The environmental history of Israel is as intriguing and complex as the nation itself. Situated on a mere 8,630 square miles, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf, varying from desert to forest, Israel’s natural environment presents innumerable challenges to its growing population. The country’s conflicted past and present, diverse religions, and multitude of cultural influences powerfully affect the way Israelis imagine, question, and shape their environment. Zionism, from the late nineteenth onward, has tempered nearly every aspect of human existence. Scarcities of usable land and water coupled with border conflicts and regional hostilities have steeled Israeli’s survival instincts. As this volume demonstrates, these powerful dialectics continue to undergird environmental policy and practice in Israel today.
Between Ruin and Restoration assembles leading experts in policy, history, and activism to address Israel’s continuing environmental transformation from the biblical era to the present and beyond, with a particular focus on the past one hundred and fifty years. The chapters also reflect passionate public debates over meeting the needs of Israel’s population and preserving its natural resources.
The chapters detail the occupations of the Ottoman Empire and British colonialists in eighteenth and nineteenth century Palestine, as well as Fellaheen and pastoralist Bedouin tribes, and how they shaped much of the terrain that greeted early Zionist settlers. Following the rise of the Zionist movement, the rapid influx of immigrants and ensuing population growth put new demands on water supplies, pollution controls, sanitation, animal populations, rangelands and biodiversity, forestry, marine policy, and desertification. Additional chapters view environmental politics nationally and internationally, the environmental impact of Israel’s military, and considerations for present and future sustainability.
To many, Cape Cod represents the classic setting for an American summer vacation. Attracting seasonal tourists with picturesque beaches and abundant seafood, the Cape has held a place in our national imagination for almost two hundred years. People have been drawn to its beauty and resources since Native Americans wandered up its long sandy peninsula some 12,000 years ago, while writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Norman Mailer have celebrated its mystery and allure. But, despite its idealized image, Cape Cod has a long history of scarcity and an increasingly evident fragility.
John T. Cumbler's book offers an environmental, social, and economic history of Cape Cod told through the experiences of residents as well as visitors. He notes that over the past four hundred years the Cape has experienced three regimes of resource utilization. The first regime of Native Americans who lived relatively lightly on the land was supplanted by European settlers who focused on production and extraction. This second regime began in the age of sail but declined through the age of steam as the soil and seas failed to yield the resources necessary to sustain continuing growth. Environmental and then economic crises during the second half of the nineteenth century eventually gave way to the third regime of tourism and recreation. But this regime has its own environmental costs, as residents have learned over the last half century.
Although the Cape remains a special place, its history of resource scarcity and its attempts to deal with that scarcity offer useful lessons for anyone addressing similar issues around the globe.
Humanity is by many measures the biggest success story in the animal kingdom; but what are the costs of this triumph? Over its three million years of existence, the human species has continuously modified nature and drained its resources. In Cataclysms, Laurent Testot provides the full tally, offering a comprehensive environmental history of humanity’s unmatched and perhaps irreversible influence on the world.
Testot explores the interconnected histories of human evolution and planetary deterioration, arguing that our development from naked apes to Homo sapiens has entailed wide-scale environmental harm. Testot makes the case that humans have usually been catastrophic for the planet, “hyperpredators” responsible for mass extinctions, deforestation, global warming, ocean acidification, and unchecked pollution, as well as the slaughter of our own species. Organized chronologically around seven technological revolutions, Cataclysms unspools the intertwined saga of humanity and our environment, from our shy beginnings in Africa to today’s domination of the planet, revealing how we have blown past any limits along the way—whether by exploding our own population numbers, domesticating countless other species, or harnessing energy from fossils. Testot’s book, while sweeping, is light and approachable, telling the stories—sometimes rambunctious, sometimes appalling—of how a glorified monkey transformed its own environment beyond all recognition.
In order to begin reversing our environmental disaster, we must have a better understanding of our own past and the incalculable environmental costs incurred at every stage of human innovation. Cataclysms offers that understanding and the hope that we can now begin to reform our relationship to the Earth.
"To fully understand this river and its past, one must examine many separate pieces of history scattered throughout two nations--seven states within the United States and two within Mexico--and sort through a large amount of scientific data. One needs to be part hydrologist, geologist, economist, sociologist, anthropologist, and historian to fully understand the entire story. Despite this river's narrow size and meager flow, its tale is very large indeed."
-From the conclusion
The Colorado River is a vital resource to urban and agricultural communities across the Southwest, providing water to 30 million people. Contested Waters tells the river's story-a story of conquest, control, division, and depletion.
