the state of the environment of Stanley Park in the early 1990s?

PH: In the 90s its natural beauty and diversity of wildlife was threatened by ongoing Vancouver Aquarium expansions and a new expanded zoo. The brochures and Lifeforce information about the plight of captive zoo animals helped educate the public. Vancouverites voted against a zoo and further encroachment on scarce Stanley Park that is a National Historic Site (this was applied for by Lifeforce). The zoo was closed but the battles continue with the Vancouver Aquarium’s zoo plans.

Parks Board Commissioners and many members of the public were not aware of the diversity of wildlife in Stanley Park. This includes seals, sea lions, and orcas off the shoreline. The Aquarium claimed it was too expensive to see orcas in the wild because people had to go north.

The last 1990 beluga pool expansion was to undergo a federal environmental review but the Vancouver Aquarium (VA) started construction and destroyed a popular historic duck habitat. The old 2006 plans were brought before the City and public, but present expansion plans have not been brought forward.

Residents and tourists can enjoy Stanley Park and the Aquarium without captives such as cetaceans.

SK: What were the most significant changes to the management of the park that you have seen since you produced these pamphlets?

Greater focus of “non-commercial” activities. The Stanley Park Zoological Society promoting the zoo changed to the Stanley Park Ecological Society with nature walks etc..

Why is Stanley Park and dolphin protection the same issue? It is because there are those who love the park, those who love dolphins and those who love both. Without these long time combined forces against the ongoing aquarium expansion we would have a SeaWorld-size building consuming the park. They could have won to build through Lumberman’s Arch to the waterfront or even take over Brockton Oval.

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s “crown jewel” and you do not cut up a precious treasure. Stanley Park is cherished and you protect what you love.

SK: Your pamphlets focus on nature and history. What do you see as the connection between the two?

PH: As nature was threatened with historic development in the park the brochures educated people about the past so the harmful destruction would not be repeated. There were negative things such as people building homes in the park and, in some cases, historic activities that fitted in with nature such as trail making.

If permitted, the present Vancouver Aquarium will double in size. The public said No More Zoo! and captivity that would include the present penguins and future river otters. They even want to include beaver who are living freely in the park. Others species could include Arctic fox.

The natural beauty of Stanley Park and wildlife inhabitants could be viewed on video cams. The well known “Eagle cam” David Hancock has proposed including ones at Beaver Lake to view the beaver dam. Why put them in Aquarium prisons? A lot can be learned from such observations in the wild. Apparently the new hummingbird one in Esquimalt discovered that they can have four nests annually not the one as previously thought.

Lifeforce has proposed to Parks Board staff several wildlife video cams throughout Stanley Park. The added benefits of such video cams include access to all people (locally and internationally), homebound people, public safety, animal protection, fire/arson monitoring, and much more. This free ecology classroom must be promoted and protected. We live in Super Natural BC and that is more spiritually and financially profitable.

Stanley Park itself is a major tourist attraction. It is a free ecology classroom with a diversity of resident and migrating wildlife for all to enjoy. Why imprison wildlife when they can be viewed in their natural homes? Why imprison river otters in the Aquarium when the residents said No More Zoo! Why imprison beaver in the Aquarium when they live freely in Beaver Lake?

SK: What are the most significant ecological characteristics of Stanley Park?

PH: See the brochures. There are many.

© Lifeforce/Peter Hamilton.

— Sean Kheraj, Canadian History and Environment

Soutenance de thèse. Alexis Vrignon “Les mouvements écologistes en France (années 1960-1980)”

Alexis Vrignon soutiendra sa thèse de doctorat en histoire

Les mouvements écologistes en France

(de la fin des années soixante au milieu des années quatre-vingt)

le 29 septembre 2014 à l’université de Nantes (14 h, salle du conseil).

