Whales and walruses, caribou and fox, gold and oil: through the stories of these animals and resources, Bathsheba Demuth reveals how people have turned ecological wealth in a remote region into economic growth and state power for more than 150 years.
The first-ever comprehensive history of Beringia, the Arctic land and waters stretching from Russia to Canada, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait (W. W. Norton, 2019) breaks away from familiar narratives to provide a fresh and fascinating perspective on an overlooked landscape. The unforgiving territory along the Bering Strait had long been home to humans―the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia―before Americans and Europeans arrived with revolutionary ideas for progress. Rapidly, these frigid lands and waters became the site of an ongoing experiment: How, under conditions of extreme scarcity, would the great modern ideologies of capitalism and communism control and manage the resources they craved?
Drawing on her own experience living with and interviewing indigenous people in the region, as well as from archival sources, Demuth shows how the social, the political, and the environmental clashed in this liminal space. Through the lens of the natural world, she views human life and economics as fundamentally about cycles of energy, bringing a fresh and visionary spin to the writing of human history.
Bathsheba Demuth is an Assistant Professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University. As an environmental historian, she specializes in the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic. She has lived in Arctic communities from Eurasia to Canada. Demuth has a B.A. and M.A. from Brown University, and an M.A. and PhD in History from the University of California, Berkeley.
Steven Seegel (NBN interviewer) is Professor of History at the University of Northern Colorado.
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