Beginning in prehistory and continuing into the present day, Contested Waters focuses on three important and often overlooked aspects of the river's use: the role of western water law in its over-allocation, the complexity of power relationships surrounding the river, and the concept of sustainable use and how it has been either ignored or applied in recent times. It is organized in two parts, the first addresses the chronological history of the river and long-term issues, while the second examines in more detail four specific topics: metropolitan perceptions, American Indian water rights, US-Mexico relations over the river, and water marketing issues. Creating a complete picture of the evolution of this crucial yet over-utilized resource, this comprehensive summary will fascinate anyone interested in the Colorado River or the environmental history of the Southwest.
John Muir called it the "Range of Light, the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I’ve ever seen." The Sierra Nevada—a single unbroken mountain range stretching north to south over four hundred miles, best understood as a single ecosystem but embracing a number of environmental communities—has been the site of human activity for millennia. From the efforts of ancient Native Americans to encourage game animals by burning brush to create meadows to the burgeoning resort and residential development of the present, the Sierra has endured, and often suffered from, the efforts of humans to exploit its bountiful resources for their own benefit. Historian David Beesley examines the history of the Sierra Nevada from earliest times, beginning with a comprehensive discussion of the geologic development of the range and its various ecological communities. Using a wide range of sources, including the records of explorers and early settlers, scientific and government documents, and newspaper reports, Beesley offers a lively and informed account of the history, environmental challenges, and political controversies that lie behind the breathtaking scenery of the Sierra. Among the highlights are discussions of the impact of the Gold Rush and later mining efforts, as well as the supporting industries that mining spawned, including logging, grazing, water-resource development, market hunting, urbanization, and transportation; the politics and emotions surrounding the establishment of Yosemite and other state and national parks; the transformation of the Hetch Hetchy into a reservoir and the desertification of the once-lush Owens Valley; the roles of the Forest Service, Park Service, and other regulatory agencies; the consequences of the fateful commitment to wildfire suppression in Sierran forests; and the ever-growing impact of tourism and recreational use. Through Beesley’s wide-ranging discussion, John Muir’s "divinely beautiful" range is revealed in all its natural and economic complexity, a place that at the beginning of the twenty-first century is in grave danger of being loved to death. Available in hardcover and paperback.
The Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona is a peer-reviewed monograph series sponsored by the School of Anthropology. Established in 1959, the series publishes archaeological and ethnographic papers that use contemporary method and theory to investigate problems of anthropological importance in the southwestern United States, Mexico, and related areas.
Phoenix is known as the “Valley of the Sun,” while Tucson is referred to as “The Old Pueblo.” These nicknames epitomize the difference in the public’s perception of each city. Phoenix continues to sprawl as one of America’s largest and fastest-growing cities. Tucson has witnessed a slower rate of growth, and has only one quarter of Phoenix’s population. This was not always the case. Prior to 1920, Tucson had a larger population. How did two cities, with such close physical proximity and similar natural environments develop so differently?
Desert Cities examines the environmental circumstances that led to the starkly divergent growth of these two cities. Michael Logan traces this significant imbalance to two main factors: water resources and cultural differences. Both cities began as agricultural communities. Phoenix had the advantage of a larger water supply, the Salt River, which has four and one half times the volume of Tucson’s Santa Cruz River. Because Phoenix had a larger river, it received federal assistance in the early twentieth century for the Salt River project, which provided water storage facilities. Tucson received no federal aid. Moreover, a significant cultural difference existed. Tucson, though it became a U.S. possession in 1853, always had a sizable Hispanic population. Phoenix was settled in the 1870s by Anglo pioneers who brought their visions of landscape development and commerce with them.
By examining the factors of watershed, culture, ethnicity, terrain, political favoritism, economic development, and history, Desert Cities offers a comprehensive evaluation that illuminates the causes of growth disparity in two major southwestern cities and provides a model for the study of bi-city resource competition.
Every city has an environmental story, perhaps none so dramatic as Pittsburgh's. Founded in a river valley blessed with enormous resources-three strong waterways, abundant forests, rich seams of coal-the city experienced a century of exploitation and industrialization that degraded and obscured the natural environment to a horrific degree. Pittsburgh came to be known as “the Smoky City,” or, as James Parton famously declared in 1866, “hell with the lid taken off.”
Then came the storied Renaissance in the years following World War II, when the city's public and private elites, abetted by technological advances, came together to improve the air and renew the built environment. Equally dramatic was the sweeping deindustrialization of Pittsburgh in the 1980s, when the collapse of the steel industry brought down the smokestacks, leaving vast tracks of brownfields and riverfront. Today Pittsburgh faces unprecedented opportunities to reverse the environmental degradation of its history.
In Devastation and Renewal, scholars of the urban environment post questions that both complicate and enrich this story. Working from deep archival research, they ask not only what happened to Pittsburgh's environment, but why. What forces-economic, political, and cultural-were at work? In exploring the disturbing history of pollution in Pittsburgh, they consider not only the sooty skies, but also the poisoned rivers and creeks, the mined hills, and scarred land. Who profited and who paid for such “progress”? How did the environment Pittsburghers live in come to be, and how it can be managed for the future?
