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Sharla Chittick

Sharla holds a B.A. in European Studies from San Diego State University, M.A. in World History from Western Washington University, and Ph.D. in Environmental History from the University of Stirling. She has been teaching World, U.S., and Native American history for nearly two decades and now specializes in environmental history and climate change. Her previous publication, “Transcending Climate Change? Religion, Spirituality and Redefining the Human-Nature Relationship” appears in Mark Levene (ed.), Past Actions, Present Woes, Future Potential: Rethinking History in the Light of Anthropogenic Climate Change (UK Higher Education Academy, 2010), which is a climate change syllabus for higher education in the United Kingdom. Her monograph, Pride and Practices, Prejudice and Perceptions: A Comparative Case Study in North Atlantic Environmental History is included in a new series by Brepols Publishing, Environmental Histories of the North Atlantic World.

This comparative investigation into the environmental practices and cultural perceptions of the Hebridean and Wabanaki peoples on either side of the North Atlantic, exposes and explains their different responses to climatic change and colonialism between deglaciation and the eighteenth century. The Hebrideans of the Scottish Insular Gàidhealtachd and the Wabanaki of Ketakamigwa experienced tremendous challenges between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Climate change and extreme weather in the North Atlantic during the ‘Little Ice Age’ affected marine exploitation, shortened growing seasons, and complicated existing relationships with the natural world. Simultaneously, European fishermen, merchants, and imperial explorers sought out and laid claim to new markets and territorial holdings in both regions. This combination of environmental and imperial pressure transformed existing indigenous relationships, damaged natural environments, threatened cultural cohesion, spiked regional economic instability, and challenged native political sovereignty. By the eighteenth century, neither people had emerged unscathed. This long durée study treats the European colonial period in the history of the Hebrideans and Wabanaki as only one end of an interdisciplinary pendulum that swings back to deglaciation. It demonstrates how relationships between climate change, economic pressure, and human behaviour evolved on both sides of the North Atlantic. Exploring traditions in resource management, settlement behaviour, and material culture, Pride and Prejudice explains how attitudes, values, and behaviours often determined the degree of vulnerability to destructive external forces. By weaving together new research with an existing patchwork of North Atlantic historical narratives, this comparative environmental case study offers insights into a subject of profound contemporary relevance: the relationship between climate change and global economic integration. By comparing and contrasting exhilarating historical scenarios of resource management, Pride and Prejudice poses important questions about how and why communities succeed or fail in sustaining themselves, their environments, and their cultures when under duress.

Sharla is also a contributor to Understanding and Teaching the Age of Revolutions, which is part of the Harvey Goldberg Series for Understanding and Teaching History (University of Wisconsin Press, 2015). Her chapter, ‘Climate Change and the Revolutionary Environment’ offers another approach to revolutions: exploring the environmental pressure that compounded duress and contributed greatly to the urgency and desperation that fuelled revolutionary action. Extending the possibilities for an environmental history of the period, without reducing the causal complexity at the heart of revolution, this chapter will explore the impact of environmental burdens and climate change present at the onset of revolutions, and consider how a multi-disciplinary curriculum can highlight the natural world’s influence over human behaviour during such momentous historical events.

Sharla is currently a World History Course Mentor and Lecturer at Western Governors University and Central Oregon Community College.

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