Environmental History

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Flooding at the Upper Landing in St. Paul, Minnesota, March 2019. Image courtesy of Joanne Richardson.

The Perils and Promise of Using Short-Term Media to Teach Long-Term Climate Patterns

A concern for climate change has burst onto the national media, scientific literatures, and other discourses over the past year. As someone who teaches in design- and natural resource-oriented fields, I feel an obligation to equip my students with critical awarenesses of the patterns, as well as a sense of what they can do, professionally and personally, to face this crisis.

Fishing on the Nile. Photographer Islam Hassan.

Paradoxes of Water: A Reading List

Questions about water are often implicitly about systems of power. The benefits and impacts of how water is used, distributed, and accessed are unevenly distributed. Water thus becomes a site where the inequalities in society are made visible and contestation arises. The readings listed here offer a sample of some of the ways water is implicated in systems of inequality and work toward social justice.

St. Anthony Falls Laboratory on the Minneapolis riverfront in 1942. The landmarks of Minneapolis are evident, as well as SAFL’s intimate relationship with the river. Courtesy of University of Minnesota Archives.

Lab on the River – Snapshots of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

The St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), which falls under the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota (UMN), is one of several historic buildings along the Minneapolis riverfront. Constructed in 1938 using funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), SAFL utilizes the 50-foot elevation drop over the St. Anthony Falls to bring water into the building for use in experiments and research of fluid dynamics…

Landscape view at Whitewater Park. Notice the fields on the hillside. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Fields: The Transformation and Healing of the Whitewater Valley

They say hindsight is 20/20. Farmers of the past didn’t have information about environmentally friendly agricultural techniques. The farming techniques used today to reduce erosion and other negative environmental effects were developed as we learned from agriculturally derived disasters. Situated in the Whitewater River Valley less than 10 miles from the confluence with the Mississippi River, Beaver, Minnesota was one such town that suffered…