In a provocative concluding essay, Samuel P. Hays explores Pittsburgh's “environmental culture,” the attitudes and institutions that interpret a city's story and work to create change. Comparing Pittsburgh to other cities and regions, he exposes exaggerations of Pittsburgh's environmental achievement and challenges the community to make real progress for the future.
A landmark contribution to the emerging field of urban environmental history, Devastation and Renewal will be important to all students of cities, of cultures, and of the natural world.
In the seventeenth century, the Dutch herring fisheries in the North Sea were considered the most sophisticated and demanding fishing operation in the world. This is the first study to assess the North Sea herring and herring fisheries over the span of several centuries. It contributes to the understanding of pre-modern natural resource exploitation and the role of the natural environment in long-term development of the Dutch herring fisheries.
Because of their enormous size, elephants have long been irresistible for kings as symbols of their eminence. In early civilizations—such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Civilization, and China—kings used elephants for royal sacrifice, spectacular hunts, public display of live captives, or the conspicuous consumption of ivory—all of them tending toward the elephant’s extinction. The kings of India, however, as Thomas R. Trautmann shows in this study, found a use for elephants that actually helped preserve their habitat and numbers in the wild: war.
Trautmann traces the history of the war elephant in India and the spread of the institution to the west—where elephants took part in some of the greatest wars of antiquity—and Southeast Asia (but not China, significantly), a history that spans 3,000 years and a considerable part of the globe, from Spain to Java. He shows that because elephants eat such massive quantities of food, it was uneconomic to raise them from birth. Rather, in a unique form of domestication, Indian kings captured wild adults and trained them, one by one, through millennia. Kings were thus compelled to protect wild elephants from hunters and elephant forests from being cut down. By taking a wide-angle view of human-elephant relations, Trautmann throws into relief the structure of India’s environmental history and the reasons for the persistence of wild elephants in its forests.
Houston's meteoric rise from a bayou trading post to the world's leading oil supplier owes much to its geography, geology, and climate: the large natural port of Galveston Bay, the lush subtropical vegetation, the abundance of natural resources. But the attributes that have made it attractive for industry, energy, and urban development have also made it particularly susceptible to a variety of environmental problems. Energy Metropolis presents a comprehensive history of the development of Houston, examining the factors that have facilitated unprecedented growth-and the environmental cost of that development.
The landmark Spindletop strike of 1901 made inexpensive high-grade Texas oil the fuel of choice for ships, industry, and the infant automobile industry. Literally overnight, oil wells sprang up around Houston. In 1914, the opening of the Houston Ship Channel connected the city to the Gulf of Mexico and international trade markets. Oil refineries sprouted up and down the channel, and the petroleum products industry exploded. By the 1920s, Houston also became a leading producer of natural gas, and the economic opportunities and ancillary industries created by the new energy trade led to a population boom. By the end of the twentieth century, Houston had become the fourth largest city in America.
Houston's expansion came at a price, however. Air, water, and land pollution reached hazardous levels as legislators turned a blind eye. Frequent flooding of altered waterways, deforestation, hurricanes, the energy demands of an air-conditioned lifestyle, increased automobile traffic, exponential population growth, and an ever-expanding metropolitan area all escalated the need for massive infrastructure improvements.
The experts in Energy Metropolis examine the steps Houston has taken to overcome laissez-faire politics, indiscriminate expansion, and infrastructural overload. What emerges is a profound analysis of the environmental consequences of large-scale energy production and unchecked growth.
Explorations in Environmental History represents four decades of writing from one of the most distinguished scholars in the field of environmental history. Samuel Hays’s dedication and research is apparent in every one of these essays, four of which are published here for the first time.
A frank and engaging exploration of the burgeoning academic field of environmental history
Inspired by the pioneering work of preeminent environmental historian Donald Worster, the contributors to A Field on Fire: The Future of Environmental History reflect on the past and future of this discipline. Featuring wide-ranging essays by leading environmental historians from the United States, Europe, and China, the collection challenges scholars to rethink some of their orthodoxies, inviting them to approach familiar stories from new angles, to integrate new methodologies, and to think creatively about the questions this field is well positioned to answer.
Worster’s groundbreaking research serves as the organizational framework for the collection. Editors Mark D. Hersey and Ted Steinberg have arranged the book into three sections corresponding to the primary concerns of Worster’s influential scholarship: the problem of natural limits, the transnational nature of environmental issues, and the question of method. Under the heading “Facing Limits,” five essays explore the inherent tensions between democracy, technology, capitalism, and the environment. The “Crossing Borders” section underscores the ways in which environmental history moves easily across national and disciplinary boundaries. Finally, “Doing Environmental History” invokes Worster’s work as an essayist by offering self-conscious reflections about the practice and purpose of environmental history.
