Snow-capped mountains. Pristine lakes. Crystalline glaciers. Big-sky sunsets. “Canada” is synonymous with nature, and throughout history people have been drawn to it for its bounty – from fish and furs to gold, wheat, and lumber.
Intended to delight and provoke, these short, beautifully crafted essays, enlivened with photos and illustrations, explore how humans have engaged with Canadian nature and what those interactions say about the nature of Canada.
Tracing a path from the Ice Age to the Anthropocene, some of the foremost stars in the field of environmental history reflect on how we, as a nation, have idolized and found inspiration in nature even as fishers, fur traders, farmers, foresters, miners, and city planners have commodified it and tried to tame it. They also travel lesser-known routes, revealing how Indigenous people listened to glaciers and what they have to tell us; how the weather is not what we must endure but what we make of it; and how even the nature we can’t see – the smallest of pathogens – has served the interests of some while threatening the very existence of others.
The Nature of Canada will make you think differently not only about Canada and its past but quite possibly about Canada and its future. Its insights are just what we need as Canada attempts to reconcile the opposing goals of prosperity and preservation.
Enthralling and engaging, The Nature of Canada will appeal to anyone interested in Canadian history, national identity, and the future of the Canadian environment.
The Nature of Canada is a unique and wonderful collection of reflections by scholars who know how to pause in the midst of their work and articulate what is truly at stake in studying the past. These essays are thoughtful, engaging, and beautifully written – with each contribution offering at least one startling insight.
It's not often an environmentalist gets to say ‘Hug a book!’ – but this is the one to embrace if you want to understand how nature is everything Canada is and will be.
I found The Nature of Canada so engaged me that I read it with the unflagging interest and close attention I usually reserve for critically acclaimed novels. Innovative in its approach and ideas, it articulates a wide, unusual, and most welcome vision of Canada.
Colin M. Coates is the author of The Metamorphoses of Landscape and Community in Early Quebec and editor of Canadian Countercultures and the Environment. He is an associate professor of Canadian studies at Glendon College, York University. Graeme Wynn is a geographer, the author of Canada and Arctic North America: An Environmental History, the president of the American Society for Environmental History, and the editor of the UBC Press Nature | History | Society book series.
Contributors: Jennifer Bonnell, Claire Campbell, Colin M. Coates, Julie Cruikshank, Ken Cruikshank, Michèle Dagenais, Joanna Dean, Stephen J. Hornsby, Arn Keeling, Tina Loo, Heather E. McGregor, Steve Penfold, Liza Piper, John Sandlos, Graeme Wynn
1 Nature and Nation / Graeme Wynn
2 Painting the Map Red / Graeme Wynn
3 Listening for Different Stories / Julie Cruikshank
4 Eldorado North? / Stephen J. Hornsby and Graeme Wynn
5 Back to the Land / Colin M. Coates
6 Nature We Cannot See / Graeme Wynn
7 The Wealth of Wilderness / Claire E. Campbell
8 Imagining the City / Michèle Dagenais
9 Never Just a Hole in the Ground / Arn Keeling and John Sandlos
10 Every Creeping Thing … / Ken Cruikshank
11 The Power of Canada / Steve Penfold
12 Questions of Scale / Tina Loo
13 A Gendered Sense of Nature / Joanna Dean
14 Advocates and Activists / Graeme Wynn, with Jennifer Bonnell
15 Climates of Our Times / Liza Piper
16 Time Chased Me Down, and I Stopped Looking Away / Heather E. McGregor
Breaching the Peace
The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand against Big Hydro
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