 Jury :

Mathias Bernard, professeur à l’Université Blaise-Pascal Clermont-Ferrand

Olivier Dard, professeur à l’Université Paris-Sorbonne

Bertrand Joly, professeur à l’Université de Nantes, directeur

Bernard Lachaise, professeur à l’Université Michel-de-Montaigne Bordeaux 3

Geneviève Massard-Guilbaud, directrice d’études EHESS


Appel à contribution. “Enjeux environnementaux: politiques et acteurs sociaux dans une perspective transnationale”


Election day

Google doodle for Swedish election day, 14 September 2014

Google doodle for Swedish election day, 14 September 2014

It’s election day in Sweden. Elections for the parliament (Riksdag), county councils and municipal councils happen every four years, so it’s an important day in shaping the near future of Swedish society. As someone with foreign citizenship who has lived in Sweden more than 3 years, I am eligible to vote in the county and municipal elections, but not for the Riksdag. In fact, the only people who can vote in the Riksdag elections are Swedish citizens over the age of 18. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived in Sweden–if you’re not a citizen, you have no say in the national government. Interestingly, this is very different from who is eligible to decide on whether or not Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom in their vote next week. In that election, anyone who is living in Scotland and is a citizen of Britain (which includes Scotland), a Commonwealth country (like Canada or Australia), or an EU country is eligible to vote. This is a much broader base of people who are considered eligible to have a say in the future of a country.

Voting eligibility is an interesting case of governmental authorities deciding about the ‘belongingness’ of people. It’s not all that different at its core than what happens with nonhumans. Governments, often through their environmental agencies and commissioned scientific reports, draw lines about which nonhumans are ‘native’ and which are not. Policies are made based on the history of a species–when it arrived within a given geographical area and/or when it disappeared. In essence, animals and plants are given ‘citizenship’ or ‘naturalisation’ status through these decisions.

A perfect example of this is the group of five muskoxen who crossed the border from Norway into Sweden in September 1971, which led to a debate about their status. They were immediately welcomed by the tourist industry. When a national postage stamp series titled ‘Sweden’s Mountains’ was issued in March 1984, the three images chosen were the angelica flowering plant, the lemming, and the muskox. The text printed in both Swedish and English with the first day issue shows the rapid integration of muskox:

In 1971 the musk-ox (Ovibos moschatus) came back to the Swedish fauna. The occasion can be seen as a return to the fold, and today there are some 30 animals in the province Härjedalen.

First day issue of the Swedish Fjällsvärld stamp series

First day issue of the Swedish Fjällsvärld stamp series


When the muskox population appeared to be in trouble in the 1980s because of inbreeding, the Green Party argued that because paleoarcheological finds of muskox had been made in Sweden,

the species belongs truly to Sweden’s original inhabitants.…We have no right to abandon the muskox.

Adolf Hoel had expressed similar opinions about the muskox, arguing in several of his publications that part of the reason for bringing the animals to Svalbard and Dovre was because they had lived in Norway at the end of the Ice Age. With their reintroduction, ‘muskox are again a component of the Norwegian fauna’, according to Hoel.

The official Parliamentary response to the Green’s motion reveals that everyone was not in agreement about the muskox’s ‘naturalization’. The Parliamentary statement ‘Swedish Environmental Politics’ issued in 1991 addressed the motion, claiming that while the animals had value in the tourism sector,

muskoxen have been extinct for such a long time in Scandinavia that they can no longer be seen as a part of our natural fauna.

A parliamentary motion made in 2000 as well as a draft Threatened Species Action Plan for the muskox were all denied. This debate has created a somewhat contradictory status for the animal. The species is not eligible for listing as an endangered species in Sweden because it is classified as ‘introduced’ in the Red List, yet there is a regional plan that calls for its conservation. Its status is in many ways the same as mine in Swedish elections: it gets included in local and regional affairs, but not in national ones.

Photograph with caption: State forester Johansson cheering up one of his new ‘countrymen’. Printed in Axel Anderson, Då bävern återbördades till Västerbotten, Västerbotten: Västerbottens Läns Hembygdsförenings Årsbok 1924-1925

Photograph with caption: State forester Johansson cheering up one of his new ‘countrymen’. Printed in Axel Anderson, Då bävern återbördades till Västerbotten, Västerbotten: Västerbottens Läns Hembygdsförenings Årsbok 1924-1925

This is very different than how the beaver was treated when it came back to Sweden after an absence of 50 years. Sponsors (or godfathers) were named for the reintroduced beavers and local contacts sent in frequent ‘beaver reports’. When the Västerbottens läns jaktvårdsforening reintroduced beavers in 1924 in northern Sweden, the relationship between the hunters and beavers is described as co-citizenship. One photograph shows a member of the reintroduction group with a beaver captioned as: State forester Johansson cheering up one of his new ‘countrymen’. The beaver belonged in Sweden.