The essays aim to provoke a discussion on the future of the field, pointing to untapped and underdeveloped avenues ripe for further exploration. A forward thinker like Worster presents bold challenges to a new generation of environmental historians on everything from capitalism and the Anthropocene to war and wilderness. This engaging volume includes a very special afterword by one of Worster’s oldest friends, the eminent intellectual historian Daniel Rodgers, who has known Worster for close to fifty years.
Fishing the Great Lakes is a sweeping history of the destruction of the once-abundant fisheries of the great "inland seas" that lie between the United States and Canada. Though lake trout, whitefish, freshwater herring, and sturgeon were still teeming as late as 1850, Margaret Bogue documents here how overfishing, pollution, political squabbling, poor public policies, and commercial exploitation combined to damage the fish populations even before the voracious sea lamprey invaded the lakes and decimated the lake trout population in the 1940s.
From the earliest records of fishing by native peoples, through the era of European exploration and settlement, to the growth and collapse of the commercial fishing industry, Fishing the Great Lakes traces the changing relationships between the fish resources and the people of the Great Lakes region. Bogue focuses in particular on the period from 1783, when Great Britain and the United States first politically severed the geographic unity of the Great Lakes, through 1933, when the commercial fishing industry had passed from its heyday in the late nineteenth century into very serious decline. She shows how fishermen, entrepreneurial fish dealers, the monopolistic A. Booth and Company (which distributed and marketed much of the Great Lakes catch), and policy makers at all levels of government played their parts in the debacle. So, too, did underfunded scientists and early conservationists unable to spark the interest of an indifferent public. Concern with the quality of lake habitat and the abundance of fish increasingly took a backseat to the interests of agriculture, lumbering, mining, commerce, manufacturing, and urban development in the Great Lakes region. Offering more than a regional history, Bogue also places the problems of Great Lakes fishing in the context of past and current worldwide fishery concerns.
Germany boasts one of the strongest environmental records in the world. The Rhine River is cleaner than it has been in decades, recycling is considered a civic duty, and German manufacturers of pollution-control technology export their products around the globe. Yet, little has been written about the country's remarkable environmental history, and even less of that research is available in English.
Now for the first time, a survey of the country's natural and cultural landscapes is available in one volume. Essays by leading scholars of history, geography, and the social sciences move beyond the Green movement to uncover the enduring yet ever-changing cultural patterns, social institutions, and geographic factors that have sustained Germany's relationship to its land.
Unlike the American environmental movement, which is still dominated by debates about wilderness conservation and the retention of untouched spaces, discussions of the German landscape have long recognized human impact as part of the "natural order." Drawing on a variety of sites as examples, including forests, waterways, the Autobahn, and natural history museums, the essays demonstrate how environmental debates in Germany have generally centered on the best ways to harmonize human priorities and organic order, rather than on attempts to reify wilderness as a place to escape from industrial society.
Germany's Nature is essential reading for students and professionals working in the fields of environmental studies, European history, and the history of science and technology.
The pace of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and population growth has thrust the planet into a new age—the Anthropocene. Humans have altered the planet’s biogeochemical systems without consciously managing them. The Great Acceleration explains the causes, consequences, and uncertainties of this massive uncontrolled experiment.
The Guadalupe Mountains stand nearly 9,000 feet tall, spanning the far western fringe of Texas, the border of New Mexico, and the meeting point of the Southern Plains and Chihuahuan Desert. Long an iconic landmark of the Trans-Pecos region, the Guadalupe Mountains have played a critical role for the people in this beautiful corner of the Southwest borderlands. In the late 1960s, the area was finally designated a national park.
Drawing upon published sources, oral histories, and previously unused archival documents, Jeffrey P. Shepherd situates the Guadalupe Mountains and the national park in the context of epic tales of Spanish exploration, westward expansion, Native survival, immigrant settlement, the conservation movement, early tourism, and regional economic development. As Americans cope with climate change, polarized political rhetoric, and suburban sprawl, public spaces such as Guadalupe Mountains National Park remind us about our ties to nature and our historical relationships with the environment.
For more than a century, the world has recognized the extraordinary biological diversity of the forests of Tanzania’s Usambara Mountains. As international attention has focused on forest conservation, farmers, foresters, biologists, and the Tanzanian state have realized that only complex negotiations will save these treasured, but rapidly disappearing, landscapes.
Highland Sanctuary unravels the complex interactions among agriculture, herding, forestry, the colonial state, and the landscape itself. In his examination of the region’s history of ecological transformation, Christopher Conte demonstrates how these forces have combined to create an ever-changing mosaic of forest and field. His study illuminates the debate over conservation, arguing that contingency and chance, the stuff of human history, have shaped forests in ways that rival the power of nature. In Highland Sanctuary, the forest becomes part of human history, rather than something outside of it.
