Spring 2018 - GEOG 432 D100

Problems in Environmental History (4)

Class Number: 3598

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 2501, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

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

    60 units including eight of upper division geography.



An investigation into the major themes and arguments in the environmental histories of North America, emphasizing how different individuals and groups have used, perceived, and managed their environments over time. Students with credit for HIST 432 or HIST 485 in 2001-3 may not take this course for further credit.


This iteration of GEOG/HIST 432 examines the confluence of environmental history and the history of science and technology. At first glance, these two thematic fields seem to have much in common; in practice, they have often been reluctant to engage with each other. Historians of science have long privileged laboratory-based and experimental sciences over those taking place in the field. Meanwhile, environmental historians have often viewed “science” and “scientific knowledge” as static categories, rather than the products of material practices and social hierarchies that change over time, and that must always be situated in specific historical and geographical contexts. Recently, environmental historians have begun to apply conceptual and analytical tools from science and technology studies to their investigations of the reciprocal relationships between humans and the nonhuman world in the past. This has resulted in new, hybrid fields of inquiry, including “envirotech” (envirotechnical history) and evolutionary history.  

In this seminar, we’ll read work by environmental historians, historical geographers, and historians of science and technology that sheds light on key questions in the study of science, technology, and nature. How have explorers, scientists, Indigenous peoples and technocrats understood and represented the nonhuman world across time and space? How have scientific practices and technological artifacts and systems reshaped nonhuman environments and ecosystems? And how have nonhuman actors and factors confounded, or pushed back against such interventions? Who speaks for nature? In other words, whose knowledge about nonhuman worlds has been used to guide environmental policies and practices, and whose has been ignored or dismissed—and why?  

No background in science is required: only a willingness to engage with material that is somewhat complex and challenging. In return, you will gain a deeper and richer understanding of the relationships between science, technology, nature, and society in the present, as well as the past.

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


  • Participation 30%
  • Two “deep cut” essays (2 x 20%) 40%
  • Term essay 30%


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



Required and/or recommended textbooks: Probably none, although I recommend that students double-check with me or the Bookstore closer to the beginning of term to confirm this.

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