The racoon dog is on the opposite side of the spectrum of belonging, with concerted efforts to keep it out of Sweden. The origin of the species in Asia, rather than where the individual animals alive right now have been born, makes it foreign. As animals shift their ranges, whether because of climate change or human introduction, we have to ask ourselves: At what point should an animal be ‘naturalised’? Are the standards for ‘native’ based on species history really good ones? If we applied the standard that is applied to many animal species to voters, only those with family in Sweden before 1800 would be able to vote.

Animals don’t get a vote, but thinking about how they are framed as belonging or not might let us think a little harder about how people are also framed as belonging or not. An individual’s history–where he/she was born, where he/she lives, how long he/she has lived in a particular place–all factor into whether or not the individual is allowed to vote. Are those the best standards to say if an individual should have a say in government? At what point do people belong to a community?

— Dolly Jørgensen, The Return of Native Nordic Fauna

Appel à communication. “Living in a toxic world (1800-2000): experts, activism, industry and regulation”. Menorca. Date-limite:1er octobre 2014

Dans le cadre de 8e école d’été européenne sur l’histoire des sciences, un appel à communication est diffusé et porte sur “Living in a toxic world (1800-2000): experts, activism, industry and regulation”.

Cette école d’été se tiendra à Mao (Menorca) du 15 au 17 mai 2015.

Consulter l’appel dans son intégralité


Parution. Lisa Brawley, Elsa Devienne, “D’après nature: Frederick Law Olmsted et le Park movement américain”


New Book Collects Articles from RCC Workshop

"Moving Environments" Explores Film, Emotion, and the Environment

— Rachel Carson Centre LMU - News and Events

Rural Roots

Since June, I’ve been working with the Prince Albert Daily Herald crew to publish excerpts of stories from my new book, Forest Prairie Edge. These stories are printed in their free weekly publication Rural Roots which trundles out every Thursday into the mailboxes of about 27,000 subscribers.

Wow. That is a lot of people.

I know that the stories are being read. I know this because I’ve been getting phone calls, my Mom has been getting phone calls, and the newspaper is getting phone calls.

On August 9th, I visited Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan during their Western Days. An annual fair, it’s a day for both locals and summer residents at Christopher, Emma, Anglin and Waskesiu lakes in Saskatchewan to have a bit of fun.

As a guest of the Lakeland Regional Library, I was the visiting author for the day. I gave a talk and slide show from my research at the library, and I was thrilled with the response and attendance.

Nearly every single one of them said: I’m here because I’ve been reading your stuff in Rural Roots. And, one lady went on, I’m cutting all of them out and keeping them in a scrapbook. (No, I’m not related to her!)

Some may say, Merle, aren’t you cutting your own sales, here? If people are just going to read what you’re providing in their free paper, what are you going to get out of it? Will you sell any books?

That’s an argument that cuts in two ways. In a fundamental way, I agree. I don’t like providing content for free (which was our agreement) and don’t advocate that any writer should do this. All writers should be paid for their work. Always. (You’re paying for my blog by buying internet time, but you’re not paying me, so this blog is ‘free’ too). But to give my work to a newspaper, is indeed dicey.

But there is another side. Public authorship requires a certain amount of contact with the public. It can take many forms. I already blog for two websites ( and The Otter) which give free content. I run this blog (albeit somewhat sporadically — my apologies).

I recognize, though, that the majority of my reading public is over sixty years old, and not necessarily on the internet. The best way to reach them? Through their free local newspaper: Rural Roots.

And the strategy is working. My book continues to sell, and my name and stories are read, which generates recognition and more sales.

If you’d like to see one of my stories in Rural Roots, the latest three copies can be found online at Or, just go buy the book!

Rural Roots 001Rural Roots 002

— Merle Massie