Highland Sanctuary cuts through a legacy of contention and ill will to inform contemporary conservation initiatives. Professor Conte explains how ecological changes take divergent paths in similar environments, in this case on mountains that harbor unique flora and fauna, and how these mountain environments achieve international importance as centers of biodiversity.
Newcomers to Tucson know the Santa Cruz River as a dry bed that can become a rampaging flood after heavy rains. Yet until the late nineteenth century, the Santa Cruz was an active watercourse that served the region’s agricultural needs—until a burgeoning industrial society began to tap the river’s underground flow. The Lessening Stream reviews the changing human use of the Santa Cruz River and its aquifer from the earliest human presence in the valley to today. Michael Logan examines the social, cultural, and political history of the Santa Cruz Valley while interpreting the implications of various cultures' impacts on the river and speculating about the future of water in the region. Logan traces river history through three eras—archaic, modern, and postmodern—to capture the human history of the river from early Native American farmers through Spanish missionaries to Anglo settlers. He shows how humans first diverted its surface flow, then learned to pump its aquifer, and today fail to fully understand the river's place in the urban environment. By telling the story of the meandering river—from its origin in southern Arizona through Mexico and the Tucson Basin to its terminus in farmland near Phoenix—Logan links developments throughout the river valley so that a more complete picture of the river's history emerges. He also contemplates the future of the Santa Cruz by confronting the serious problems posed by groundwater pumping in Tucson and addressing the effects of the Central Arizona Project on the river valley. Skillfully interweaving history with hydrology, geology, archaeology, and anthropology, The Lessening Stream makes an important contribution to the environmental history of southern Arizona. It reminds us that, because water will always be the focus for human activity in the desert, we desperately need a more complete understanding of its place in our lives.
The Coeur d’Alenes, a twenty-five by ten mile portion of the Idaho Panhandle, is home to one of the most productive mining districts in world history. Historically the globe’s richest silver district and also one of the nation’s biggest lead and zinc producers, the Coeur d’Alenes’ legacy also includes environmental pollution on an epic scale. For decades local waters were fouled with tailings from the mining district’s more than one hundred mines and mills and the air surrounding Kellogg, Idaho was laced with lead and other toxic heavy metals issuing from the Bunker Hill Company’s smelter. The same industrial processes that damaged the environment and harmed human health, however, also provided economic sustenance to thousands of local residents and a string of proud, working-class communities. Living with Lead endeavors to untangle the costs and benefits of a century of mining, milling, and smelting in a small western city and the region that surrounds it.
Demographically, nineteenth-century London, or what Victorians called the “new Rome,” first equaled, then superseded its ancient ancestor. By the mid-eighteenth century, the British capital had already developed into a global city. Sustained by its enormous empire, between 1800 and the First World War London ballooned in population and land area. Nothing so vast had previously existed anywhere. A Mighty Capital under Threat investigates the environmental history of one of the world’s global cities and the largest city in the United Kingdom. Contributors cover the feeding of London, waste management, movement between the city’s numerous districts, and the making and shaping of the environmental sciences in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Over the past 300 years, settlement patterns, geography, and climate have greatly affected the ecology of the south Texas landscape. Drawing on a variety of interests and perspectives, the contributors to <I>On the Border</I> probe these evolving relationships in and around San Antonio, the country’s ninth-largest city.
Spanish, Mexican, and American settlers required open expanses of land for agriculture and ranching, displacing indigenous inhabitants. The high poverty traditionally felt by many residents, combined with San Antonio’s environment, has contributed to the development of the city’s unusually complex public health dilemmas. The national drive to preserve historic landmarks and landscapes has been complicated by the blight of homogenous urban sprawl. But no issue has been more contentious than that of water, particularly in a city entirely dependent on a single aquifer in a region of little rain. Managing these environmental concerns is the chief problem facing the city in the new century.
Through the pages of Environmental History Review, now Environmental History, an entire discipline has been created and defined over time through the publication of the finest scholarship by humanists, social and natural scientists, and other professionals concerned with the complex relationship between people and our global environment. Out of the Woods gathers together the best of this scholarship.
Covering a broad array of topics and reflecting the continuing diversity within the field of environmental history, Out of the Woods begins with three theoretical pieces by William Cronon, Carolyn Merchant, and Donald Worster probing the assumptions that underlie the words and ideas historians use to analyze human interaction with the physical world. One of these - the concept of place - is the subject of a second group of essays. The political context is picked up in the third section, followed by a selection of some of the journal’s most recent contributions discussing the intersection between urban and environmental history. Water’s role in defining the contours of the human and natural landscape is undeniable and forms the focus of the fifth section. Finally, the global character of environmental issues emerges in three compelling articles by Alfred Crosby, Thomas Dunlap, and Stephen Pyne.
