Fall 2017 - GEOG 377 D100

Environmental History (4)

Class Number: 4164

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    SECB 1013, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2017
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    WMC 3520, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Tina Adcock
    1 778 782-4533
    Office: AQ 6236
    Office Hours: TBA
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units with nine of lower division Geography units.



Examines the reciprocal influences between humans and nature through time. Topics may include settlement, agriculture, technology, politics, urbanization, science, and conservation. Students with credit for HIST 377 may not take this course for further credit.


We live, it’s popularly said, in a country with too much geography and not enough history. Yet even the most remote corners of Canada bear traces of human activity throughout time, if you know how and where to look. This course explores Canada’s geography and history through the lens of environmental history, an interdisciplinary field that studies the reciprocal relationships between humans and the non-human world in the past. Spanning the era prior to contact to roughly the present day and the space of northern North America (i.e. Canada), this course will introduce students to key questions and themes in this field. How have non-human actors (plants, animals, microbes) and factors (topography, climate) shaped human affairs? How have different Indigenous and settler communities understood and represented the natural world through science and art? How and why have people made changes, both accidental and deliberate, in the lands around them—and with what consequences? Should political borders matter to environmental historians when humans, non-humans, and landscapes cross them so easily?

We’ll work through these questions using case studies such as ecological imperialism, extractive activities/industries, energy regimes, hybrid landscapes (e.g. parks and farms), and the triad of preservationism, conservationism, and environmentalism. We’ll also reflect critically upon some historiographical issues. What is, or should be, the relationship between environmental history and environmental activism? Why does environmental history tend to make people depressed rather than inspired? Together, we’ll do our best to construct more “hopeful” environmental histories that will enable you to make thoughtful and historically-informed choices as Canadian and global citizens.

Note: There will be tutorials in the first week of class.


By the end of this course, students will be able:

• To assess how human and non-human actors and factors have altered Canadian environments over time, and with what consequences
• To analyze how social and cultural interpretations of Canadian environments have changed over time, and to situate these in appropriate historical and cultural contexts
• To discuss key historiographical and methodological issues in the field of environmental history with reference to course content
• To practice and hone the skills of interpreting, evaluating, and synthesizing primary and secondary documents in oral and written forms.


  • Participation 15%
  • Ecological imperialism paper 20%
  • Place “biography” 30%
  • Final exam 35%


*Course components and their weighting may be altered between now and the beginning of the fall term.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html