The North East-Atlantic Canada Environmental History Forum is approaching soon!
It will be held at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston on October 27.
There is now a webpage with the program and the papers:
Please see www.nacehf.org for information.
Several members of NiCHE are involved, and many thanks to NiCHE and HEAR [Historians of the Environment of the Atlantic Region] for supporting the event.
There is no fee but you need to be registered to gain access to the participants' papers.
Brian J Payne
I’ve been thinking a lot about apples lately.
For the Northeast and Atlantic Environmental History Forum Environmental History Workshop in October, I’m working on a piece about Grand Pré, Nova Scotia. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site a few weeks ago, as “exceptional testimony to a traditional farming settlement created in the seventeenth century by the Acadians in a coastal zone with tides that are among the highest in the world.” The pré was created when Acadian settlers built a low-tech but effective system of dykes and aboiteaux to drain the salt marshes along the Bay of Fundy into arable and richly fertile land. Grand Pré has also been the symbolic centre for the Acadian derangement of 1755 – their dispersal by the British in advance of the Seven Years’ War, at just about this time of year, too: a lieux de memoire for Acadians and a (mythic) site for tourists seeking the romance of Henry Longfellow’s 1847 poem Evangeline.
The UNESCO designation encompasses the full pré (about 1300 acres), including Hortonville, a late-18th century town grid aimed at American Planters. But the focus is entirely on the longevity of the 17th-century pré, created by Acadian settlers and maintained by “their modern successors.” There are certainly interesting continuities: from the use of the pré for hay and pasture to the maintenance of the drainage system by a community-run marsh body. It’s also politically useful for the Acadian cause to associate their historic claim to the area with good environmental stewardship.
But Grand Pré is the gateway to the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia’s agricultural heartland. (Which may not be saying much, in a province with only 8% of its land in agriculture, but that also makes the Valley all the more special here.) It’s home to the Apple Blossom Festival in May and the Pumpkin People (don’t ask) in October, to winery tours in the summer and pick-your-own orchards in the fall. It’s where Haligonians like me head for our “drive-in-the-country” day, to rhapsodize over the prettiness of the Valley and collect a trunkful of fruits and vegetables – as tourists have been doing for over a century.
The point is that the pré is part of this larger region, as much as it was part of a larger Acadie. But if the pré proper is the result of 17th-century dyking, its agricultural geography, like the rest of the Valley, is at least as much and much more directly the result of 19th- century ideas about agriculture, the environment, and the state: Anglo-American settlement patterns; transportation infrastructure geared to supplying the unarable Atlantic seaboard of the province and global markets; international promotion of Nova Scotia as the “Orchard of the Empire”; species breeding and chemical testing at the federal experimental stations at Kentville and Nappan; and an ideology of farming as “the noblest employment of man.”(1)
Even with a growing interest in organic agriculture, terroir, and more sustainable practices among fruit and dairy farmers in the Valley, most of these 19th-century frameworks for industrial agriculture remain in place, and none of them are as innocuous as either the image of Acadians’ preindustrial, collectivist farming or the urbanite’s windshield view of a bucolic orchard. Even my Nova Scotian students tend to see Grand Pré as evidence of a once and future golden age, a wooden-shoe-light-footprint of sustainability. By emphasizing the direct lineage between 17th-century and current practice, the UNESCO designation permits us to vault over two centuries of more intensive, more integrated, and more directly relevant land use. This encourages us to romanticize the agricultural industry, and it’s this romantic view that has increased urban pressure on the area. The dykes are remarkable, but their maintenance allows not just for farmland but for highways across the marshes.
It’s entirely understandable – and sometimes required – that the process of historic designation select and prioritize one era of significance. But environmental history doesn’t always work that way. (I got into trouble with the mayor of Lunenburg a few years ago when I wrote that the town’s UNESCO designation was for a different century and phenomenon – the 18th-century British model town – than that of Lunenburg’s very successful tourist image based on the Bluenose and late Victorian seafaring.) Certainly the pré itself is an important link to the territory of Acadie, and a valuable artefact of early modern Atlantic coastal land use. It’s also a really powerful statement of constructed nature – and a terrific teaching tool. But no pré is an island.
(1). William D. Lawrence, Nomination Day speech, 1863, in William D. Lawrence: Nova Scotia Shipbuilder & Anti-Confederation Campaginer, The Complete Archived and Annotated Writings (Kennetcook, NS: Heroes of Hants County Association, 2010) 205.
Introducing http://hear-niche.ca a website for promoting the environmental history of Atlantic Canada and connecting historians and others working in this field. Created by the Historians of the Environment of the Atlantic Region (HEAR) - a regional node in the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE) - this new website aims to announce upcoming environmental history events in the Atlantic Region, connect researchers and the public with regional environmental history resources, and profile historians and programs that are actively working in Atlantic Canadian environmental history. We encourage anyone with an interest in this field to visit the site, join NiCHE and submit a profile, and make suggestions about how the website can be improved to better facilitate your research and teaching.
A reminder that abstracts for the edited collection with Acadiensis Press are due Tuesday, 15 December. Please email Claire Campbell (email@example.com) or Robert Summerby-Murray (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you're interested in participating.
For more information on the project, see the original announcement:
Call for Papers on
Environmental History in Atlantic Canada,
A thematic volume with Acadiensis Press
Claire Campbell, Dalhousie University
Robert Summerby-Murray, Mount Allison University
We have received approval from Acadiensis Press to issue a call for contributions and prepare a thematic collection of papers that demonstrates the relevance of environmental history to Atlantic Canada in the twenty-first century. Environmental history is uniquely positioned to engage current public debate on such pressing issues as climate change, environmental consequences of resource extraction, and the social and cultural results of changing environments in our region. With such environmental issues at the forefront of public discussion, it seems timely to examine the contributions that an historical perspective can bring to informing policy and practices of sustainability within Atlantic Canada. It is increasingly apparent that any present or future response to environmental conditions and environmental change requires a better understanding of the consequences of past practices.
We are seeking contributions that demonstrate a regionally and theoretically informed environmental history of Atlantic Canada. We plan to feature essays that showcase innovative research in history, geography, the biological sciences, archaeology, and cultural studies; that address a range of topics, from industrial to mythic landscapes, from across the region; and that are oriented toward public engagement and policy application. This collection will appeal to an unusually diverse group of contributors and readers, with a particular appeal for classroom use in the tradition of earlier edited collections from Acadiensis Press. The volume will receive intellectual and financial support for publication from NiCHE (the SSHRC-funded Network in Canadian History and Environment) and the regional group of HEAR (Historians of the Environment of the Atlantic Region).
We are seeking contributors for the essays that will constitute the majority of this volume, to address the environmental history of the Atlantic region around the three themes of: (i) Ecologies, Sustainability and Change; (ii) Human Responses and Adjustments; and (iii) Culture, Memory and Representation. Contributions that address traditional strengths of environmental history in the region (impacts of extractive industries and their associated political economy) are welcomed as well as more wide-ranging contributions that interpret environmental history through the lenses of gender, labour, culture, representation and memory. Contributions should be approximately 7500 words in length (with a maximum of 10,000 words including footnotes and references).
If you are interested in contributing to this volume, please contact the co-editors directly (at Claire.Campbell@dal.ca and/or email@example.com). Statements of interest (including a brief abstract) are to be received by 15 December 2009. First drafts of papers should be submitted by 1 July 2010. Editorial and peer review of papers will follow with a planned publication date of 2011.