Of interest to a wide range of scholars in environmental history, law, and politics, Out of the Woods is intended as a reader for course use and a benchmark for the field of environmental history as it continues to develop into the next century.
Since its settlement in 1630, Boston, its harbor, and outlying regions have witnessed a monumental transformation at the hands of humans and by nature. Remaking Boston chronicles many of the events that altered the physical landscape of Boston, while also offering multidisciplinary perspectives on the environmental history of one of America's oldest and largest metropolitan areas.
Situated on an isthmus, and blessed with a natural deepwater harbor and ocean access, Boston became an important early trade hub with Europe and the world. As its population and economy grew, developers extended the city's shoreline into the surrounding tidal mudflats to create more useable land. Further expansion of the city was achieved through the annexation of surrounding communities, and the burgeoning population and economy spread to outlying areas. The interconnection of city and suburb opened the floodgates to increased commerce, services and workforces, while also leaving a wake of roads, rails, bridges, buildings, deforestation, and pollution.
Profiling this ever-changing environment, the contributors tackle a variety of topics, including: the glacial formation of the region; physical characteristics and composition of the land and harbor; dredging, sea walling, flattening, and landfill operations in the reshaping of the Shawmut Peninsula; the longstanding controversy over the link between landfills and shoaling in shipping channels; population movements between the city and suburbs and their environmental implications; interdependence of the city and its suburbs; preservation and reclamation of the Charles River; suburban deforestation and later reforestation as byproducts of changing land use; the planned outlay of parks and parkways; and historic climate changes and the human and biological adaptations to them.
In prehistoric times, the Santa Cruz River in what is now southern Arizona saw many ebbs, flows, and floods. It flowed on the surface, meandered across the floodplain, and occasionally carved deep channels or arroyos into valley fill. Groundwater was never far from the surface, in places outcropping to feed marshlands or ciénegas. In these wet places, arroyos would heal quickly as the river channel revegetated, the thriving vegetation trapped sediment, and the channel refilled. As readers of Requiem for the Santa Cruz learn, these aridland geomorphic processes also took place in the valley as Tucson grew from mud-walled village to modern metropolis, with one exception: historical water development and channel changes proceeded hand in glove, each taking turns reacting to the other, eventually lowering the water table and killing a unique habitat that can no longer recover or be restored.
Authored by an esteemed group of scientists, Requiem for the Santa Cruz thoroughly documents this river—the premier example of historic arroyo cutting during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when large floodflows cut down through unconsolidated valley fill to form deep channels in the major valleys of the American Southwest. Each chapter provides a unique opportunity to chronicle the arroyo legacy, evaluate its causes, and consider its aftermath. Using more than a collective century of observations and collections, the authors reconstruct the circumstances of the river’s entrenchment and the groundwater mining that ultimately killed the marshlands, a veritable mesquite forest, and a birdwatcher's paradise.
Today, communities everywhere face this conundrum: do we manage ephemeral rivers through urban areas for flood control, or do we attempt to restore them to some previous state of perennial naturalness? Requiem for the Santa Cruz carefully explores the legacies of channel change, groundwater depletion, flood control, and nascent attempts at river restoration to give a long-term perspective on management of rivers in arid lands. Tied together by authors who have committed their life’s work to the study of aridland rivers, this book offers a touching and scientifically grounded requiem for the Santa Cruz and every southwestern river.
Winner of the George Perkins Marsh Prize for Best Book in Environmental History
Winner of the Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Work in Geography
Winner of the James Blaut Award in recognition of innovative scholarship in Cultural and Political Ecology
Tales of deforestation and desertification in North Africa have been told from the Roman period to the present. Such stories of environmental decline in the Maghreb are still recounted by experts and are widely accepted without question today. International organizations such as the United Nations frequently invoke these inaccurate stories to justify environmental conservation and development projects in the arid and semiarid lands in North Africa and around the Mediterranean basin. Recent research in arid lands ecology and new paleoecological evidence, however, do not support many claims of deforestation, overgrazing, and desertification in this region.
Diana K. Davis’s pioneering analysis reveals the critical influence of French scientists and administrators who established much of the purported scientific basis of these stories during the colonial period in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, illustrating the key role of environmental narratives in imperial expansion. The processes set in place by the use of this narrative not only systematically disadvantaged the majority of North Africans but also led to profound changes in the landscape, some of which produced the land degradation that continues to plague the Maghreb today.
Resurrecting the Granary of Rome exposes many of the political, economic, and ideological goals of the French colonial project in these arid lands and the resulting definition of desertification that continues to inform global environmental and development projects. The first book on the environmental history of the Maghreb, this volume reframes much conventional thinking about the North African environment. Davis’s book is essential reading for those interested in global environmental history.
