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Melville-Nelles-Hoffmann Lecture in Environmental History

The Melville-Nelles-Hoffmann Environmental History Lecture is an annual speaking event hosted by the Department of History at York University. It is generously supported by two of the History Department’s founding environmental history professors, H.V. Nelles and Richard Hoffmann and it honours the memory of the late Elinor Melville, our colleague and leading researcher in the field of Mexican environmental history.

2023 Lecture

Coping With Climate Change: Can the Past Teach Us How to Survive the Future?

The Famine Stela, with some carved sections missing.

The Famine Stela, Sehel Island, Egypt

Dagomar Degroot, Associate Professor of Environmental History, Department of History, Georgetown University

Date: October 26, 2023

The "warming stripes" designed by Hawkins

Hawkin’s “warming stripes,” a representation of past, present, and future climate change

Dagomar Degroot

Dagomar Degroot is an associate professor of environmental history at Georgetown University. His first book, The Frigid Golden Age, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018 and named by the Financial Times as one of the ten best history books of that year.

His forthcoming book, Ripples on the Cosmic Ocean, is under contract with Harvard University Press and Viking, and he is editing three books on past climate change - including the Oxford Handbook of Resilience in Climate History. Degroot publishes equally in historical and scientific journals, including Nature and the American Historical Review, and writes for a popular audience in, for example, the Washington PostAeon Magazine, and The Conversation.

He maintains popular online resources on the history of climate change, and has shared the unique perspectives of the past with policymakers, corporate leaders, and journalists in many cities, from Wuhan to Washington, DC.

Dagomar Degroot profile photo

Past Events

Reindeer at the End of the World: Apocalypse, Climate, and Soviet Dreams

January 13, 2022

Bathsheba Demuth is an Assistant Professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University, where she specializes in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic. Her multiple-prize winning first book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait (W.W. Norton) was named a Nature Top Ten Book of 2019 and Best Book of 2019 by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal among others. Demuth holds a BA and MA from Brown University, and an MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her writing has appeared in publications from The American Historical Review to The New Yorker and the Best American Science and Nature Writing.

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Dammed: The Politics of Loss and Survival in Anishinaabe Territory

March 5, 2021

Brittany Luby is an award-winning, interdisciplinary historian who seeks to stimulate public discussion of Indigenous issues through her critical and creative work. The Canadian Historical Association has described Luby’s research as “innovative in its structure and responsive to Indigenous research methodologies.” Her current research is focused on Anishinaabe ecologies and crop restoration in the upper Winnipeg River drainage basin and is being conducted in partnership with Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation and Dr. Andrea Bradford in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph.

Chief Lorraine Cobiness has over a decade of experience as Chief of Niisaachewan First Nation. From her position, Cobiness sets research priorities, reviews progress reports, and establishes objectives for research dissemination and use on collaborative projects. She has experience partnering with industry and government to manage the Kenora Forest. She is keen to apply these relationship-building and negotiating skills to water management in the upper Winnipeg River drainage basin.

March 18, 2019

Author of City of Black Gold: Oil, Ethnicity, and the Making of Modern Kirkuk and University of Washington History Professor Arbella Bet-Shlimon visited York University for the 2019 Melville-Nelles-Hoffmann Lecture to explore the themes of her new book and discuss the manner in which urbanization and colonialism have shaped the identities of Kirkuk’s citizens, forming the foundation of an ethnic conflict.

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Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters

October 29, 2018

Professor Brown’s lecture explored the development of two plutonium production facilities and their nearby employee townsites, one in the U.S. and one in the U.S.S.R. She revealed the surprising similarities between these model towns that were intended to provide different versions of the good life, capitalist and communist. The lecture was an extraordinary exploration of nuclear power, human health, labour relations, Cold War tensions, and environmental contamination.

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From Blue to Black Marble: Visualizing Light Pollution in the Anthropocene

March 20, 2017

Professor Pritchard’s lecture explored the growing concerns of scientists in the early 1970s about light pollution and the astronomical, ecological and human health effects. These kinds of concerns have increased dramatically over the past decade. In her remarks, Pritchard examined how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) visualize artificial light at night as an emergent environmental problem.

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Clearing the Plains and Clearing the Air: Environmental History and National Memory in 2015

November 18, 2015

Professor Daschuk is the author of the bestselling book Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, which received the John A. Macdonald Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Canadian history. His 2015 lecture explored how Canadians could integrate Indigenous history into commemorative events for the 150th anniversary of our Confederation.

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Mountains, Caravans, Rivers, and Salons: China’s Multiple Tea Trades

March 19, 2014

In 2014, Peter Perdue (Yale University) delivered the Melville-Nelles-Hoffmann Lecture in Environmental History at York University. His lecture focused on the history of the Chinese tea trade. Professor Perdue is a leading scholar of modern Chinese and Japanese social, economic, and environmental history. He is the winner of the 2007 Joseph Levenson Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies for his book,China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia.

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Sheep in Twentieth-Century Tierra de Fuego: A Four-Hundred-Year-Old-Plague or Something New Under the Sun?

March 13, 2013

With direct allusions to the groundbreaking environmental history research of Elinor Melville and John McNeill, Soluri's 2013 lecture explored the ecological consequences of sheep ranches in southern Chile and Argentina in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.

Africa's Malarial Landscapes: History, Complexity and Silver Bullets

March 7, 2012

In his 2012 lecture, Professor McCann describes a multidisciplinary research project on the ecological relationship between malaria and maize.

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Land, Water, People, Fish: Life Along the Mississippi River

March 2, 2011

In his talk, Professor Morris offered a tour of five centuries of the environmental history of the Mississippi River and the interaction between its people and landscape. From the early hunter-gatherers to present-day industrial and post-industrial society, Morris illuminated humanity’s role in changing the face of the "Big Muddy", America’s great river.

Our Bodies, Our Histories of Technology and the Environment

April 22, 2010