Environmental history book frames questions for P.E.I. future
Editor hopes book provides understanding of landscape we live in, and how it got that way
An editor of a book exploring the environmental history of P.E.I. hopes it'll be an important resource for the people who will help direct the Island's future.
Time and a Place, from Island Studies Press, focuses on fisheries, agriculture and forestry — and how human beings have shaped and been shaped by the landscape.
"We're hoping that we will help provide political leaders, policymakers and Islanders with an interest in their home, to understand a little bit more about the landscape they live in and why it got to be the way it is," said UPEI history professor Ed MacDonald, who edited the book along with Joshua MacFadyen and Irene Novaczek.
"Then we can start to frame our questions about what to do in the future."
Several different authors — from biologists, to geographers to a historian — contributed to the book.
"One of our hopes for a study like this, with a mosaic of essays is that we will provide understanding," MacDonald said. "That's the role of history, to provide understanding of where we are right now."
He said people may not realize, for example, that P.E.I. was once home to black bears and walrus.
"All of these things we see in the landscape, we think of as having a timeless sort of quality, but in many instances there are things we don't see anymore and things that have come along since we arrived on Prince Edward Island," he said.
"It's hard to predict the future with history, but it does frame the questions that we need to ask."
That's the role of history, to provide understanding of where we are right now.- Ed MacDonald
He pointed to the lobster fishery and coastal erosion as examples.
"After a century of [lobster] catches being more or less the same, they nearly triple over the next 10 or 20 years. Why? Is that a sustainable increase? What's going to happen with that fishery?
"How will coastal erosion and insecticide use affect agriculture, affect the fisheries? All of these questions are connected."
A book launch was held Wednesday night at Upstreet Brewery, and more will be held throughout the summer, MacDonald said.
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With files from Mainstreet