Often referred to as “the Big Tomato,” Sacramento is a city whose makeup is significantly more complex than its agriculture-based sobriquet implies. In River City and Valley Life, seventeen contributors reveal the major transformations to the natural and built environment that have shaped Sacramento and its suburbs, residents, politics, and economics throughout its history.
The site that would become Sacramento was settled in 1839, when Johann Augustus Sutter attempted to convert his Mexican land grant into New Helvetia (or “New Switzerland”). It was at Sutter’s sawmill fifty miles to the east that gold was first discovered, leading to the California Gold Rush of 1849. Nearly overnight, Sacramento became a boomtown, and cityhood followed in 1850.
Ideally situated at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers, the city was connected by waterway to San Francisco and the surrounding region. Combined with the area’s warm and sunny climate, the rivers provided the necessary water supply for agriculture to flourish. The devastation wrought by floods and cholera, however, took a huge toll on early populations and led to the construction of an extensive levee system that raised the downtown street level to combat flooding. Great fortune came when local entrepreneurs built the Central Pacific Railroad, and in 1869 it connected with the Union Pacific Railroad to form the first transcontinental passage. Sacramento soon became an industrial hub and major food-processing center. By 1879, it was named the state capital and seat of government.
In the twentieth century, the Sacramento area benefitted from the federal government’s major investment in the construction and operation of three military bases and other regional public works projects. Rapid suburbanization followed along with the building of highways, bridges, schools, parks, hydroelectric dams, and the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant, which activists would later shut down. Today, several tribal gaming resorts attract patrons to the area, while “Old Sacramento” revitalizes the original downtown as it celebrates Sacramento’s pioneering past.
This environmental history of Sacramento provides a compelling case study of urban and suburban development in California and the American West. As the contributors show, Sacramento has seen its landscape both ravaged and reborn. As blighted areas, rail yards, and riverfronts have been reclaimed, and parks and green spaces created and expanded, Sacramento’s identity continues to evolve. As it moves beyond its Gold Rush, Transcontinental Railroad, and government-town heritage, Sacramento remains a city and region deeply rooted in its natural environment.
The authors recount twelve millennia of history along the lower San Juan River, much of it the story of mostly unsuccessful human attempts to make a living from the river's arid and fickle environment. From the Anasazi to government dam builders, from Navajo to Mormon herders and farmers, from scientific explorers to busted miners, the San Juan has attracted more attention and fueled more hopes than such a remote, unpromising, and muddy stream would seem to merit.
The history of Lake Tahoe begins with the Washoe Indians who resided on its shores for thousands of years, with minimal impact on the landscape. The relatively brief American history at Lake Tahoe began in the mid-nineteenth century. Though awestruck by its beauty, the new arrivals were also intent on harvesting its abundant resources. In a mere half century, the basin’s forests and fisheries were destroyed, the lake’s pristine clarity dramatically reduced.
Left alone, nature healed itself, and by the 1960s mature forests once again surrounded the lake and its water clarity improved, with visibility more than one hundred feet deep. However, Tahoe’s wonders brought a new kind of threat: millions of annual visitors and incessant development, including ski resorts and casinos. Saving Lake Tahoe looks at the interaction through the years between human activities and Tahoe’s natural ecosystems. It is a dramatic story of ecological disasters and near misses, political successes and failures. Utilizing primary sources and interviews with key figures, Makley provides a meticulously researched account of the battles surrounding the management of the Tahoe basin.
Makley takes the story up to the present, describing the formation and evolution of a new type of governing body, the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and groundbreaking efforts to utilize science in establishing policy. He depicts the passionate fights between those who seek to preserve the environment and advocates of individual property rights. Although Tahoe remains unique in its splendor, readers will understand why, with continued pressure for development, reversing environmental deterioration and improving the lake water’s clarity remain elusive goals.
Bounded by the St. Lawrence Valley to the north, Lake Champlain to the west, and the Gulf of Maine to the east, New England may be the most cohesive region in the United States, with a long and richly recorded history. In this book, Richard W. Judd explores the mix of ecological process and human activity that shaped that history over the past 12,000 years. He traces a succession of cultures through New England's changing postglacial environment down to the 1600s, when the arrival of Europeans interrupted this coevolution of nature and culture.
A long period of tension and warfare, inflected by a variety of environmental problems, opened the way for frontier expansion. This in turn culminated in a unique landscape of forest, farm, and village that has become the embodiment of what Judd calls "second nature"— culturally modified landscapes that have superseded a more pristine "first nature."
In the early 1800s changes in farm production and industrial process transformed central New England, while burgeoning markets at the geographical margins brought rapid expansion in fishing and logging activities. Although industrialization and urbanization severed connections to the natural world, the dominant cultural expression of the age, Romanticism, provided new ways of appreciating nature in the White Mountains and Maine woods. Spurred by these Romantic images and by a long tradition of local resource management, New England gained an early start in rural and urban conservation.
