Figure 1: Image: Weather factory? ADM Mill in Minneapolis, c1920. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society, MH5.9 MP3.1A

Weather Markets: A Business Case for Environmental History

Originally posted on The Otter ~ La loutre, May 17, 2017 When Monsanto spent $1 billion in 2013 to purchase Climate Corporation, its climate data, and its algorithms for using machine learning to predict weather, everyone from farmers and insurance companies to technologists and The New Yorker concluded that agri-business believed the climate science consensus: climate…

Historical presentation for the SSF Webinar on Integrated Land Use, June 2016

Webinar: The Security and Sustainability Forum

In June I had the pleasure of presenting a talk on “Historical Transitions in Agriculture” in a webinar at The Security and Sustainability Forum (SSF). The webinar was titled Integrated Land Use: What do individuals and societies need from landscapes, and it was organized by Dr Arianne Cease from the School of Sustainability at ASU. It featured…

PEI Land Use Chart, and Children Picking Potatoes, Albany c1930

Look to the Land: The People Behind the Data

Edge Effects, the excellent new blog produced by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment, recently published a short article I wrote on digital humanities and environmental history. My post, Look to the Land: Visualizing Changes in Agriculture, discusses the importance of data visualizations in the humanities, and the importance of understanding long-run trends in our agricultural…

Spring planting: Prince Edward Island Potatoes

As a Man Sows: Spring Planting, Prices, and the Birth of Monoculture on PEI

It is now common to read statementslike “Modern industrial agriculture is a disastrous failure, as it defies practically every natural law related to food cultivation, ecological and environmental protection and stewardship, and human nutrition.” But if this is true when did it begin, and why did new settlers decide to farm in this way? On this the last…

Francis Bain sketch of PEI shells, Nov 3, 1878.
Source: PARO, Image No. 4.2353.92

Prince Edward Island Beaches and Bain’s “Old Friends” Released from Winter’s Ice, 1866

On this day in nineteenth century Prince Edward Island, the farm landscape is only just beginning to emerge from beneath the ice and snow. The shores of York Point, at the confluence of the North and West (Eliot) Rivers at visible for the first time this spring, and the ice sheets break away from the…