In the 1970s environmentalists, inspired by a widespread appreciation for regional second-nature landscapes, moved quickly from battling pollution and preserving wild lands to sheltering farms, villages, and woodlands from intrusive development. These campaigns, uniquely suited to the region's land-use history, ecology, and culture, were a fitting capstone to the environmental history of New England.
From the time when humans first learned to harness fire, cultivate crops, and domesticate livestock, they have altered their environment as a means of survival. In the modern era, however, natural resources have been devoured and defiled in the wake of a consumerism that goes beyond mere subsistence. In this volume, an international group of environmental historians documents the significant ways in which humans have impacted their surroundings throughout history.
John McNeill introduces the collection with an overarching account of the history of human environmental impact. Other contributors explore the use and abuse of the earth’s land in the development of agriculture, commercial forestry, and in the battle against desertification in arid and semi-arid regions. Cities, which first appeared some 5,500 years ago, have posed their own unique environmental challenges, including dilemmas of solid waste disposal, sewerage, disease, pollution, and sustainable food and water supplies.
The rise of nation-states brought environmental legislation, which often meant “selling off” natural resources through eminent domain. Perhaps the most damaging environmental event in history resulted from a “perfect storm” of effects: cheap fossil fuels (especially petroleum) and the rapid rise of personal incomes during the 1950s brought an exponential increase in energy consumption and unforseen levels of greenhouse gasses to the earth’s atmosphere. By the 1970s, the deterioration of air, land, and water due to industrialization, population growth, and consumerism led to the birth of the environmental and ecological movements.
Overall, the volume points to the ability and responsibility of humans to reverse the course of detrimental trends and to achieve environmental sustainability for existing and future populations.
Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, had a dream in which a tree sprouted from his navel. As the tree grew, its shade covered the earth; as Osman’s empire grew, it, too, covered the earth. This is the most widely accepted foundation myth of the longest-lasting empire in the history of Islam, and offers a telling clue to its unique legacy. Underlying every aspect of the Ottoman Empire’s epic history—from its founding around 1300 to its end in the twentieth century—is its successful management of natural resources. Under Osman’s Tree analyzes this rich environmental history to understand the most remarkable qualities of the Ottoman Empire—its longevity, politics, economy, and society.
The early modern Middle East was the world’s most crucial zone of connection and interaction. Accordingly, the Ottoman Empire’s many varied environments affected and were affected by global trade, climate, and disease. From down in the mud of Egypt’s canals to up in the treetops of Anatolia, Alan Mikhail tackles major aspects of the Middle East’s environmental history: natural resource management, climate, human and animal labor, energy, water control, disease, and politics. He also points to some of the ways in which the region’s dominant religious tradition, Islam, has understood and related to the natural world. Marrying environmental and Ottoman history, Under Osman’s Tree offers a bold new interpretation of the past five hundred years of Middle Eastern history.
The Boston Harbor Islands have been called Boston's "hidden shores." While some are ragged rocks teeming with coastal wildlife, such as oystercatchers and harbor seals, others resemble manicured parks or have the appearance of wooded hills rising gently out of the water. Largely ignored by historians and previously home to prisons, asylums, and sewage treatment plants, this surprisingly diverse ensemble of islands has existed quietly on the urban fringe over the last four centuries. Even their latest incarnation as a national park and recreational hub has emphasized their separation from, rather than their connection to, the city.
In this book, Pavla Šimková reinterprets the Boston Harbor Islands as an urban archipelago, arguing that they have been an integral part of Boston since colonial days, transformed by the city's changing values and catering to its current needs. Drawing on archival sources, historic maps and photographs, and diaries from island residents, this absorbing study attests that the harbor islands' story is central to understanding the ways in which Boston has both shaped and been shaped by its environment over time.
As long as humans have existed, they’ve worked and competed with plants to shape their surroundings. As cities developed and expanded, their diverse spaces were covered with and colored by weeds. In Weeds, Zachary J. S. Falck presents a comprehensive history of “happenstance plants” in American urban environments. Beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing to the present, he examines the proliferation, perception, and treatment of weeds in metropolitan centers from Boston to Los Angeles.
In dynamic city ecosystems, population movements and economic cycles establish and transform habitats where vegetation continuously changes. Americans came to associate weeds with infectious diseases and allergies, illegal dumping, vagrants, drug dealers, and decreased property values. Local governments and citizens’ groups attempted to eliminate unwanted plants to better their urban environments and improve the health and safety of inhabitants. Over time, a growing understanding of the natural environment made “happenstance plants” more tolerable and even desirable.
In the twenty-first century, scientists have warned that the effects of global warming and the heat-trapping properties of cities are producing more robust strains of weeds. Falck shows that nature continues to flourish where humans have struggled: in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in the abandoned homes of the California housing bust, and alongside crumbling infrastructure. Weeds are here to stay.